Visiting all 4 of the Baroque Churches in the Philippines which were also part of UNESCO Heritage Sites List is one of the things that I am proud of. These four churches were built by the Spanish in the late 16th century and their unique architectural style is of European Baroque mastered by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. Three of them are located in Luzon and one is in Visayas.
At this post, I will highlight the two churches which made my trip remarkable.
Miag-ao Church or the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo
The Miag-ao Church was built by the Spanish Augustinian missionaries in Miag-ao, Iloilo in 1786. There are two notable frontages of this church: its two watchtowers and a large coconut tree at the center. The watchtowers were built to defend the town and people against the Muslims who invaded Christianized villages during the early times, while the coconut tree represents St. Christopher carrying Child Jesus on his shoulder referred as “tree of life,” which was according to folklore.
It was said that Miag-ao Church has the most interesting interior design of all 4 Baroque Churches in the Philippines because of its gold-plated retablos. Unfortunately, we were one of those who wasn’t able to see it as it was closed when we visited it.
During 1898, when Filipinos revolt against Spain, the church was destroyed. It was rebuilt; however, it was damaged heavily by fire and earthquake in 1910 and 1948.
How to get there: Miag-ao Church is 45 min to an hour ride from Iloilo City. Budget travelers or commuters can ride a jeepney going to “Miag-ao” from Mohom Terminal in Molo District, or any jeepney bound for Southern Iloilo from the the Iloilo Terminal Market or locally known as “supers” in downtown Iloilo. Jeepney Fare is around PHP 34.00 to PHP 36.00.
Paoay Church or the Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
I could still remember how I felt when I first saw this church during our trip in Ilocos Norte — mesmerized, amazed, like I was in 1600s. Paoay Church is so far the most attractive church I have ever seen.
For some, Ilocos Norte is still underrated making it a top choice for tourists and foreigners to spend their holiday or vacation; however, its church is the most visited tourist spot because of its inscription to the UNESCO Heritage Site List. Similar to Església de Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, Paoay Church is of Spanish architecture design. So visiting it will definitely give you a feeling like you just visited Barcelona in Spain for holidays.
Beside the church is its bell tower which was said to be haunted by ghosts. We dared to climb up but we were very careful as the ladder were too steep and fragile. Even the caretakers didn’t guarantee that it’s safe for tourist to climb. It took us 6 to 10 minutes before we reached the top, some of us even backed up because of the height, but I was one of the few who was able to make it. The view from the top was breathtaking overlooking the whole town of Paoay.
I took one more photo of the church as we went down and I was mesmerized again. However, if you’ll take a closer look into it, some bricks were already destroyed. It was said that the church was always damaged by frequent earthquakes. From then on, Paoay Church has been rebuilt to adapt to seismic condition of the Philippine earthquake.
How to get there: The most convenient way to visit Paoay Church via plane (Manila to Laoag). From Laoag, take a tricycle going to jeepney terminal bound for Paoay, fare is PHP 34.00 to PHP 35.00 with travel time of approximately 1.5 hours.