Monday, July 21, 2014

The Philippines is the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia. Colonized by the Spaniards for centuries, the friars built massive churches and schools to entice the natives to convert to Christianity. Most of the churches built during the 16th century are well preserved and stand witness to the steadfast faith of the Filipino people. Destructive earthquakes, world wars and natural calamities have come and gone, but these churches remain, thanks to the efforts of the locals who rebuilt the structures brick by brick.

Among the numerous churches worthy to visit in the Philippines, there are 4 that have been named World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. These are the Sta. Maria Church in Ilocos Sur, the Saint Augustine Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo and the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila.


Sta. Maria Church, Ilocos Sur. Located in the northeastern part of the island of Luzon, the massive church sits on top of a hill, surrounded by a thick wall on all sides. To get to the church, one must climb an 85-step granite stairway that leads into the courtyard. The Nuestra SeƱora de la Asuncion Church (Our Lady of the Assumption) or Sta. Maria Church as it is commonly known started as a chapel in 1567, where a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption was enthroned. It was originally located on the foot of the hill where the present church now stands. However, the image frequently disappeared and was found on a guava tree on top of the hill. The construction of the present church on top of the hill started in 1765 and was completed in 1810, together with its 4-story bell tower. The church is 325 ft (99 m) in length, 74 ft (22.7 m)  in width. It was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1982 and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

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St. Augustine Church, Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Commonly called "Paoay Church," located also in the northeastern part of the island of Luzon, the construction of the church was started by the Augustinian friars in 1686 and completed in 1710. The most striking feature is massive buttresses that support the wall of the church. The design is classified as "Earthquake Baroque," and was made so due to the seismic activity in the region. The walls of the church are 5.47 ft (1.67 m) thick. The materials used to make the massive structure are bricks, coral stones, lumber and tree sap. The 3-story bell tower is made of the same materials, and is detached from the church building to prevent damage to the church in the event of collapse during an earthquake. The church is 360 ft (110 m) in length, 130 ft. (40 m) wide. The Paoay church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

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Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church, Miag-ao, Iloilo. Located in the island of Iloilo in the Visayas Region, the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church is also known as the "Fortress Church." Its two differently designed belfries  used to serve as watch towers to defend the town against the frequent invasion of the moros or muslims. The church started as a visita in 1580, became an independent parish in 1731. Between 1741 to 1754, the town of Miag-ao experienced frequent moro invasion, forcing them to move to a more secure place. Construction of the church where it is presently located took 10 years, from 1787-1797. Its thick walls served to secure the church against invaders. The materials used to make the massive structure were adobe, coral, egg and limestone. The walls are 4.92 ft (1.5 m) thick, reinforced by flying buttresses 13.12 ft (4 m) thick. The Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

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San Agustin Church, Manila. The San Agustin Church in Manila has endured a lot of catastrophes - fire, wars, and earthquakes. The present church is the 3rd structure built on the site. From its humble beginnings as a church made of nipa and bamboo in 1571, the San Agustin Church was the first religious structure built by the Spaniards on the island of Luzon. In 1586, the Augustinian friars decided to build a structure made of stone. The church and adjacent monastery was completed in 1604. It survived the massive earthquakes that shook Manila, and it was the only one among the seven (7) churches in Intramuros that remained after the Battle of Manila. The interior of the church is jaw dropping. The ornate ceilings designed by Italian painters, the pulpit, grand pipe organ, hand carved choir seats, and 16 beautiful chandeliers from Paris are nothing but awesome. The huge edifice measures 220 ft (67.15 m) in length and 81.8 ft (24.93 m) in width. Together with three other churches mentioned, the San Agustin Church in Manila was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

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The pomp and splendor of these churches are just amazing. I do not need to travel to Europe to experience the beauty of Baroque architecture. I can have it right here, in the Philippines. In these islands I call HOME.

34 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Yes they are! Makes me proud to be Filipino!

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  2. The splendor and beauty of old cathedrals never ceases to amaze me. I wish that more of our new sanctuaries had the same appeal, and attention to detail! It's hard to believe how far back some of these cathedrals date back, when we seem to demolish churches built 50 years ago and start again from scratch here.

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    1. I wish all structures built centuries ago would be preserved. It is a nation's treasure.

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  3. What beautiful churches! I love the St. Augustine Church exterior the most.

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    1. My youngest sister got married in that Church. The wedding was beautiful. My baby sister in her immaculately white wedding gown with a long train walking down the aisle of the church. Wish my dad was still alive to have witnessed it.

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  4. I love visiting historical locations like this one. I actually made the pilgrimage to Fatima and Lourdes in France and Portugal years ago.

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    1. Come and visit the Philippines! You'd love it here. Historical sites, amazing beaches, nature trips and trekking. Just make sure its not typhoon season when you visit. :)

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  5. What beautiful churches, I just love to travel and see sites like this, thanks for the great pics.

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    1. Hope you could come and visit someday. My country is beautiful, so rich in culture, and world class hospitality. :)

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  6. WOW! Sta. Maria church is so big and beautiful! Perfect venue for wedding, also

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  7. Wow what beautiful photos and architecture!

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  8. I have never seen any of these but would love to someday.

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  9. What an old and beautiful church, the inside looks so lovely!

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  10. wow, pretty amazing church structures. I just love those vintage look...thanks for sharing!

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  11. I've been to all the churches mentioned except for the one in Ilo-ilo. They are all magnificent!

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  12. When I was a child it's weird that I'm unease entering Catholic Churches. But I'm amazed to look outside large churches like these.

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  13. Sta. Maria is so grand! Any bride would love to walk down it's long aisle :)

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  14. Those are absolutely gorgeous! I love history and would love to see these myself someday!

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  15. Great travel ideas; thanks for sharing.

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  16. What gorgeous churches! This destination has been on my #bucketlist!

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  17. These churches are gorgeous! I would have never imagined they were in the Philippines :)

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  18. All these churches are gorgeous. I would love to visit all of this someday.

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  19. Yet to pay the country a visit! Getting there!

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  20. What beautiful photography looks like an amazing place to visit

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  21. I had no idea that the Philipines had such beautiful old churches! I love visiting them and even scrolling photos. They have such amazing architecture and history!

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  22. Very beautiful! I hope I can visit these places in the future!

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  23. I love visiting and just sitting for a bit in old churches. So serene. These are beautiful and majestic.

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  24. These churches are so beautiful. I'd love to see them some day.

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  25. I love the photos. Such a beautiful churches. I never seen this and i would like to go there someday.

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  26. They are all stunning examples of architecture but my favourite has to be Saint Thomas the turrets and design of the building is so unusual.

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  27. Those churches are so beautiful, I'm so glad they are well preserved and taken care of. I love that UNESCO has recognized these churches as heritage sites. That's really awesome.

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  28. I love the Majesty of old churches. Thanks for sharing these churches look amazing!

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  29. What remarkable buildings. I would love to see these in person.

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