Tuesday, January 29, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Four Baroque Churches of the Philippines

Four churches we have here are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS). These are the Church of San Agustín in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Sta Maria, Ilocos Sur; The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin in Intramuros; and Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miagao, Iloilo.

These churches have been selected taking into consideration the style of the building and design that was adapted to the physical condition in our country.

According to UNESCO WHS, "the four churches are outstanding examples of the Philippine interpretation of the Baroque style, and represent the fusion of European church design and construction with local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition."

Their common attributes are their massive appearance which shows a fortress/protective-like character in response to invading forces/pirates or protection from earthquakes.

Since these churches are in-scripted, they are covered and protected  through Republic Act 10066 (National Heritage Law) and Republic Act 10086 (National Historical Commission of the Philippines Law). Through these legislations,  these churches are secured of funding for its conservation, protection and regular maintenance.

Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion
Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Sitting atop a hill surrounded by a defensive wall, this massive church is unlike many other Philippine churches that's always located near the town plaza. Some of its unique features also include the convento that lies parallel to its facade and its bell tower that stand a few meters away from the church building. The walls are without ornaments or designs but the buttresses are massive enough designed to withstand an earthquake. The interiors are endowed with a pulpit, lectern, and huge altar. It also boasts of a simple fresco on its ceiling near the altar.

Church of San Agustín
Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Said to be the most outstanding example of "Earthquake Baroque," this church has fourteen monumental buttresses situated along the sides of the building. A pair of buttresses at the midpoint of each nave wall have stairways for access to the roof. A huge coral stone belfry that was added half a century after the church was erected, stands a few meters from the church as a protection against damage from earthquakes  The interiors boasts of a pulpit and a massive altar. This is one of the most photographed religious sites in Ilocos Norte.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin
Intramuros, Manila

Built in 1571, this Agustinian church was the first to be erected in Luzon, immediately after the conquest of Manila. It survived a long history of destruction after surviving a war (1945), a fire during the revolution against Spain (1989), and an earthquake (1880). The interiors of the church is endowed with wall paintings that dated back in the 19th Century (although they overlie the original tempera murals), retablo, pulpit, lectern and choice stalls. It's also very interesting to see series of crypto-collateral chapels lining both sides of the nave. The walls separating them act as buttresses. The stone barrel vault, dome, and arched vestibule are all unique in the Philippines. A monastery complex was formerly linked to the church by a series of cloisters, arcades, courtyards and gardens, but all except one building were destroyed in 1945.

As of this writing, reconstructions are being done on the exteriors of the church in preparation for its 450th anniversary since its construction.

Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva
Miag-ao, Iloilo

This church has the most beautiful facade I've seen so far. It stands on the highest point of Miag-ao in which its two uniquely-designed towers served as lookouts against Muslim invaders. Its intricately designed facade is said to be the finest surviving example of "Fortress Baroque." "The sumptuous facade epitomizes the Filipino transfiguration of western decorative elements, with the figure of St Christopher on the pediment dressed in native clothes, carrying the Christ Child on his back, and holding on to a coconut palm for support. The entire riotously decorated facade is flanked by massive tapering bell towers of unequal heights."



  1. I envy you so much Have only been to Paoay and probably judging from your other pictures Paoay is the most picturesque but not for the interiors. Congratulations for visiting all the UNESCO churches of the Philippines! Cheers!

    1. Thank you!

      Actually, my personal favorite is Miag-ao for its fortress-like exterior and and its intricately-designed facade. I love the fine simplicity of Sta Maria Church, less ornaments on its walls, the kind of church that I would love to go to. I also like the monumental exterior of Paoay Church, but I was a bit dismayed by the massive renovations inside it. For best interior, San Agustin surely takes the crown. :)

      Hope you could also visit all these four churches soon! :)

    2. Same here, Miag-Ao is my favorite... I have seen it personally 3 times and its the Best among the 4 churches...

  2. I will give you an A for Awesome. :-)

    1. And i'm giving you B for bola!hehe. Thank you! *Naalala ko yung buko shake sa Sta. Maria. Masarap pero walang epekto. hahaha!*

    2. Hahaha! Ang dami kong tawa doon ha. Awesome talaga si Che ngayon. :-)

    3. Ikaw na talaga ang magaling sa Math!!! hahaha

      [Hindi Cha, ikaw na! LOL monologue? HAHAHAHA]

