Philippine colonial churches have always fascinated me even as a child. I often wondered how these colossal stone structures stood the test of time.
I had the chance to travel many parts of Luzon on September 2007. The first stop on the three-day journey was Santa Maria church. We arrived very early then as our bus left Manila at around 10:00pm the previous night. Also known as the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion church, this massive structure stands on a hill overlooking the mountains of Ilocos Sur. Built in 1765 by the Augustinians but only earned the UNESCO enscription in 1993.
Our last stop on the second day was another imposing structure, the second Baroque church bearing the UNESCO enscription, the Sur San Agustin or the Paoay church in Ilocos Norte. The 24 massive buttresses is the first thing you will notice, these help the structure stand against the strong force of an earthquake. Like the Sta. Maria church the belfry is also detached from the church. The Augustinian friars had this constructed in 1694 but was only completed in 1704. It was later re-dedicated in 1894.
Within the historic walled city of Intramuros is the San Agustin church. Completed in 1607 this is considered to be the oldest standing church in the Philippines. A notable feature of this church is its intricately carved door and the granite sculptures of lions, which had been gifted by Chinese converts to Catholicism. My visit here was a brief one and a first in the walled city. There were so many things to see.
My so called pilgrimage ended in the church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao. The scenic journey took about an hour from the city of Iloilo.
The imposing stucture whose construction commenced in 1786 and was completed in 1797. Made entirely of sandstone sourced from the nearby towns, this church boast of a facade so ornate it is likened to a retablo. Oval windows adorn each side of the facade along with some uniquely Filipino embellishments copying the papaya, coconut and guava trees on the design.
The Baroque churches are must-see churches to learn our architectectural wonders. Even if my pilgimage is complete there are still many things to see in our country.