Coming from a 12-hr overnight travel from Manila, the bus halted to its final stop at their terminal near Tanza Junction. It was mid morning when I traversed the length of the Diversion Road towards the junction where it intersects Balzain Highway. The tourism slogan “WOW Tuguegarao” greeted me as I crossed the highway for a fast food brekky. I smiled and got a little excited, thinking of what the city could show me. It’s my first time to step foot in the province of Cagayan and I could not wait to explore its capital city.
I do not have a proper itinerary for this visit to the regional and institutional center of the Cagayan Valley Region. I decided to just explore Tuguegarao on foot and try to appreciate everything it has to offer for tourists and travelers.
To complete the UNESCO inscribed 4 Baroque churches of the Philippines is the church found in the town of Paoay, 18 kms southwest of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. La Iglesia de San Agustin de Paoay or simply Paoay Church, is the finest example of earthquake baroque church in the Philippines.
This church was the first one I visited among the 4 UNESCO listed baroque churches. It was in 2009 that a visit to Paoay was included in our Ilocos itinerary. Paoay Church, in the middle of a sprawling churchyard is a main tourist draw of the town.
A fortress church in southern Iloilo is part of the 4 Baroque Spanish-era churches of the Philippines inscribed by UNESCO in 1993 as a World Heritage Site. In Miag-ao, set on the highest point of the town to guard and watch out from the Tacas or the Moro invaders, the beautiful church dedicated to Sto. Tomas de Villanueva was built.
It is said that this church is of Baroque-Romanesque style. It is Baroque because elements like colonnades and domes, the chiaroscuro as well as the bold play of volume and void is present in this church. This style was common in Europe during the 1600s. Romanesque on the other hand is characterized by bold semi-circular arches, typical during medieval times.
Every August 15, the town of Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur celebrates its fiesta in honor of Apo Baket, the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Assumption. The focal point of this celebration is done in their church which is one of the four baroque Philippine churches inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I recalled that my only visit to this very striking church made of bricks was in 2009 as part of the Ilocos journey which started in Laoag down to Vigan then to Santa Maria and back to Laoag. The church sits on top of a hill. The detached bell tower and the side of the church can already be seen from the first step of the incredibly imposing flight of stairs.
There are several old churches that you may want to visit and explore. If you are interested with history and heritage, it is a great idea to visit the 4 baroque churches of the Philippines designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Old structures in the country are mostly influenced by the Spaniards and the Americans. The former has colonized the Philippines for 377 years at the time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. The latter, when it has become a superpower and bought the country from the Spaniards. The Spanish conquistadores have brought along Christianity and spread it in our soils. In areas that were converted to Roman Catholicism, they turn it into pueblos and in almost every pueblo, they built churches.
The country, being predominantly Roman Catholic, had a huge number of churches built during the Spanish rule. Most of the designs were patterned after the churches in Latin America. These churches were built like fortresses, facing the sea and often on elevated surfaces. They were built as such to keep watch of possible attacks and raid either by the Moro and other ethnic groups. The baroque churches often have massive buttresses that serve to protect the church from earthquakes.
Because of their structure, these churches survived natural and man-made disasters.
The four churches inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site are:
1. San Agustin Church of Manila
2. Church of La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur
3. San Agustin Church of Paoay in Ilocos Norte
4. Church of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo