Behind the unassuming facade of the hidden treasure that is San Agustin Museum is a wealth of galleries containing furniture, sculptures, books, carvings, and other historical artifacts.
Adjacent to the San Agustin Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this extraordinary museum houses one of the richest collections of historical artifacts in the country.
Built by the Augustinian friars in the 16th century, the San Agustin Church has survived a number of natural and man-made disasters, including the Second World War, which reduced much of Intramuros to ruins. The solid stone and well-executed construction embody the spirit of resilience and determination that characterizes the Filipinos who continue to flock to this church to profess their faith.
Over hundreds of years, the Augustinian order has preserved the appreciation of beauty and knowledge that drives their endeavors in various fields. The museum is marked by its many galleries and sections, each one with something unique to offer. You’ll also want to explore the gardens and the church proper, so make sure to check out the highlights.
The choir loft offers the best view of the San Agustin Church.
From this vantage point, you can admire the church’s main floor below, as well as the ornate ceiling. Italian painters used the trompe l’oeil style for the ceiling’s unique 3D effect. It’s easy to see why this is a coveted venue for grand, traditional weddings: there’s an instinctual hush upon entering. The interior evokes a sense of awe from being enclosed within walls that have stood the test of time, and witnessed countless moments of joy and prayer.
The lectern which holds the choir’s songbooks is adorned with carvings of cherubims, angels, clouds, and Chinese fu dogs. The carved choir stalls also indicate the marks of Chinese artists, adding a unique Oriental contrast to the European Baroque architecture.
The Library of the San Agustin Convent contains thousands of rare books and manuscripts.
The Augustinians were pioneers of education in our country, and believed that faith and scientific knowledge were integral to the search for truth. The library held thousands of books on topics ranging from catechism to medicine, and grammar books of every major dialect spoken in the Philippines. Despite the looting and destruction of wars, the library still has several thousand books dating from the 16th century up to the present. Other displays include recreations of pharmacy equipment and botanical lithographs.
The gardens offer the perfect place to reflect and unwind.
After visiting the church and the museum, you can take some time for quiet contemplation in the tranquility of San Agustin’s gardens. The expansive Father Blanco Garden was built by a friar with a dedication for the Philippines’ native flora and fauna. The inner courtyard garden offers a scenic backdrop for photos with its well-manicured lawns, towering palm trees, and central fountain.
The love for beauty, art, knowledge and culture encapsulated in the San Agustin Museum’s exhibits is kept alive by the Augustinian friars that continue to live, pray, and study within these walls.
The San Agustin Museum stands as a monument to the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit and the harmonious blending of European and Eastern cultures that have shaped the country’s unique values. Art, culture, faith, science, and love are likewise unified in a symphony that leaves echoes long after the choir’s last notes are sung.