Arts & Culture

This Exhibit Uses Rust Collected From One of the Oldest Churches in Manila

San Sebastian Basilica, completed in 1891, was the first all-steel structure in Asia, and the second in the world after the Eiffel Tower.

The Basílica Menor de San Sebastián is one of the oldest churches in the country. When it was completed in 1891, the church was the first all-steel structure in Asia and the second in the world after the Eiffel Tower.

The centuries-old structure, however, has seen better days. In 2012, the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. (SSBCDFI) was founded as a way to save the church. It holds historic tours, sells merchandise, and hosts other events including exhibitions to make the restoration an inclusive and relatable experience to the public.

As part of the 400th year celebration of the arrival of the Philippines’ oldest image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the SSBCDFI is staging an exhibition titled Belleza del Carmen that will reuse the rust collected from the restoration of the basilica. The exhibition is a partnership between the foundation and the Reredos artists, and it is free admission for the general public.

The list of artists includes Juan Alcazaren, Vincent Balandra, Renato Barja Jr., Dennis Bato, Jood Clarino, Marionne Contreras, DaSig, Paolo Icasas, Lora Ledesma, Michael Munoz, and Pia Soriano. Their works feature images of the 17th century Marian icon and Basilica. Proceeds from the sales will directly fund the restoration of the Basilica’s columns.

For Soriano, the exhibition is a way to incorporate her faith into her art. “Beauty, after all, is an attribute of God,” she says. “An exhibit that is able to evoke something in the viewer that points to the divine, and one that can contribute to the restoration of the basilica is where passion and purpose meet."

The works from the rust-to-art exhibit will be available for purchase until December 2018, and proceeds will benefit the church's ongoing 10-year restoration program.


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Paolo Chua
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