Cathedral of San Sebastian de Lipa

The Majestic Lipa Cathedral

The Parish of San Sebastián de Lipa was administered by the Augustinians under the name “Convento de San Sebastián en Comintang” from April 30, 1605 until the end of the 19th century. The first church buildings of Lipa were made of light materials and were eventually destroyed due to the eruption of Taal Volcano. The early Lipeños moved several times and settled finally in a strategic location 20 kilometers away from the volcano.

Through the concerted efforts of the Augustinians who administered the Parish of San Sebastian and the faithful people of Lipa, the present church of “serious architecture, proven solidity, and great proportions” was initially completed in 1790. What was completed in that year had been initiated during the terms of Fray Ignacio Vásquez Pallares (1779-1784), Fray Alberto Tabares (1786-1788), and by Fray Manuel Galiana (1788-1790). It was described as large and spacious, with whitewashed walls of cut stones and tiled roof. Its ceiling constituted of artistically painted wooden paneling in lieu of an arch to which were attached supports and strong beams crisscrossing the walls. Fray Juan Martinez de Zuñiga in 1803 noted the transformation of the church’s architectural style from Baroque to the Neo-Classic: “its altar ornaments were plain and simple, without those extravagant carved works characteristic of the past century”. The bell tower was still unfinished then and the convento was made of wood.

Reverendo Padre Fray Manuel Díez González
Parish Priest of Lipa (1862-1864)
Photo from the book La Ciudad de Dios,
University of Michigan Library Collection

In 1850, the Maestro de Obras Pedro Lacsamana installed a decorative stone fence around the church patio and repaired and whitewashed the convento. Fray Manuel Díez González who was Parish Priest in 1863 carried out important work in the church. The growing number of Lipeño parishioners, during his term, made the church too small and so, he sought the services of the Architect Luciano Oliver who recommended an overhaul: the formation of a spacious transept, the reinforcement of the nave and sides with buttresses, and the strengthening of the bell tower.

The Lipa Cathedral and its attached convent as photographed in 1911.
It originally had a five-story octagonal bell tower. Another story was added when the church was reconstructed in 1947.
Photo from the El Renacimiento Filipino Magazine (1911), Courtesy of the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Heritage Library.

Fr. Diez Gonzalez’s successor, Fray Benito Baras, administered the town from 1865-1894. During his term, he fully completed the Church and the reconstruction of the convento with plans from the Spanish Civil Engineer Don José de Fuentes. Fray Baras was also responsible for the erection of the Catholic Cemetery in the barrio of Antipolo and, without any aid from the state, the Sabang bridge which linked Lipa to Tanauan. Padre Baras served as the Cura of Lipa for 29 long years. He died in 1894 at the age of 69.

The interior of the San Sebastian de Lipa Church circa 1900
“Courtesy of the Genealogy, History, and Archives Unit, Fort Worth Library.
[Sandra Plummer Collection, SPPC_020_040]”.
Reverend Father Ángel Ilagan
The First Secular Parish Priest of Lipa
Photo from the book
Estado general del Apostolado de la Oración en Filipinas.
Manila : Tip. de Santos y Bernal, 1911.

In 1903, Fr. Angel Ilagan, the first secular Parish Priest of Lipa spent a great deal of time repairing the damages in the church caused during the Siege of Lipa in 1898 and the occupation of the church by the American troops from 1900 until 1902. An inventory of the church’s properties in 1904 gives us a glimpse of what the church had and what it looked like before its destruction in World War II.

According to the list, the church featured five altars:

  1. The altar mayor with an image of the patron San Sebastian mounted on top.
  2. The altar of the Nuestra Señora de la Consolación y Correa, patroness of the Augustinian Order, funded by the spouses Don Gregorio Aguilera and Doña Maria Solis
  3. The altar of Santo Niño funded by the spouses Don Norberto Catigbac and Doña Justa Solis
  4. The altar of San Nicolas funded by the spouses Don Cayetano Catigbac and Doña Ignacia Africa and by Don Toribio Catigbac and Doña Salvadora Solis
  5. The altar of San Agustín, patron of the Augustinian order, funded by the sisters Doña Manuela and Micaela Templo

The church was appointed with eight crystal chandeliers funded by Don Gregorio Aguilera, Don Lino Catigbac, Don Celestino Luz, Don Sixto Roxas, and Don Gregorio Recede.

