I was on my way to Illuminati Travel and Tours' grand launch. Co-owner Joel Aldor, who I met through the Pinoy Travel Bloggers FB group, sent me an invite (after I invited myself). The launch was scheduled on the 29th of January, fortunately we were in Manila then to take care of a few documents.
As for the venue, well, I saw on the e-invite that it will take place in a certain church in Quiapo. I lived in nearby Malate for almost nine years and I've never been to, I read, San Sebastian Church. Neither have I Googled it. Hence, I didn't set any expectations. I was attending with a clean slate.
Jeep drivers and bystanders directed me to the church. When it came to view, about more than a hundred meters away, I swear my eyes must have seemed they were about to pop out of my lids! I was completely astounded. How could something this grandiose just be... be here and I was never aware of it?!
Just outside the church doors was an unmanned registration booth. I took a colored flyer, wrote my name on the logbook, and stepped in.
I was swept off my feet.
From the entrance, I could hear Joel's voice faintly. The people were gathered near the altar. The tour obviously has begun. I didn't join straight away though. Instead, I roamed around by myself (which I usually do on tours) and closely studied the impressive walls, windows, posts and ceiling.
The Basilica Minore de San Sebastián or San Sebastian Church is a Neo-Gothic church completed in 1891, and is the only all-steel church in Asia. It's currently included on the tentative list of possible World heritage Sites. I reckon it really should be.
When I found out that the church's steel sections were prefabricated and shipped from Belgium, it got me thinking... For what purpose is this spectacular structure? For more followers? For prestige? Or to showcase artistry? Perhaps an intermarriage of all these.
Nevertheless I am hoping heritage conservators/experts find a solution to its corrosion, without tampering the painting on the walls by Lorenzo Rocha and his students.
The rest of the tour I spent listening to parts of the talk and chitchatting with fellow bloggers Mark of Nomadic Experiences and Anton of Pusang Kalye, both I met for the first time.
Day was concluded with hors d'oeuvres and drinks at the church yard (where I also met Bernie of Habagat Central and Edgar of Eazy Traveler - and I so wish I was introduced to AJ of The Transcendental Tourist!), and a raffle. Three lucky people won free tours.
For more info on Illuminati Travel and Tours' packages, visit their website.
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