Save San Sebastian reaches fundraising milestone

San Sebastian Basilica

The year 2011 was an eventful year for Bakas Pilipinas, announced President Roz Li, a preservationist architect.

The New York-based non-profit dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and sites in the Philippines is reporting its accomplishments for the year, starting with the restoration of San Sebastian Basilica in Manila.

San Sebastian is the initial project of Bakas Pilipinas, said Roz. “This all-metal church, completed in 1891, is one of the few remaining original, unaltered churches in the Philippines. Its preservation is threatened by water penetration and severe corrosion.”

The U.S. Ambassador’s Fund awarded a grant of $96,789 towards the Investigation Phase of this restoration project, she said. For its part, Bakas Pilipinas assisted in the preparation of the photo documentation, historical research and preparation of measured drawings, at the same time rallying more local governments to pass resolutions supporting the project.

“The restoration of San Sebastian Basilica is a long-term project requiring support,” said Roz. “Aside from the restoration of the structure, Bakas Pilipinas is also focusing on the surrounding neighborhood, using the restoration project as the catalyst for community development.”

The Bakas website cites the importance of the church as a religious and architectural landmark: It is the only all-metal building in the Philippines. After the first three churches at the site were destroyed by earthquakes, the colonial insular government of Spain decided to build the church in steel, in lieu of traditional brick and stone to better withstand future tremors.

The interior

With the exception of its exterior paint finish, the structure has remained true to its original design. Today, the church exhibits deterioration from corrosion due to water leaks, causing damage to the metal plates and interior murals.

San Sebastian Basilica is one of the Philippines’ historical and artistic treasures, a showcase of the works of turn of the century Filipino artists. (It) was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the Philippine National Historical Commission and is listed in the 2010 Watch List by the World Monuments Fund.

Roz said a cultural mapping of the neighborhoods surrounding the church is being done by the Ateneo de Manila School of Sociology. “The new gift shop is starting to make a profit.”

She also announced that Hubert d’Aboville, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, has joined the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Roz co-founded Li/Saltzman Architects with Judith Saltzman in 1982. Their company, which specializes in historic properties around the New York area, has worked on the restoration of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Brown Memorial Church in Brooklyn and the Philippine ambassador’s residence in Manhattan.

Bakas Pilipinas is seeking tax-deductible donations for the project. Send a check to:

Bakas Pilipinas Inc.
P.O. Box 2706
Church Street Station
New York, NY 10008

One Comment

  1. […] historic buildings through her Bakas Pilipinas foundation. One of its projects is the artistic San Sebastian Basilica in Manila known for its turn-of-the-century Gothic […]

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