The Miag-ao Church in Iloilo province was built in 1786 by Spanish Augustinian missionaries and was declared in 1993 as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Baroque Churches of the Philippines.”
On the front facade, which is flanked by two watchtower belfries, one can see the unique blending of Spanish and native influences (From Wikipedia). The central feature of the bas-relief facade is a large coconut tree which reaches almost to the apex. While an integral part of the Philippine landscape, the coconut tree is also the subject of lore. On the church’s facade the coconut tree appears as the “tree of life” to which St. Christopher carrying the Child Jesus on his shoulder is clinging to. The lesser facades feature the daily life of Miagaowanons during the time. Also depicted are other native flora and fauna and native garb.
The church and its watchtowers were also built to defend the town and its people against raids by the Moros, thus the church has thick walls and, reportedly, secret passages. Indeed stretching along the Iloilo coast are defensive towers, but none that equal the size of the Miag-ao. It is because of this defensive purpose that it is sometimes referred to as the Miag-ao Fortress Church.
Mabuhay ang Miag-ao Church!
The San Matias Parish Church in Tumauini, Isabela (northern Philippines) was built by the Dominican priest Fr. Domingo Forto in 1783 with assistance from a master carpenter named Castillejos. Built with brick and coral stones, construction was completed in 1805.
The church was seriously damaged during World War II. Except for the convent, it has been faithfully restored and today is considered as the best and most artistic brick structure in the Philippines.
The unique cylindrical bell tower is the only one of its kind in the Philippines. Experts say the church architectural design also bears traces of Chinese artistry which reflects early Chinese influence in the coastal towns of Northern Luzon probably even before the Spanish came to colonise that part of the country.
The church has been declared by the National Commission on Culture and Arts as part of the national heritage and a national landmark in 1989.
Mabuhay ang San Matias Parish Church!
The St. Gregory Church, also known as the Majayjay Catholic Church, is considered as one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Built in 1575 in the municipality of Majayjay, Laguna, Majayjay Church has a giant antique bell reputed to be the oldest in the country.
Majayjay Church was built using forced labor. It is also known for antique relief statues of saints, which were brought by the Spaniards.The belfry houses four small bells and one big bell. From the rooftop of the church, one also has a breathtaking, panoramic view of Mt. Banahaw and Laguna de Bay.
The church which has survived countless calamities, wars and revolutions, has undergone several reconstructions and repairs. The Americans also used the church as headquarters during the US-Philippine war. Although much of its past glory has faded, the church remains a favorite to tourists both local and foreign. Key scenes from the classic film Tatlong Taong Walang Dios (Three Godless Years) were also shot in this church.
Mabuhay ang Majayjay Church!
The San Sebastian Church in Manila is known as the only fully-steel church in Asia. A shrine to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the church was built by the Augustinian Recollects in 1893 after the original stone basilica, built in the middle of the 17th century, was destroyed in an earthquake.
The iron sheets and panels were manufactured in Belgium and was assembled by local artists and craftsmen when it arrived in 1888. It’s beautiful stained glass windows were imported from Germany.
The innovative steel construction remains unique in Philippine architecture and reflects the daringness of the design and the skill of local craftsmen. Unfortunately persistent corrosion, leaks and poor maintenance threaten the structural integrity.
Experts also say that the steel bracing within the cavity walls is deteriorating and if left unchecked the church’s stability is severely endangered. San Sebastian and the local parish continues to play an active religious and social role in the community parish, and recently San Sebastian Church was proposed for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Mabuhay ang San Sebastian!