A church with a Pinoy heart in the heart of Barcelona

12 Aug

by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna

Inside the Iglesia de San Agustín. A Wednesday evening mass is about to start.

The melodious voices of about 700 churchgoers and choir members envelope the air which resonate through the walls and columns of the magnificent San Agustin Church. A middle-aged male tourist   puts his camera aside and curiously listens to the song being sung by both children and adults alike.  He can’t help but ask one of the Pinoy attendees who is standing by the door of the church.

“What language is this?”

“It’s Tagalog. Philippines.”

The tourist nods and smiles. “It sounds sweet and very lively.”

After the mass,  the sweet and lively sound of the  songs that were sang a while ago  is now  replaced by happy and yes, very lively sound of chatters of Pinoy churchgoers who are now heading towards the two exit doors of the church like bees going out of their beehive.

When you ask a Pinoy where to find a Filipino parish church in Barcelona, there is only one answer to this question–no other than–the San Agustin Church along Calle Hospital.

Pinoy churchgoers attending the Mass.

It is not just an ordinary church though. With its long and memorable journey with history, San Agustin Church can be considered as one of the most important churches in Barcelona.  Historical records show that it was in 1728 that the Agustinian friars constructed the Convent of San Agustin in Calle Hospital.  The project was spearheaded by the architect and director  Pere Bertran. Built as a minor basilica with a dome and three  naves, the facade is baroque. Inside the church is a baroque fresco painted by the Italian maestro Claudio Lorenzale.   In 1750 saw the inauguration of the new convent of San Agustin. It had two cloisters but the facade was left unfinished due to unspecified reason.  The San Agustin square was part of the convent and served as the front patio.

During the French invasion in 1808, the convent served as military barracks shared by both  soldiers and monks.  Six years of war and due to the imminent danger and recurring attacks from different forces, the convent was left without a single religious person running the place. The following year, the troops abandoned it and the convent was recovered by the friars who immediately took the initiative for its restoration and reconstruction.  Twenty years later, in 1835, the place was set ablazed together with other convents of the city. After its restoration, the convent was converted into a parish church and still holds the same status as of today.

During the Spanish war in 1936, the place was again set on fire and was ransacked by looters.  More than four decades later, the San Agustin Church was the place where the Asamblea de Catalunya was founded.

In 1999, the church became the official personal parish of the Filipino community in Barcelona. Headed by Fr. Avelino Sapida, the church easily and immediately became a spiritual refuge  for  Pinoys especially at Sunday morning and evening masses.

Fr. Avelino Sapida delivers the Good News

As a personal parish, San Agustin church has a pastoral council and its own parish records of sacraments:  baptism, confirmation and marriage.  The church has long played a unifying force among Pinoys in Barcelona, both spiritual and cultural.

Our group, the association of Filipino writers and researchers in Spain has chosen the church to be the venue of a very special concert especially organized by Pinoys not only for Pinoys but also for our non-Pinoy friends as well. On Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 8:30 in the evening, the church will witness another milestone in showcasing our appreciation for our heritage. Come and share with us in this moment of paying tribute to our cultural roots and admire the beauty of our Filipino love songs.

Come and let yourself be serenaded by Filipina opera singer Michelle Sullera with Kundiman songs accompanied by another Filipina, Marina in piano and Russian violinist, Eugenie.

The same sweet and harmonious sound, though this time not coming from the 700 voices of Pinoy churchgoers but from a Pinay opera singer, will  envelope the air and resonate through the walls and columns of  San Agustin  Church and deep into our hearts as we celebrate the splendor of our rich culture.

16 Responses to “A church with a Pinoy heart in the heart of Barcelona”

  1. nemogbr August 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Another place to visit, whilst in Barcelona.

