San Agustin: Art and History, 1571 – 2000 by Pedro Galende, OSA and Regalado Trota Jose, both noted and respected figures of Philippine colonial church history and its ardent supporters and proponents, is a wonderful book on the oldest stone church in the country. It is a follow-up to the first author’s work, San Agustin: Noble Stone Shrine, which was published 10 years before this title.
The book is divided into two parts: first, a history of the Augustinian Order in the country and the history of the church and the monastery including pivotal events in its storied past including the British Invasion of 1762, the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the Japanese Occupation during WWII. This is then followed by an exhaustive chronology from 1571 – 1999.
The second part is a walktour of the monastery complex starting at the Porteria, which is the musuem entrance, then to the corridors, the interior of the church followed by the second level of the monastery including the choirloft and finally at the outside and surroundings of San Agustin.The descriptions of each area is detailed with specific histories as well as stories that keeps the reader and visitor engaged. Additionally, detailed photos (done by Dick Baldovino) with some of the museum’s holdings, makes the book all the more informative. Archival material is also included that gives one an idea of how this complex looked like during the colonial period.
For one who is serious about knowing more about this great church, this book serves as a handy and concise reference. While walktours offered by guides are available, these only offers a glimpse of how significant and treasured this church monastery complex is. I just hope that in the future, an audio version will be available for visitors who are visiting on their own.