Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baroque Churches of the Philippines : A Fusion of European and Indigenous Arts

... and San Josenyong Gala visited them all!  

The Baroque Churches of the Philippines is a group of Spanish-era Churches in the Philippines inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites list. It is composed of four Roman Catholic churches constructed between the 16th to 18th centuries and can be found in different areas of the country: two in the Ilocos Region (Luzon Island), one in the National Capital Region (Intramuros, Manila) and one in the Visayan Island of Panay, in Iloilo.

This group of churches is a fine example of the fusion of European and Indigenous Filipino church design and construction. Church designs was adapted to the physical condition in the Philippines of which the following are prominent characteristics: 1. large buttresses that could withstand earthquake or heavy storms; 2. indigenous motiffs such as plants (papaya, coconut, palm trees) or traditional clothing (as worn by saints depicted in the churches facade); 3. squat, monumental, massive and fortress like appearance (in response to pirates/marauders during the time the churches was built.) 

As a travel blogger, it is a feat for me to be able to visit all these magnificent heritage structures at last! Join me in my trip to my past as I recount my experience in visiting all four churches.

CHURCH OF SAN AGUSTIN (Paoay, Ilocos Norte)

Date Visited : April 14, 2009
During : Bulacan Polytechnic College Ilocos Tour
Nearby Tourist Spots : Paoay Lake, Malacanang Palace of the North

This is the very first church I have visited among the four. I was part of the school tour that time, and not yet a travel blogger. When it was time for me to take a picture of the church, my camera suddenly went dead and I just took a picture of the church with my phone camera and that explains why the picture is somewhat blurred and not crispy clear. 

Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Church Marker.


Date Visited : June 15, 2013
During : San Josenyong Gala's Abra-Ilocos Sur Townhopping
Nearby Tourist Spots : Narvacan Church, Vigan City

It took me four years before I was able to visit the second church. As part of my Abra-Ilocos Sur townhopping, Santa Maria Church didn't fail me. When I saw it, I was just astounded and took many minutes just appreciating its beauty and architecture. Nearby are few Spanish era houses which I was also able to visit and appreciate. 

Santa Maria Church. Ilocos Sur.

Santa Maria Church Marker


Date Visited : August 30, 2013
During : San Josenyong Gala's Panay Island Tour
Nearby Tourist Spots : San Joaquin Church, San Joaquin Cemetery Chapel, Iloilo City

I was able to visit the third church just two months after visiting the second. Now, this church is what you call amazing! Among all the four churches, I find Miag-ao's church facade as the most intricate, beautiful and interesting. For me, it looks more like a castle than a church with it's large buttresses as well as massive bases of bell tower.

Miag-ao Church. Iloilo.

Miag-ao Church Marker


Date Visited: September 8, 2013
During : Manila Food Tour with Newly Met Travel Bloggers
Nearby Tourist Spots : Intramuros, Manila City

It maybe ironic but yes, the nearest one to us from our home in San Jose del Monte is in fact, San Agustin Church, but it was actually the last one I have visited among the four! I had the opportunity to visit San Agustin Church when a newly-met travel blogger, Jerson Jaya of Lonely Travelogues, invited me to a food tour in Manila with some other bloggers. I immediately grabbed the opportunity, thus, being able to see the church for the first time. 

I was a bit disappointed upon seeing the church because as it was the oldest in Luzon Island, I was expecting an ancient but majestic looking church. But what I saw was a renovated and obviously modernized church facade with plaster finishing, not reminiscent of a 4-century church.

San Agustin Church. Intramuros, Manila.

San Agustin Church Marker

If I would have to rank them from which I was most fascinated to the least, I would choose Miag-ao Church, followed by Paoay Church then Santa Maria Church and finally, San Agustin Church. But I know that ranking is truly meaningless because all these four churches has and will always be part of the nation's history and are standing testament to the belief, culture and artistry of the Filipino nation.

How about you? Any plans of visiting all these UNESCO Sites in the future? 
Share your thoughts about them by commenting below... :)

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About the Author

I am ROMEL RAFOR JAIME, the man behind San Josenyong Gala. My travel blogger name came about because I am a proud resident of the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. In real life, I am a licensed librarian who works in a college in Gapan, Nueva Ecija as a librarian and teaches general education subjects from time to time. My goal is to visit all the 81 provinces of the Philippines before visiting other countries. As of 2017, I have already visited 73... :)


  1. wow ganda ng mga simbahan, tsk sayang talaga na dapat irestore hindi renovation, parang tulad dun sa nangyari sa San Bartolome Church at Parish of Immaculate Concepcion sa Malabon instead na bumalik sa dating ganda bigla nawala.

    1. Tama ka jan tol... Dapat talaga, ang mga old structure, nire-restore. Renovation is just an option kung talagang dilapidated at wala nang pag-asa yung structure...

  2. of all those churches above Miag-ao is my favorite. San Augustine's continues renovation is understandably because it is in the metro... saka dami nilang donors (Ayala's I think) kaya kailangan may project. lol...

    1. Hahaha... yun na nga eh, daming donors, ibig sabihin may gagastusin sila para mairestore ng maayos yung San Agustin Church... Kaso lang, ayun... haizt!

  3. Bibisitahi ko rin yang mga yan...soon..;) but then, i'll start with the nearest..:)

  4. Miag-ao Church. Iloilo. is my favorite - will it visit soon :B

    1. Parehas po tayo ng favorite! Napakaganda talaga ng Miag-ao Church... :)