Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Discovery: Shrine of St. Lazarus & Hospital Ruins, Sta. Cruz, Manila

Side Portal to the Shrine

August 29, 2011

I have lived in the Metro for more than 16 years now - ever since that day that I started matriculating in that veritable island of a university in Sampaloc, Manila (when it floods, at least!). I hopped from one boarding house to the next - the first one along Trabajo (M. de la Fuente Street), next was along P. Noval Street. Then we moved to an apartment along Masangkay and another one in Mayhaligue.

Currently, we're somewhere near Bambang - that street in Sta. Cruz where medical supplies stores abound - and where the first-ever Mercury Drug store started shop.

Tayuman, Blumentritt, San Lazaro Hospital, Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Sta. Cruz Church, Avenida, Recto, Divisoria, Quiapo - are all within walking distance, or just a short ride away.

For quite a few months now, I've been meaning to visit the recently-declared Shrine of St. Lazarus - presumably within the compound of the San Lazaro Hospital - which traces its roots down to the year 1577.

I decided it was high time that I make this brief stop on my life's itinerary - a real shame should I not do it since, as expected, it only took me less than 15 minutes by foot to reach the site.

According to the Department of Health's official page on San Lazaro Hospital - the compound was previously known (or perhaps must have been a huge part) of what was then Hacienda Mayhaligue. It was said to have been once a property of a Chinese mestizo, "a devout and humble man who served God in humility and fasting, extending to the poor and needy in times of drought, fire, pestilence and other calamities, a large part of his wealth, yet notwithstanding all this he continuously increased his holdings."

Just please click on the link above for the detailed historical account. I am not, at the moment, in the mood for some rephrasing work. Hehehe....

However, I have noted important dates here for you:

1576/1577 - The Spanish Government entrusted the care of the site to the Order of St. Francis.

1636 - Governor of the Islands, Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera "unjustly" took away the administration from the Franciscans, to the Jesuits. A few years later though, with the latter's expulsion from the islands, the site was returned to the Franciscans.

June 24, 1784 - Spanish King's Royal Order: “The House and Hacienda of Mayhaligue shall at once be converted into a Leper Hospital, and the old one destroyed as proposed, and as the sanitary requirements of the neighborhood and the defense of the post required.”

1863 - A great earthquake almost finished what was left of the hospital buildings.

There was no mention of the chapel/shrine itself - but it would be safe to surmise that it was built right after the 1784 declaration.

I am yet to see the NHI marker which is said to have mentioned that a great fire gutted the buildings, including the chapel, in 1963. A modern chapel facade was built afterwards.

Today, ruins of probably the original hospital building - and the practically still intact side walls of the Chapel of St. Lazarus (declared Shrine on March 29, 2011) - can be reached via the hospital compound's Quiricada Street entrance, a mere 4 minutes of leisurely walk for me.

Apparently, visitors may also try the DOH gate since there is an inner road that eventually leads to the San Lazaro Hospital compound -  but guards securing the area could be quite intimidating, as with the one I encountered by the original hospital portal. It is with less fuss if one just take the Quiricada gate instead.

To DOH and SLH administrators: since the chapel itself is now officially a shrine - a place of convergence for devotees and for lovers of heritage architecture (like myself) - please do ensure that all personnel, especially, those of the security force, are well-oriented on how to politely question visitors, and on how to clearly and accurately provide directions (the Quiricada gate guard was quite vauge in his instructions). Nevertheless, I do appreciate the warmth of the various health personnel with whom I came in contact with, particularly while in the garden. They didn't seem to mind by being there, clicking away with my camera.

Portion of the ruins have been rebuilt as office spaces.

Take for example the left side of the picture above. Walls apparently have been washed over and the moss cleared out. This is now called Building 16 - ground floor houses the Health Service Delivery Office of USec. Teodoro Herbosa. The 2nd floor houses the offices for the Dangerous Drugs Abuse Prevention & Treatment Program, and the Phil. Medical Tourism Program. Currently closed for the holidays.

The ruins apparently stretch out farther more to the left - up to the incinerator site. I dared not take pictures of the imposing ruins therein, since per my personal assessment, what I'm doing may be misconstrued as a security risk - although the structure is fairly visible by the roadside.

The inner courtyard flanked by the ruins of the old hospital, and the chapel's left wall with it's Mayan-inspired paint hue - has been developed as a garden, with concrete benches, appropriately-designed lamp posts, a grotto with a koi pond and rock samples from the Holy Land, a few old trees, and some good shrubs. Hmmm... they could start up a herb garden here as well...

With the sturdy branches and all their leaves swaying to the cool winds that seem to circle 'round the inner courtyard - it was altogether a very relaxing and meditative experience.

Apart of course from being momentarily disturbed by nurses and hospital workers coming in and out of the garden to their dormitory just beyond the ruins.

Who would have known that such a thing of beauty exists just across the busy lines of the light rail transit and of dear old Avenida Rizal? That there's more to San Lazaro beyond the hospital that we know of today?  

The mysteries of the Holy Rosary could also be found all throughout the square, grouped in fives.

And a statue of the Sacred Heart, and of course - of San Lazaro himself.

Apparently, there is a Museo de San Lazaro - but was also closed for the day.

So was the religious Store.

Too bad it was a holiday, as (per the guard-on-duty) the holder of the key to the chapel itself went home earlier than usual and locked the building off to unlikely visitors, like me. I was told the shrine is usually open to the public every day of the week, from morning til early evening.

A, well. There's always next time.

The good thing is - I was able to make the visit, finally.

And that I'll be back for sure.

P. S.
I did come back this afternoon, around 3 - but the chapel was still closed. It must be because of another holiday, this time - Eid ul-Fitr.

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