    4. HAHAHA!!! =)))))))

      galing natin boss! =))))))

    5. Ang gugulo ng comments natin Maj! Aliw na aliw ako rito mag-isa!!! :))))

    6. Duo na talaga kayo ni Dera, Maja. :-)

    7. huh?! di ko gets! s...l....o....w.... =D

    8. Naikwento ko kay Momo yung email ni Pie.
      Me: Gurrobat, Cha
      You: Dera, Maja

      Ibang klase ang alias mo, parang totoo na!!! :)))

    9. hahaha! well, it fits me naman eh. hehe! =B

    10. Kaya ang tawag na namin sayo is "Dera, Maja". :-)

  3. Been to 2 (Miag-ao and Paoay) out of 4. Ang weird lang, hindi pa ako nakakapunta sa San Agustin Church, ang lapit-lapit lang.. :( Gayon ning interior, baging Betis Church!

    1. Oh no bek, you have to visit San Agustin Church and its museum. Impressive yung mga frescoes, pero mas gusto ko ang interiors ng Betis Church. :)

    2. Betis!Betis!Betis! Gusto ko din makapunta sa Miag-ao! =D

    3. This blog entry made me look at the list of the world heritage sites in the Philippines. Parang gusto ko na siyang ibucket list. hehe

      Among the world heritage list:
      1. Historic Town of Vigan - Check
      2. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park - Check
      3. Rice Terraces of the Phillipine Cordilleras
      a. Batad Rice Terraces - hopefully soon
      b. Bangaan Rice Terraces - check
      c. Mayoyao Rice Terraces - hopefully soon
      d. Hungduan Rice Terraces - hopefully soon
      e. Nagacadan Rice Terraces - hopefully soon
      4. Baroque Churches of the Philippines
      composed of:
      a. San Agustin Church in Manila - to be visited very soon
      b. Santa Maria Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur - hopefully soon
      c. San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
      d. Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo
      5. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park - pangarap (hope it will be restored soon)

      Among the 29 other properties that were submitted to the tentative list for possible nomination in the future, I've only been to:
      1. Angono Petroglyphs
      2. Baroque Churches of the Philippines Extension
      a. Church complex of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc (Bohol)
      b. Church complex of San Isidro Labrador, Lazi (Siquijor)
      4. Chocolate Hills Natural Monument
      5. Coron Island Natural Biotic Area
      6. Jesuit Churches of the Philippines (Extension)
      a. Baclayon Church
      b. Loboc Church
      7. Panglao Island, Bohol
      8. Taal Volcano Protected Landscape, Batangas

      Bek, let's go and see all in the list! :D

    4. hahaha! go Cha! sama mo ako ha! =D

    5. Cha!i'm actually planning to go batad this year! secret lang, parang gusto ko ulit mag solo! hehe! =D

    6. Maj, kaya nga 'hopefully' soon! hahaha di ko alam kelan and take note of 'pangarap' sa Tubbataha! LOL

      Pero Maj, tara nga sa Intramuros para naman makapunta ako sa San Agustin Church. Tsaka puntahan na rin natin ang San Sebastian Church. Kasama siya sa 29 sa tentative list!

      WAAAAHHH! Gusto ko rin mag-Batad! Magsama ka... mahal daw pag solo! HAHAHA

    7. haha!mahal ba?! sinabi ko na sayo kasi ayaw kitang gulatin kapag malaman mo na nakarating na ako ng batad.hehehe! =D

      tara sa intramuros! gusto ko maglakad-lakad dun. punta din tayo fort santiago. =D

    8. Sige po mag Intramuros at Fort Santiago visit tayo! :)

      Mahaba-habang lakaran daw ang Batad kaya mag-exercise ka bago magpunta dun. hehe Parang gusto mo talagang mag-solo ha..

    9. haha! salamat sa reminder. balita ko mahaba-habang lakaran din ang pulag. kaya WE need to practice now na! =D

      Goodluck to me! =D

    10. Oh no girls! sana pala sumama kayo samin ni kidd last sat sa intramuros.:(

    11. Maj, kakayanin natin ang Pulag! Manalig lang. ;p

      Bek, oo nga sana sinama niyo kami! Miss na rin namin si Kidd.

    12. MANALIG is the word! =D

      will visit Miag-ao soon! =D

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