There’s so much to write about in a trip through Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. Some of the places in Ilocos deserve a separate post, like Pagudpud, while others are lumped according to category just to have a semblance of order. Let’s discuss the different churches in this post. This may be timely for those who wish to visit different churches (visita iglesia) this Holy Week.
Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Charity (Sta. Monica Parish, Agoo, La Union). This is found not in Ilocos and this is not really “old” in the context of the Ilocos Churches. This, however, is the first bigger churches one will encounter on the way to Ilocos, so it may be convenient to just include this here (if you’re having breakfast in Agoo as the first leg of the Ilocos trip, this church is just beside Jollibee). This is also one of the churches with better interiors. This basilica is located in La Union’s oldest town, Agoo, founded in 1578. This is not really an old church, having been constructed in the 1970s. It was consecrated as a Marian shrine in 1978 and elevated to a rank of Basilica Minore by Pope John Paul II in 1982. No wonder there’s a statue built in honor of the most well-loved Pope of all times, at least in my book, Pope JP2.
Church of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur). Originally built by the Augustinian priests, rebuilt in 1810. The Church of Sta. Maria is one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines that was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The other three are: Immaculate Conception in Intramuros (Manila City), Santo Tomas Church in Miag-ao (Iloilo), and San Agustin Church in Paoay (Ilocos Norte). The Immaculate Conception is also known as Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica (featured here) and the last one, San Agustin Church, is featured below. Come to think of it, two World Heritage sites in just one trip. My wife asked me why it was declared as a World Heritage site. I said I don’t know, but a little digging led to the following selection criteria for these churches: to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; and to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.
Shrine of Our Lady of Charity (Saint Agustine Parish Church, Bantay, Ilocos Sur). This is one of the oldest churches of Ilocos Sur, built in 1590. The facade, rebuilt after having been destroyed during World War II, is of neo-gothic design mixed with pseudo-romanesque elements. There should be no problem looking for this church (photos below), as it is just beside Vigan.
St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral (Vigan City). Original church was a chapel of wood and thatch erected in 1574 on orders of Juan de Salcedo, the conquistador and founder of Villa Fernandina (now Vigan). The church is beside Plaza Burgos, named in honor of the Ilocano martyr-priest Father Jose P. Burgos, as well as the only surviving 18th century Arzobispado in the country, the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. If you drop by the Crisologo museum, you’ll hear that Atty. Floro Crisologo was assassinated in this Cathedral. On a more worldly matter, the (famous) empanada are sold at the fringes of Plaza Burgos.
San Agustin Church (Paoay, Ilocos Norte). Augustinian missionaries founded the parish in 1593, with the cornerstone of the chuch laid in 1704. The church was damaged by the earthquakes of 1706 and 1927. The belltower was used as observation post by the Katipuneros during the revolution against Spain, and by the Guerilleros during the Spanish occupation. This church has the most impressive facade, in my book, but not necessarily the interior (I believe St. William has the better interior).
St. William Cathedral (Laoag City, Ilocos Norte). This used to be a chapel made of wood in 1580, built by Augustinian Friars. Replaced by this church of Italian Renaissance, but was damaged by fire in 1843. It was occupied by the Revolutionists in 1898 and the American Forces in 1899. Ownership was contested by the Aglipayans in 1901. The St. William Cathedral has one of the better interiors of the Ilocos Churches.
You may have noticed that beside these churches, just a few meters away, are the equally majestic and gigantic bell towers (except perhaps, with the St. William Church in Laoag, where the sinking belltower is across the street, and Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Bantay). There are other churches of interest (e.g., St. Andrews Church, Bacarra, Ilocos Norte; Sta. Monica Church, Sarrat, Ilocos Norte; St. Joseph Church, Dingras, Ilocos Norte; and St. Nicolas of Tolentino Parish Church, Sinait, Ilocos Sur), but we can’t cover them all in 3 days of travel, especially if we need to see other sites of interest like the Bangui Wind Mills, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, the beaches in Pagudpud, the Marcos Mansion and Maoseleum in Batac, and Crisologo Street in Vigan (where the old houses and cobblestones are found). We’ll cover them in future posts.