Ilocos Series: Ilocandia's Baroque Churches

January 08, 2016

Apart from having a rich history, Ilocandia is also a home to a number of Baroque churches, making it a perfect place for Visita Iglesia during the Lenten season.  I have already blogged about the Bacarra Church and the Bantay Church in my previous blog posts.  So today, allow me to share with you four more Catholic Churches that we have visited during our three-day tour of the Ilocos province.


Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte
Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte
Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte

My ultimate favorite and perhaps the most popular among all the Baroque churches in the province is the Paoay Church or Saint Augustine Church of Paoay.  Established by the Augustinians in 1694, this magnificent structure has proven to weather every storm and stand the test of time -- thanks to the 24 massive buttresses at the sides and back of the building that provide reinforcement to the church walls, hence making it earthquake proof.

A few meters from the majestic church is its three storey coral stone bell tower, which has played a significant role in Ilocandia's history and culture.  Aside from being a status symbol of the locals hundreds of years ago (for it is said that its bell would ring louder and longer during the wedding of a prominent family), this belfry also served as an observation post for the 'katipuneros' during the Philippine revolution against the Spaniards and once more by the Filipino 'guerrillas' during the Japanese occupation.  

This three centuries-old church has indeed become a silent witness of Ilocandia's great history.  Frankly, I felt both amazed and grateful for having been granted the opportunity to witness its glory, which obviously is still very evident up to this date.  (Kudos to all the efforts of the local government in preserving the timeless elegance of this National Cultural Treasure!) The beauty of the church's facade is truly unimaginable!  Call me exaggerated, but really, it looks more impressive in person than in any other photos you'll see (even those taken by professional photographers).  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an absolute jaw dropper and definitely a MUST SEE in Ilocos!


Sta Monica Church, Sarrat
Sta Monica Church, Sarrat

Santa Monica Church or Sarrat Church, is yet another popular tourist attraction in Ilocos.  Located in Barangay San Leandro, Poblacion, Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, this Roman Catholic Church, that's predominantly made of red bricks, was built in 1779 and was originally known as San Miguel Church.  

This church is known to be the largest church in the whole Ilocos Norte province and is also recognized as the church that has the longest nave in the country.  No wonder this place was chosen to become the setting for the grand wedding of Gregorio Araneta and Irene Marcos, daughter of the late President Ferdinand Marcos -- because its 137-meter aisle alone is enough to give any bride an extravagant entrance!


St William Cathedra, Laoag
St William Cathedra, Laoag
Sinking Bell Tower, Laoag

Situated in the capital city of Ilocos Norte is Saint William Cathedral or Laoag Cathedral.  This 17th century church, with a unique two storey white and cream facade, was constructed in 1612 by the Augustinian friars to replace a wooden chapel in their town and to address the growing population of the faithful in their community.

Its belfry, more popularly known today as "The Sinking Bell Tower," was eventually constructed almost two centuries later.  However, it unfortunately stood 85 meters away from the church.  Yeah, I know.  I cannot believe either that it was indeed St William Cathedral's bell tower because they simply just don't look like a match for each other.  I mean, the church had a white and cream facade while the belfry was basically made of red orange bricks.  Not to mention the many commercial establishments that sprouted like mushrooms around the area, which seemed to have made the church and its belfry look even more separated and far from each other.

Anyway, St William Cathedral's Belfry is so called "The Sinking Bell Tower" because it is said that it was built on a sandy foundation and the tower, with its massive structure, was just too heavy causing it to sink into the ground at a rate of an inch a year.  Well, based on my observation, the tower's main entrance door had obviously sank almost halfway its original height already!  And if in case it is true that this belfry still continues to sink, then I guess, it's just worth the time to visit this place while it's still standing there!


Vigan Cathedral
Vigan Cathedral

The classic beauty of Ilocandia's churches is incontestable.  However, I just noticed that the majority of these churches had plain interiors -- the walls were completed with a simple paint job and they didn't even have any ceiling fixtures, thereby exposing several metal frames and the roof's underside -- which was quite the opposite of its grandiose facade.

Of all the baroque churches that we have seen in the province, I must say that the Vigan Cathedral has the most photogenic interior.  (Hurray for finding a church with a presentable ceiling!)  Its silver-paneled main altar, 12 minor altars, three naves, brass communion handrails and two intricate pulpits standing parallel to each other, which reminded me of Padre Damaso's character in Rizal's Noli Me Tangere -- all contributed to the church's undeniable grandeur.

Completed in 1800, this church structure is likewise called the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle.  I know, that's quite a long name to remember!  I suppose, that's probably the reason why it is otherwise known as Vigan Cathedral -- to make life less complicated!

Anyhow, this tourist attraction stands proud in front of Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos and is only three minutes away from the famous Calle Crisologo.  If you wish to visit a baroque church with a beautiful interior, then this is definitely the place to be!


You have read Part 15 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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