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During the war years, the gardens around the church were dug up to make air-raid shelters. In February 1945, while the Battle of Manila was raging, the Japanese rounded up a group of eighty men ( including 37 Spanish priests) and crammed them into one of the shelters. Then they were buried alive with large stones and gasoline barrels full of earth. The Japanese amused themselves by shooting or tossing hand-grenades into any air-holes they found. Only a hand-full of these men managed to dig their way out, four days later, and survive. One can only imagine the horror they lived through.
Today, the Cathedral is remains the main seat of The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. However, the Cathedral is now closed to the public as it is undergoing extensive earthquake strengthening renovation. Hopefully it will reopen sometime in 2014.