We didn’t know we were going on a Visita Iglesia in Iloilo back in January when we went there for the Dinagyang. Having arrived days before Dinagyang weekend, we were toured along the northern and southern outskirts of Iloilo City, passing by endless tracts of farmland on one day and coastal villages on the other.
An even more welcome surprise was Iloilo’s architectural abundance, from the Spanish-era houses along Jaro and the Chinese structures along Molo district, to centuries-old churches not an hour from the city.
These are continuing testaments to the province’s past, having been once the seat of the Spanish occupation in the whole of Panay, as well as one of the Visayas’ major trade hubs. Iloilo also has the largest concentration of Filipino-Chinese communities outside Manila & Cebu, and until now, as Museo Iloilo curator James Amsua said, the Chi-noy community maintains a strong foothold in the province’s commerce.
TIGBAUAN CHURCH: Mosaic heaven
The fascinating thing about this church is that it is as much an artistic space as it is a religious one. From its walls to the dome of its altar, the Parish of St. John Sahagun in the town of Tigbauan is full of mosaic tiles depicting, among others, the Stations of the Cross and other biblical scenes. Each of the tiles used was cut following a local artist’s design, akin to a puzzle only that this one didn’t follow a uniform shape. One word: amazing.
GUIMBAL CHURCH: Sandstone glory
According to Explore Iloilo, Guimbal Church is one of the country’s oldest and is made of yellow sandstone, the same material used in the Miagao Church.
CABATUAN CHURCH: Rustic charm
“It is the only church in Iloilo which once had three facades and six belfries, in spite of this, four of these belfries were destroyed in the 1948 earthquake.The Church which is Tuscan in style imposes heaviness and massiveness.” [See: Explore Iloilo]
STA. BARBARA CHURCH: Old world heritage
“In 1991, the National Heritage Institute declared the Santa Barbara Church and Convent as a National Landmark. The declaration is a testimony of the significance of the Church especially its important role in the Country’s history as the general headquarters and military hospital of the revolutionary forces against Spain in the Visayas during the late 1800s.” [See: Explore Iloilo]
Right across this church stands the replica of the Philippines’ largest flag outside Luzon–a source of pride of the whole town.
LEGANES CHURCH: Revered & miraculous
The diocesan shrine of St. Vincent Ferrer in Leganes, Iloilo is 150 years old and is widely believed by locals to be miraculous.
MIAGAO CHURCH: Otherworldly beauty
Imposing, impressive, and awe-inspiring–this UNESCO World Heritage Site literally stands out, its sandstone built piercing an otherwise ordinary-looking town plaza with glowing yellow. It’s proudly Baroque but proudly Pinoy as well, the stunning bas relief pieces in its facade distinctly native (note the centerpiece coconut tree, among others).