San Fernando De Dilao Parish

400 Years of Evangelization


The district of Paco is south of the Pasig River and was formerly called Dilao for the reason that Dilao plants, which produce a yellow dye, were once abundant in that place. This name was preserved until 1791 during the governorship of Felix Berenger y Marquina, when the words, San Fernando, were prefixed to the old name. Hence, Paco was formerly called San Fernando de Dilao.

The district was founded by the Franciscan missionaries and as there were then only few missionaries in the city, it was at first under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Santa Ana de Sapa.


The first church in Paco, dedicated to La Purificacion de Ntra. Sra., was made of light materials---nipa and bamboo, in 1580. But from 1599 to 1601, it was rebuilt of stone by the inhabitants of Paco, under the able direction of Father Juan de Garrovillas.

On October 3, 1603, it was attacked and burned by rebellious Chinese, but in 1606 was repaired and made into a stone church at the expense of Don Francisco Gomez de Arellano, archdeacon of the Manila Catholic Cathedral, who wished to see an everlasting temple built in Paco.

Then in 1762, it was burned again, this time by the English who occupied Manila. A few years after this, or to be exact, in 1791, a provisional bamboo and nipa church was constructed and the different pueblos were combined and called San Fernando, by order of the Superior Governor. During the period from 1793 to 1794, the stone convent was constructed under the direction of Father Joaquin Sequi. However, it was repaired in 1854.

The people, nevertheless, wished to have a better church. So the religious order and the people worked together to realize their desire. It was in 1809 that the construction of the new and fine temple called "antigua iglesia de Paco" begun under the direction of Father Bernardo de la Conception. It was competed in 1814. From 1839 to 1841 the church tower was being built under the direction of Father Miguel Richar, who in 1842 directed the casting of a sonorous bell.

In 1852 the Church was ruined by the earthquake of that year, and in 1880 both church and convent were completely destroyed by the great upheaval. This was a great loss to the people of Paco. In 1881, Father Gilberto Martin commenced the reconstruction of the church, from the alms and donations given by the people as well as from the kind help of a Spaniard, Don Manuel Perez, who donated all the galvanzed iron used in the construction of the church. When it was about to be completed, it was partly destroyed by a typhoon in 1892. The reconstruction was completed in 1896, under the direction of Father Gilberto who labored with zeal as a Chrisian missionary and benefactor.

The last Paco church constructed under the Spanish regime was built of stone and wood. The altars were magnificent. The dome presented as aspect of grandeur with its splendid glass windows all around. The Church was famous for its ancient Santo Sepulchro which was visited by those devout Catholics during Fridays and Lenten seasons. But unfortunately, during the Filipino-American war, the church was bombarded and completely burned together with the costly and much venerated image of the Santo Sepulchro, on February 5, 1899. This was felt to be a great loss by the people of that community. Only some parts of the same basement of the old church remained, while the rest was completely devoured by the hungry flames.


In 1909 the Belgian Mission took possession of Paco parish, and in 1910, Father Raymundo Esquenet worked hard for the erection of a provisional concrete church near the place where the former one stood.

This church was small. At the middle altar was the statue of La Candelaria between San Jose on the right and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the left. Above this statue was the small image of the Holy Child.

Near the main altar just at the right corner, was a small altar also dedicated to La Candelaria. The new Santo Sepulchro was on the left side near the main altar, and close to this stood the Virgen Dolorosa. The baptistry was at the left side near the main entrance and the portrait of Saint John the Baptist was placed there also.


In 1924 the parish priest, Father Jose Billiet thought of constructing a new and large concrete church for the district of Paco. He was able to raise some P40,000.00 from Sunday collections and donations from parihioners. It was, however,Father Godofredo Aldenhuijsen who actually pushed through the construction of the church when he was appointed parish priest of Paco. Employing the services of Engineer Marion Karolchuck, a Greek national, Father Godofredo formally launched the building of the concrete church with an estimate expense of P200,000.00.

The church took two years to build, 1931 to 1933. The formal inauguration, however, was made in April 1934, with Archbishop Michael O'Doherty of Manila officiating. The huge bell which was the pride of the pre-war Paco church was a donation of Father Godofredo's brother in Holland. It was destroyed in the battle for liberation of Manila.

Ruined by World War II, Paco church was reconstructed by Father Godofredo through donations and contributions of the parishioners.

In 1984, the parish was transferred to the hands of the secular clergy of the Archdiocese. Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr. was the first Filipino parish priest until 1996. In January of 1996 he was replaced by Msgr. Domingo A. Cirilos, Jr. Since then, renovations had been done on the church altar. The features of the old church had been retained and highlighted. The communion rail was removed and in effect, it gives visual impression of spaciousness and solemnity. The dome was likewise improved, adding solemnity to the sanctuary.

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