Back when I was still a gangling college student, I used to see San Sebastian Church every day. I cast interesting glances here and there but never had the urge to see it up close and more. Nearly two decades later, I have finally managed to pay San Sebastian Church a visit upon the urgings of a dear friend.
Basilica Minore de San Sebastian is the only all-steel church in Asia. Although Spanish architect Genario Palacios is widely recognized designer of the church, Gustave Eiffel is attributed by historian Dr. Ambeth Ocampo to be involved in the design and construction.
Previous church buildings were ruined by fire and earthquakes (1859, 1863, and 1880). This prompted the parish priest, Father Esteban Martinez, to build a new one. And a revolutionary and novel idea cropped up: to have it built using mainly of steel.
From Binche, Belgium, several batches of steel structures were exported to Manila. The groundbreaking was held on September 11, 1890 with the Belgian engineers supervising the construction. On August 16, 1891, the new, all-steel San Sebastian Church was completed. Since an all-steel church was new and strange, the finishing touches of the San Sebastian Church was made in such a way it appears like a concrete and wood.
By virtue of Presidential Decree No. 260, President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared San Sebastian Church as one of the National Historical Landmarks on August 1, 1973. Then on August 15, 2011, the National Museum declared San Sebastian Church as a National Cultural Treasure.