Ilocos Series: Chapel by The Ruins, Bantay Church and Bell Tower

December 16, 2015

My husband is a great fan of history. He loves anything ancient and vintage.  On the contrary, I used to find history bland and uninteresting.  In short, boring!  However, my strong feeling of dislike towards history started to change when Ronnie and I became a couple.  (Can you guess where he took me on our first date as a couple?  No other than the walled city of Intramuros!)  

With all the excitement those hormones and neurotransmitters gave me during the early stages of our relationship, I guess it's no longer surprising to know that I eventually learned how to appreciate history and I even ended up finding it romantic.  Oh!  Indeed, love is a many splendored thing!

Anyway, since the second day of our tour happened to fall on our third wedding anniversary, we thought there would be no better way to celebrate this special day than to discover history and relive the old Spanish times by taking a tour of the most romantic city in Ilocos -- V I G A N !


JUAN LUNA SHRINE 

Juan Luna Shrine, Badoc, Ilocos Norte
Juan Luna Shrine is located in Badoc, which is almost an hour drive away from Laoag.  This attraction is more accessible if you're going south, so make sure to include this in your itinerary if you're planning to visit Vigan.

Our first stop for the day was supposed to be at the ancestral home of the Luna clan, more popularly known as the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed that day (Tuesday).  I think it was still under renovation that time, so we were not able to get in and witness the rich history the shrine has to offer.  

I was actually a bit disappointed to miss this attraction, which would showcase the world-class talent of our very own, Juan Luna.  But there are certain things that are beyond our control, so instead of sulking, we just decided to pose for a group photo outside the shrine and move on to our next destination, the Bantay Church & Bell Tower.


BANTAY CHURCH

Saint Augustine Church, Bantay, Ilocos Sur
Saint Augustine of Hippo Parish Church was originally established in 1590 and had to be reconstructed in 1950 because of the damages it suffered from the Second World War.

Also known as St. Augustine Church or Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Bantay Church is one of oldest surviving churches in Ilocos Sur.  Its deep brown neo-gothic facade is such a remarkable architecture that's definitely praiseworthy.  

I am not an architect nor an interior designer, but I must say that I really admire how most of the baroque churches in Ilocandia have managed to appear so timeless (yet functional) despite the hundreds of years that have passed and the number of storms it has weathered.  

Aside from its undeniable ageless beauty, Bantay Church has also become a popular destination among pilgrims and devotees (within and outside the region), who wish to pray for the intercession of the miraculous Nuestra Señora de La Caridad, the patroness of Ilocandia whose feast day is celebrated every second Sunday of January.

In addition to its cultural significance, this church has also played a notable part in our country's history for it is said that the ground where the church stands once served as a silent witness to the battle fought by Diego Silang against the Spaniards in 1763.  

Indeed, Bantay Church is really a must-visit place you shouldn't dare miss if you're planning to travel to Ilocos!  Not to mention, it can also be a great place for "Visita Iglesia" (a Roman Catholic tradition wherein the faithful visits seven churches on Maundy Thursday of the Holy Week to pray in front of the church's Blessed Sacrament) during the Lenten Season.


BANTAY BELL TOWER

Bantay Bell Tower, Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Just a few meters away from St. Augustine Church is a tower, known as the Bantay Belfry, sitting on top of a picturesque hill of Bantay, Ilocos Sur.  More than just being a famous tourist attraction, this belfry used to serve as a watchtower during the Spanish regime.  Thus, it was named "Bantay" which means "to guard" because it has played an important role in the city's defense by protecting the people against possible enemies.

Built in 1591, this four centuries old tower is yet another interesting structure that's certainly a must-see in Ilocos.  Visitors are welcome to explore the belfry between 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Just register by the entrance gate and make sure to give any amount that you can afford in their donation box (proceeds will go to the maintenance of the tower).  

Bantay Bell Tower, Bantay, Ilocos Sur
Bantay Bell Tower, Bantay, Ilocos Sur

The climb to reach the uppermost part of the bell tower is exhausting, especially if you have to do it under the scorching heat of the sun.  We came here at around 10 am, which was obviously not an ideal time for sun bathing, but we did it anyway for the love of traveling.  And boy, it was extremely hot!  Therefore, the best time to go would be early morning or late in the afternoon, just so you can save yourself from being soaked in sweat.  Because really, that's quite annoying!

Anyway, the view from the top is really amazing!  All our effort and 'pawis' to see the birds eye view of Vigan from this 424-year-old tower guarding the town of Bantay is definitely worth it!


CHAPEL BY THE RUINS

Chapel by The Ruins, Bantay, Ilocos Sur
Chapel by The Ruins, Bantay, Ilocos Sur
Chapel by the Ruins, Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Beside St. Augustine Church is an open air chapel called, "Chapel by the Ruins," which is said to be the remains of the original structure that were damaged during the Second World War.  It is an intimately charming place sitting in the middle of a garden where you'll find a more relaxing ambiance, far from the noise of tourists trying to get a groupie before the Bantay Bell Tower.

I personally love this place -- the humming birds, the gentle wind, the clear blue skies, the beautiful sunlight, the plants, flowers, and trees, and the altar.  It just feels so peaceful to be here!  I don't know, maybe because I'm an introvert who hates being with the crowd.. That's why!  But anyhow, I'm glad to have found this hidden gem in Bantay and I'm sure you'll certainly love it too especially if you are in dire need of spending some quiet time alone -- hashtag soulsearching!


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You have read Part 9 of 16 of my travel blog posts about our family's trip to Ilocandia.  Should you wish to view the rest of the blog posts under this series, feel free to click any of the links below:

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