UP Chapel celebrates milestones at the turn of the New Year

| Written by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta

The repainted exterior dome of the UP Chapel showing its original color. Photo from DMCI Homes.


The Parish Church of the Holy Sacrifice, the circular structure with the unique dome within the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus, celebrated milestones in 2020.

The first milestone was the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the completion and blessing of the Parish Church, more popularly known as the UP Chapel. It was blessed by the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, Rufino Cardinal Santos, on December 20, 1955 after the completion of its construction.

To celebrate this event, a special Thanksgiving Mass was held on December 20, with Most Rev. Honesto F. Ongtioco, Bishop of Cubao, presiding over the celebration and Very Rev. Primitivo Viray Jr., SJ, Provincial of the Society of Jesus, co-presiding. As this was also the 6th day of Simbang Gabi,  the Mass was livestreamed on the UP Parish of the Holy Sacrifice’s Facebook page.


Rehabilitation of the UP Chapel

Restored walls of the UP Chapel. Photo from DMCI Homes.


The second milestone was the completion of the repair, restoration and repainting of the UP Chapel by DMCI Homes, the real estate arm of DMCI Holdings through its wholly owned subsidiary DMCI Project Developers, Inc. (PDI).

DMCI Homes worked on rehabilitating the 65-year old national historical landmark and cultural treasure by repairing its old and worn-out parts and repainting its interior and its exterior facade. Work started in July 2020 and was completed in December.

For the chapel’s rehabilitation, DMCI Homes did a series of consultations with UP officials and UP Parish to address the immediate needs of the chapel and to ensure that its original state of beauty and elegance was maintained when the repairs were executed. The restoration of the UP Chapel was supposed to start in early 2020 but due to the pandemic, the restoration plan was pushed back to the latter part of the year.


Close-up of repainted roof and dome of the UP Chapel. Photo from DMCI Homes.


DMCI Homes led a team that facilitated the repair of masonry cracks, de-clogging of downspouts and drains, and the installation of new electrical fixtures. Repainting work was performed on the chapel’s iconic dome and roof, as well as on its walls, columns, eaves, under slabs, ceilings, and railings.

The murals depicting the Stations of the Cross, the marble altar, the floor mural, and the cross at the center of the chapel were left untouched during the rehabilitation.

In 2021, DMCI Homes will restore next the chapel’s ceiling or the underside of the dome as this was rescheduled to give way to the church activities during the 2020 Christmas season.


Railings along the UP Chapel were also repainted. Photo from DMCI Homes.


National Historical Landmark and Cultural Treasure

The UP Chapel had its beginnings in 1954 when Fr. John Patrick Delaney, S.J., who was the UP chaplain during the transfer of the University’s campus from Manila to Diliman in 1949, saw the need for a more permanent structure to replace the sawali-bamboo building that until then had been serving as the house of worship for the Catholics in the UP community.

Fr. Delaney came up with the concept for the UP Church and commissioned young, up-and-coming UP artists, engineers and an architect to build the structure. Architect Leandro Locsin designed the church according to Fr. Delaney’s vision of a Church centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with the priest close to his parishioners in a spirit of oneness and communion—a Church whose doors would always be open to anyone seeking to talk to God.

Engr. Alfredo Juinio, who served as the structural engineer for the project, and Engr. David Consunji, founder of the DMCI Group of Companies, constructed it as the country’s first circular, concentrically arranged chapel with the altar at its center. It is also the first to have a thin shell concrete dome, supported by pillars located at the sides of the church; so there are no supports to block the space inside. The thin shell-dome was made possible through Engr. Consunji’s innovation in the mixing and delivery of concrete.

Inside the chapel, artist Arturo Luz designed the floor mural, titled the “River of Life”, executed in terazzo and radiating from the altar; while Napoleon Abueva created the giant wooden double-sided crucifix and the altar base. Finally, Vicente Manansala and Ang Kiukok painted the 15 murals of the Stations of the Cross.

In time, these five men—Locsin, Luz, Abueva, Manansala and Kiukok—would be named National Artists of the Philippines, making the UP Chapel the only structure in the country to feature the works of five National Artists. With its unique and timeless architectural design, the UP Chapel has been recognized as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and a Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.

With the newly completed restoration, DMCI Homes hopes to preserve the architectural, engineering, cultural, and religious significance of the UP Chapel for more people in the coming decades.