  2. Andre August 29, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    I remember Fr. Avelino Sapida since I was a teenager & had the the great opportunity to learn & grow, not only as a true Filipino but as a good follower of Christ. His dedication to doing Christ’s mission on earth had always become transparent in the gradual transformation of every parish he was assigned to.
    I wish I was in Barcelona last Aug 14 for the pinoy event…. sana tumugtiog din si Fr. Sapida…a good piano/organ.sax player (was an organist at the Manila Cathedral when he was a seminarian)….I remember him playing the sax in early 70s with a group of young professionals when he was pastor in Alfonso, Cavite.
    I salute his continuous commitment to the works for God’s kingdom.
    Anakabite

  3. Daniel August 30, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    Hi Andre,
    Somebody told us that he could play the saxophone and we saw him playing the piano before the start of the concert. It was actually proposed to organize another concert where Fr. Avel would play the saxophone🙂 We hope you will be around when that happens🙂 I agree with what you have said. Fr. Avel has been very supportive in this project.

  4. JOEY SISON December 16, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    HI Kapamilya,

    We’re from Chicago and visiting Barcelona for the Christmas, New Year and Epiphany Holiday celebrations.
    Napaganda po ng Barcelona pero kailangang mag-aral ng Espanol to mingle with the Spanish.
    We’re still getting familiar with the area and no doubt it will take time before one can get to drive around here.
    We’re planning to hear the Sunday Mass at San Agustin and probable meet some acquaintances especially Pinoys.
    Who knows we will meet somebody we know from way before from the Philippines or Illinois.

    Ingat po kayo and GOD BLESS…
    JOEY and NELLIE

    • Daniel December 18, 2010 at 7:18 am #

      Dear Mr. Joey Sison,

      We’re happy you find Barcelona beautiful. Pero bakit po may pero?🙂

  5. dramos December 16, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Hi, my family and I are new to Barcelona. Can you help us to find where to go to mass on Christmas eve?

    thanks !

    • Daniel December 18, 2010 at 7:15 am #

      Hi dramos,
      You can visit the Iglesia de San Agustin, the Filipino Personal Parish in Barcelona. It’s near Las Ramblas, in Calle Hospital.

  6. Alex Aquino August 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Kamusta po. I am visiting Barcelona next year disembarking from a cruise.
    My search for my kumpil ninong Fr Sapida as I knew him from Kawit, Cavite led me to this article. I’ve been trying to locate San Agustin church through Google Maps and I couldn’t find Calle Hospital in Las Ramblas. I plan to see Fr Sapida as soon as I step out of the ship. I missed the chance to see him in Madrid in 1983 when I was there.

    • Dan August 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      Pasensiya na po at natagalan sa pagsagot sa inyong liham. Buwan ng bakasyon po ngayon sa Spain. We would try to contact Fr. Avel and give him your email. You will find Iglesia de San Agustin easily especially on Sundays🙂

      • Alex July 11, 2012 at 12:41 am #

        Meron po ba kayo’ng update sa request ko to contact Ninong Fr Sapida? My families will be in BCN Sept 2-4. We’re staying at Rialto Hotel. I just don’t want to miss this opportunity. Can we visit the church on Sunday, Sept 2? Salamat po!

      • Dan July 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

        Hola Alex! Puwede kayong pumunta sa simbahan ng San Agustin sa Sunday at sana ay maabutan nyo si Fr. Avel. Isend ko sa email mo ang email nyo so you can write to him directly.

  7. kat September 16, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Hello po! May I ask what is the schedule of the Tagalog mass in this church? I will be visiting Barcelona alone next month, and I am delighted to find that there is a Catholic mass in Filipino! Maraming salamat🙂

    • Dan September 18, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      Hello Kat! Thank you for visiting our blog. The mass in the morning starts at 10 a.m. while the afternoon mass starts at 6 p.m. We hope you enjoy your stay in Barcelona.

      • kat September 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

        Yay, thank you!🙂

      • Dan September 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

        You’re welcome, Kat! Enjoy your stay! Mag-ingat sa mandurukot, marami rito.

  8. Joshua July 27, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Kumusta sa lahat… Tiga New York ako pero I want magpadasal or ipa-mention sa priest family members that are in pain sa Barcelona.. Pano ba gawin? Does anyone know number or email ng San agustin church or ng isang kagawad don? Thanks in advance..

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