Some of its collection of santos and other religious ornaments were the following:

  • A two feet wooden image of the La Purísima Concepción housed in a silver urna and placed in the last tabernacle of the altar mayor (Its golden rostrillo and crown were donated by Don Fabio Trinidad in 1877.)
  • Two images of San Sebastian tied in a tree
  • Three images of Santo Cristo
  • Fourteen frames of the Stations of the Cross
  • Six confesionarios
  • Two large silver plated frames of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and
  • Pilgrim images of an antique San Sebastian and Santo Niño for the barrios.
First Bishop of the Diocese of Lipa created in 1910
Excelsior: Decenario Ilustrado. Manila: [Imp. Santos y Bernal], 1918

Intense competition among the towns of Batangas, Bauan, Lipa, Taal, and Tanauan, for the selection of the seat of the new diocese in the Southern Tagalog Region during the late 19th century motivated the people to build extraordinary big churches. However on April 10, 1910, when the historic foundation of the new diocese took place, its first bishop, Most Rev. Giuseppe “José” Petrelli, D.D, chose LIPA as the SEE because of its cool climate. For this reason, the San Sebastian church automatically became the seat of the Diocese of Lipa. The new cathedral’s interior underwent a partial renovation.

The Retablo Mayor of San Sebastian
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Alexis Paulino)
The Cathedral’s grand dome
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Alexis Paulino)

The Cathedral suffered massive damages during World War II. Its interior and the second floor of convento were destroyed. Bishop Alejandro Olalia spearheaded the restoration in the 1950s. The facade of the church was restored as close to its late 19th century look and the original 5 story bell tower received two additional stories and a cupola. The eight-sided cupola over the crossing was converted into a dome, painting was done in the ceiling, and the sides of the church were expanded.

From the article Lipa: Suelo Catolico
Souvenir Program of Lipa’s Inauguration as a Chartered City
August 31, 1947
Hall of Saints
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Alexis Paulino)

The San Sebastian Cathedral is now a synergetic composition of structure for worship, religious art appreciation, and functionality.

References:

Galende, Pedro G. Angels In Stone: Architecture of Augustinian Churches In the Philippines. Manila: G.A. Formoso Publishing, 1987.


Trota Jose, Regalado: Lumang Simbahan: Ancestral Churches in Batangas, Batangas: Forged in Fire. Philippines, Ayala Foundation, 2002.

Cathedral de San Sebastián – Inventarios 1904-1958; Cargo y data 1839-1931. Digitized by Familysearch.org

23 Replies to “Cathedral of San Sebastian de Lipa”

  1. very to see them, we will for sure go and visit this cathedral when we go to lipa in june. thanks…

  2. how can we get my son’s baptismal certificate, because he need this for his first communion this coming 4th of May, 2012… we’re here in abu dhabi, uae

    1. Hi Sir you may request that from the Cathedral Parish Office. you’ll just pay 100 pesos for it.

  3. sir diyan na ba nagkukumpil ngayon? kung magsadya ba ngayong araw halimbawa, makumpilan din the same day,at anu ano po ang mga requirements?

  4. does the cathedral (san sebastian/lipa) issue certificate for baptismal conducted in sabang (sona) in 1974? pls help me where to get one; my mom says i was baptized at a chapel in sabang (sona) during the barrio fiesta; we left the place since i was 4 and never have gone back for more than 30 yrs now. i will greatly appreciate your response!

  5. cno po ang pinaka unang parish priest ng lipa cathedral?

  6. Would you be able to retrieve and issue latest Bapismal certificate of those born in 1939 and 1944 ?…..around the chaotic war years

  7. Hi, do you accept group tours for student? I’m a travel agent/ tour operator and i’m looking for additional itinerary for my educational tour “Exploring Lipa, Batangas”. Appreciate if you can revert soon and if possible the requirement/ fee from our end.

    Have a great day ahead!

    1. Hi kindly get in touch with the Lipa Tourism Council office 043-784-2537.

  8. tuwing kelan po sched ng kumpil at ano requirments?ty po

    1. Confirmations usually happens during the town fiesta of Lipa every 20th of January .

  9. The restoration looks nice but i grew up, even as a young child, marveling at the sepia color of the ceiling murals. For some reasons I prefer it than the colored versions. Maybe because the old feel, mastery of proper shadows done on the folds of their clothes are amazing, same with the clouds and the whole pictures. For me it was not restored rather a revamp to make it up to date. Historical values got lost along the way. But I commend the people who continually support to make the establishment last.

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