Santo Niño Church Renovation

Tacloban City, Leyte
Photo by Fung Yu, 2015

Destruction brought by Typhoon Yolanda

YouTube video walk-through of proposal

Architectural Design Statement

April 17, 2014

In the silence is God.
In the Child is God.
In the Eucharist is God.
The renovation of Santo Niño Church has at least three goals: 
-  to reinforce the image of the Santo Niño as the focus of the worship space; 
-  to underscore the relationship between the image of the Santo Niño, which represents the child Jesus, and the Eucharist, which is Jesus; 
-  to harness this relationship in order to contemplate the impact of the will of God on our lives.

These three goals coincide in physical expression in the form of the circle: 
-  the circle that frames the Santo Niño; 
-  the circle that frames the Eucharist in the monstrance; 
-  the circle in the eye of the storm.

The 1.6-meter diameter circle of the existing retablo, or altarpiece, thus becomes the center of the radius of the nave’s new vaulted ceiling, and the source of the half-circular arched openings and canopies that animate both interior and exterior.  The new circular stained glass windows would be of the same 1.6 meter diameter as the existing retablo circle.  These would be stained glass representations of the Mysteries of the Rosary - the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious - as depicted in some of the finest masterpieces of Christian iconography, painted by the likes of Raphael, da Vinci, and Velazquez.
A ring of small round clear-glass apertures, about 10-cm diameter each, surrounds each stained glass window, like the crystal beads of a rosary or the stellar crown of the Virgin Mary.  They also represent the tattoos of the pre-Hispanic Visayans whose bodies were heavily covered with this art such that, upon first sight by the Western colonizer, they were called Pintados, and Leyte and neighboring islands in the Visayas were called Islas de los Pintados.  Thus expressed in the natural illumination of the nave is a fusion of East and West, a juxtaposition of the clear light of the “tattoo” apertures and the colored light of the stained glass windows.
The parish turns 125 years old in 2014, but the church structure itself no longer carries a trace of that vintage.  Renovations and expansions, mostly from the last two or three decades, now need to be harmonized and unified to create a new authenticity and integrity, aside from bringing the entire complex to a better state of preparedness for future calamity.

With the exception of the highly ornate retablo, the architectural expression of the church interior will now be guided by a desire to be, like a child, simple, but not simplistic.  Textural complexity becomes not overt but understated, and thus more intense, guiding our gaze to the image of the Santo Niño. 
The use of a simple linen white palette for both interior and exterior alludes to the simple outlook of the child, as well as to color motif of the Tacloban Santo Nino.  White is also most apt for our warm climate, as it is the color least retentive of heat.  And white also alludes to the transcendence and transformation, to the spiritual renaissance, of the people of Tacloban in the wake of the tragedy of Yolanda.

The existing retablo from the 1980s is Gothic-inspired and tripartite, the middle panel containing the central circle that frames the image of the Santo Niño, and the minor panel on either side containing a painting of a large angel.  This existing retablo is retained, with the exception of the angels being replaced by textured gold-leaf panels that direct one's attention to the central circle.  The purpose of the gold monochrome and of the absence of any other color on the retablo except for gold is to minimize if not eliminate elements that will distract you from focusing on the Santo Niño.  The gold retablo becomes a fitting frame for the Santo Niño. 

The circular frame of the Santo Niño brings to mind the monstrance or ostensorium, underscoring a conceptual link between the Eucharist and what the image of the Santo Niño represents.  The circular frame also suggests the eye of the storm, the still and silent center of an immense unspeakable power.  This power brought to this place an unspeakable devastation, in the form of the typhoon that brought a new chapter in the life of Tacloban, but it also brought to this place an immense outpouring of sacrifice, heroism, generosity and love.  The renovation therefore becomes an expression of this exceptional moment when the power of destruction generated the power of love. 

Guide to the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary in Stained Glass Windows by Kraut Art Glass

Joyful Mysteries

1.    The Annunciation
Artist:  Fra Angelico, 1442

2.    The Visitation
Artist:  Mariotto Albertinelli, 1503  

3.    The Nativity
Artist:  Sandro Botticelli

4.    The Presentation in the Temple
Artist:  Raphael, 1503
5.    The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
Artist:  Paolo Veronese, 1560

The First Luminous Mystery, The Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan 

Luminous Mysteries

1.    The Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan
Artist:  Giovanni Bellini, 1502
2.    The Wedding Feast at Cana
Artist:  Paolo Veronese, 1562
3.    The Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God
Artist:  Fra Angelico, 1442
4.    The Transfiguration of Jesus
Artist:  Raphael, 1520
5.    The Institution of the Eucharist
Artist:  Leonardo da Vinci, 1498

The First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden 
(El Greco)

Sorrowful Mysteries

1.    The Agony in the Garden
Artist:  El Greco, 1590

2.    The Scourging at the Pillar
Artist:  Caravaggio, 1607  

3.    The Crowning With Thorns
Artist:  Caravaggio, 1604

4.    The Carrying of the Cross
Artist:  El Greco, 1605  

5.    The Crucifixion
Artist:  Francisco de Zurbaran, 1627

Glorious Mysteries

1.    The Resurrection
Artist:  Fra Angelico, 1442

2.    The Ascension
Artist:  Rembrandt, 1636

3.    The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Artist:  El Greco, 1614

4.    The Assumption of Mary
Artist:  Titian, 1518

5.    The Coronation of Mary
Artist:  Diego Velazquez, 1645