The Churches of Iloilo

Iloilo City – Iloilo Province – Panay – Visayas – Philippines

While on a short little trip up to the Philippines city of Iloilo back in January for the colourfully fantastic Dinagyang festival, I took the opportunity to see the Spanish era churches of Iloilo Province. These century old churches can be found in all the towns, and I visited 5.

1) Miagao Church

Also known as the The Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova, the church in Miagao town is listed as a UNESCO protected heritage site under the entry “Baroque Churches of the Philippines”. Originally built in 1797 in the local interpretation of the Baroque architectural style, the church served as a fortress against Muslim Moro raiders.

Grand facade of the Miagao church, includes two bell towers on either side.

Giant buttresses support the thick walls of the church. More fortress than church, definitely.

The pediment has a distinctly botanical motif. An interesting mix of east and west. St. Christopher carrying the child Christ under a coconut tree, with a papaya tree to his left.

The interior of the church. The ceiling is low compared to how large it looks outside.

2) The San Joaquin Church

This was my favourite church visited. Despite being less famous than the Miagao church, the 1869-built San Joaquin Church has an equally, if not more, outstanding pediment. This one features a busy scene of horse-riding soldiers in battle with the beleaguered Moro fighters, during the battle of Tetuan. To the right is a three storey attached bell-tower.

The pediment of the San Joaquin church. The reddish colour comes from the limestone and coral that makes up the church.

Compared to the exterior, the interior is tiled, with clean lines.

Also, the town of San Joaquin is very pretty, with trishaws and motorbikes with sidecars ferrying passengers up and down the main road.

3) Jaro Cathedral

Much closer is the Jaro Cathedral, located in the Jaro district of Iloilo city. Unlike the other churches on this list, it is a cathedral. Yes there is a difference. Built in 1864, it is known for its 400 year old image of the Lady of Candles. Encased in glass in front of the cathedral, accessible via a flight of steps, the Marian image of the Virgin is the site of an annual festival every 2nd Feb.

The Pope John Paul II himself visited the cathedral on Feb 21, 1981 and declared the Lady of Candles the Patron of Western Visayas.

An unusual feature of the cathedral is the bell-tower, which stands separated from the main church, across the road.

The rear interior of the cathedral

The interior of the Jaro Cathedral is simple, with male saints lined on either side of the nave.

4) Molo Church

The Molo Church, also located in Iloilo City, is commonly known as the female church. This is because the saints lined along the nave are all female. Looking at first glance more like a medieval castle than a church, this gothic structure was built in 1831.

Located in the district of Molo, Iloilo City is the Church of St. Anne, better known as the Molo Church.

The sharp pointy spires of the Molo Church stands out from the surroundings buildings.

The interior of the Molo church.

The altar of the Molo Church. I especially like the dove scene on the ceiling.

Stained glass painting of the Virgin and Child.

5) The Arevalo Church

Compared to the previous churches on the list, the Arevalo Church lacks their grandeur. But this modern looking church, located in the Villa Arevalo district of Iloilo City, has its own star attraction. The third oldest image of the Santo Nino can be found here. The 1581 Santo Nino de Arevalo is kept in a glass casing, flanked by two angels.

The exterior of the Arevalo Church.

The image of the Santo Nino de Arevalo.

A close up

The outer section of the church has a row of saints in white. The grills behind lead into the church, which has an open concept, with the grills replacing walls.

Getting There: For Singaporeans eager to pop down to Iloilo City to check out these churches, Cebu Pacific flies direct from Singapore. Yes, a direct flight to Iloilo City. If you are headed there, you could also time your visit to catch the colourful Dinagyang Festival in January.

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