Going to church does not only mean you must be holy to visit them, sometimes it can also mean understanding and learning about both the culture and history of a certain place/country through the most historical buildings it has; in some cases, happen to be the church.
Here in the Philippines, we have many churches that have been around even during the years of our grandparents. And one province here in the country that has the most beautiful and unique churches is the province of Iloilo. For those of you looking for places to go in Iloilo, add the 7 churches below to your list to learn more about the province and as well as the country.
I had the chance to explore Iloilo when I was invited in a familiarization tour in 2014. It was indeed a good first sight of the province’s rich culture and heritage. Getting back to Manila during that time is hard for me –that 3-day event inspired me to explore more and keep on coming back to this vibrant province in the Western Visayas. Luckily, I was assigned (for work) in Visayas from 2017 until the first quarter of this year. Yep, being a social development practitioner + weekend warrior is my ticket to explore and understand more the rich history and culture of this beautiful province.
I know, I already published the Top Things to do in Iloilo (including a day tour in the nearby Guimaras Province) but, this province has a lot more to offer - including this beautiful heritage churches I personally visited. I may not include all here, my apologies but you can comment down below so that in my next trip to Iloilo i’ll definitely include your suggestion/recommendation on my priorities!
This is one of the most uniquely designed churches in the province. Its structure is built out of limestone and corals from the sea in Iloilo itself, it gives the whole church its exquisite soft yellow color. These materials are locally harnessed.
Would you believe that this church plus its watchtowers have been around since the year 1787. They were actually built to keep the town and its locals safe from any possible attacks by invaders. Many would be surprised that these walls are thicker than what most people think. And rumor has it there are actually secret pathways that was used for specific strategic defenses.
The church was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1993.
Another very old but historical church on our list is the Molo Church. Built in the year 1831, the foundation of the church was made from white coral rocks that have been perfectly preserved through the years.
For all you feminists out there, you’d be glad to know that there is actually a church which looks like it supports your cause. The Molo Church is also known as the church of women. Why so? Because images of female saints are plastered all over the church.
Established in the year 1575, the Tigbauan church has probably survived a lot more horrific events than most churches in the Philippines. It is made out of local corals and limestone, just like the Miag-ao church, but this one uses red corals and limestone. It also has thick foundation making it a very strong and sturdy church. Strong enough to actually survive a very strong earthquake in 1787. But the earthquake in 1948 did leave it with only its bell tower. But it was later on rebuilt.
In the district of Jaro in Iloilo city, lies one church that is known to be one of the oldest standing churches in the entire country. The Jaro Cathedral, or also known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, is also the second National Shrine in Visayas after the Basilica del Santo Nino in Cebu.
However, its age is not the only interesting fact about the cathedral. We often see bell towards right beside the church itself, but in the case of Jaro cathedral, their bell tower is actually found right across the other side of the street.
Now this church is a sight to see, not only because of its majesty on how it has stayed preserved for 400 years, but the surroundings the church has is completely breathtaking. The town of Guimbal is full of green, the trees and flowers complement the overall structure of the church.
So, the Guimbal church is four floors high. It is built from yellow coral stones that makes it look great when it is hit by sunlight.
Sta. Barbara Church
A national landmark; the Sta. Barbara church may not be as popular as most of its neighboring churches, however the Sta. Barbara church is still one that many adore given its uniform and simple design. Plus, it is the only church in the province that still has its convent attached to the main church.
San Joaquin Church
This has been visited by a lot of people lately since it is gaining popularity because of the very intrinsic and keen details that has been put in establishing this church. From its materials, to its colors, down to every single design, many consider this to be an architecture’s plate of enjoyment. And just like the other churches, its materials were harnessed locally.
HOW TO GET THERE
The first step in going to these colonial churches is to go to Iloilo City, whether you come from Luzon or other provinces of Visayas or Mindanao the easiest way to get to Iloilo is by plane. Take note that Iloilo City is the ideal jumping-off point.
Take an airplane ride going to Iloilo City. All local airlines has direct flight from Manila to Iloilo City. Iloilo is part of Panay Island. Aside from Iloilo City International Airport, Panay island has 2 other airports namely – Caticlan and Roxas airports.
Other option, if you come from Luzon you can even go by land (and sea) via RORO buses from Metro Manila to Iloilo City through Laguna-Batangas-Mindoro Oriental-Panay Island nautical highway.
From Visayas provinces/islands
If there are no planes directly going to Iloilo City from where you are, you can travel to Cebu. From Cebu, you can choose to travel by air or sea going to Iloilo City.
Bacolod City (Negros Occidental) very close to Iloilo. Just ride in a fastcraft or RORO ship from Bacolod Port going to Iloilo City - more or less 1 hour sea travel.
There are direct flight from Davao City, General Santos City and Cagayande Oro City going to and from Iloilo City.
You do not need to be holy to be able to appreciate the beauty of these churches, all you need to have is a good eye for art and you are sure to enjoy every second of visiting these churches.