San Sebastian Basilica Sustainable Restoration Project

San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. 

San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. Preservation of historic buildings is a budding practice in the Philippines. Many past restoration projects only did a cursory analysis of the problem before moving to repairs, potentially repairing the wrong problem or making superficial repairs. Local communities were often left out of these schemes. 

When this project began, the San Sebastian Basilica was largely unknown. San Sebastian is the country's only historic all-metal church and is one of only a handful in the world. It is the Philippines' first basilica, the first shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and is one of the few remaining historic churches that has retained its original design, materials and finishes. 

The San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc., formed in 2010, gathered lay people and friars dedicated to the basilica’s sustainable restoration. The intent was for its owners to be the main drivers of the restoration and to impart its importance to the Quiapo neighbourhood and religious communities.  

The project aimed to fully restore the basilica while serving as an opportunity for heritage professionals and enthusiasts to learn and pass on their learning to the community. A large part of these efforts was to draw in new stakeholders and stewards through a comprehensive awareness-raising campaign.  

Once the community became aware of the basilica’s importance, they rallied around its restoration. The local community has become enfranchised in these efforts through events, tours and even a merchandising scheme. The project prioritized the capacity building of disenfranchised community members through training and employment opportunities. Those involved joined forces in an informal alliance working on a larger scale, which successfully led to congress passing a heritage district bill. 

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