When it comes to Philippine colonial era churches, nothing parallels Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines 1565-1898 by Regalado Trota Jose (RTJ) in terms of scope, detail and importance. This handy but very useful book is my primary reference when I want to understand more about a particular part of the church structure and other pertinent details.
Of course, there are other books on Philippine colonial churches but most, especially the coffeetable books focus on the architecture and styles of these edifices. In RTJ’s work, he not only traces the concept of the simbahan in pre-hispanic Philippines to its development under the different religious orders but disects the structures:
This book is on churches and other religious edifices built in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial regime, 1565-1898. The forms, materials and construction techniques of these edifices will be discussed, along with their furnishings such as religious statuary, paintings and vessels.
Simbahan is no boring text book. Interspersed with the articles are impressive images that the author took during the 60’s and 70’s and now under the Ayala Museum Iconographic Archive. Another thing that I do like are the various archival images that makes this book not only an important text reference but these old images provide a glimpse of how these churches, its interiors, exteriors and artifacts looked a hundred years ago. Add to that, the photographs’ coverage is extensive, from Batanes to Sulu!
The book has nine chapters and four appendices including glossary of archival terms, lists of lumber producing trees and forest products from archival sources, church documentation checklist and church art description form. Important references, list of archival sources and details of the author’s documentation trips are included.
Simbahan was published by the Ayala Foundation in 1992. Book design by Guillermo Ramos, Jr. and maps by Nelson Yu. Softbound copies are available at the Ayala Museum gift shop for just P250 ($5.20 at P48=$1)