These four churches, the first of which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century, are located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao. Their unique architectural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen.




DESCRIPTION: The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva stands on the highest point of Miagao, its towers serving as lookouts against Muslim raids. It is the finest surviving example of ‘Fortress Baroque’. The sumptuous facade epitomizes the Filipino transfiguration of western decorative elements, with the figure of Saint 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. http://whc.unesco.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines


LOCATION:  Miag-ao, Iloilo Province

Camera 360


HOW TO GET THERE: Commuters can ride any south-bound jeepney from Mohon Terminal in Molo District or from the Iloilo Terminal Market in Iloilo City Proper. The journey takes about 45 minutes away from the City of Iloilo.



NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Visit the nearby San Joaquin Church (San Joaquin, Iloilo) or Anini-y Church (Anini-y, Antique)



DESCRIPTION: The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín was the first church built on the island of Luzon in 1571, immediately after the Spanish conquest of Manila. A site within the district of Intramuros was assigned to the Augustinian Order, the first to evangelize in the Philippines. In 1587 the impermanent earliest building in wood and palm fronds was replaced by a stone church and monastery in stone, the latter becoming the Augustinian mother house in the Philippines. It was the only structure in Intramuros to survive the liberation of Manila in 1945. Miag-ao became an independent parish in 1731, when a simple church and convento were built. However, destruction of the town by Muslim pirates in 1741 and 1754 led to the town being rebuilt in a more secure location. The new church, constructed in 1787–97, was built as a fortress, to withstand further incursions. It was, however, damaged severely by fire during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and in the Second World War. Two bell towers were added in 1854, but the northern one cracked in the 1880 earthquake and had to be demolished. In the interior of the church the wall paintings date from the 19th century, but they overlie the original tempera murals. As a result, the church was richly endowed, with a fine retablo, pulpit, lectern and choir-stalls. Of special interest is the 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. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines


LOCATION: Intramuros, Manila

HOW TO GET THERE: If coming from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Metered Taxi is the best option to directly go there. See Other Commuters Option – Jeepney, Bus and Train: http://www.ph-commute.com/2008/02/how-to-commute-to-intramuros-manila.html

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Fort Santiago, Rizal Park




DESCRIPTION: The Church of San Agustín at Paoay is the most outstanding example in the Philippines of ‘Earthquake Baroque’. Fourteen buttresses are ranged along the lines of a giant volute supporting a smaller one and surmounted by pyramidal finials. Pair of buttresses at the midpoint of each nave wall has stairways for access to the roof. The lower part of the apse and most of the walls are constructed of coral stone blocks, the upper levels being finished in brick, but this order is reversed on the facade. The massive coral stone bell tower, which was added half a century after the church was completed, stands at some distance from the church, again as a protection against damage during earthquakes. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines


LOCATION: Paoay, Ilocos Norte

HOW TO GET THERE: The nearest Airport to Paoay is the Laoag City International Airport. From the Airport you may hire tricycle or jeepney leading to Laoag City proper. Meanwhile if coming from Metro Manila, Partas  and Florida Bus are the most common  bus lines coming from Cubao in Quezon City. Upon reaching the city of Laoag (which usually traveler’s book their hotel), you can rent a tricycle to have a day tour in Paoay.

“Lakbay Norte Tour” of Travel Agencies in Facebook is frequently inclusive of Paoay Church visit. The package includes pick-up and drop in Metro Manila as well as the hotel in Ilocos.



NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Paoay Lake, Malacañang of the North and Paoay Sand Dunes


DESCRIPTION: Unlike other town churches in the Philippines, which conform to the Spanish tradition of sitting them on the central plaza, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria with its convento are on a hill surrounded by a defensive wall. Also unusual are the sitting of the convento parallel to the facade of the church and that of the separate bell tower (characteristic of Philippine-Hispanic architecture) at the midpoint of the nave wall. This was dictated by the hill on which it is located. The brick church follows the standard Philippine layout, with a monumental facade masking a straight roof-line covering a long rectangular building. It is alleged to be built on a solid raft as a precaution against earthquake damage. The walls are devoid of ornament but have delicately carved side entrances and strong buttresses.  http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines

LOCATION: Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

HOW TO GET THERE: Same route given above if going to Ilocos Norte just pick the bus bound to Vigan.  Majority of the tourist go straight to Vigan and go back to Santa Maria Town as a side trip. On the other hand, you can drop to Santa Maria Town and wander first before continuing your journey to the Heritage City.

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS:Heritage City of Vigan (UNESCO World Heritage Site)


Meanwhile, the following 5 sites are on the Tentative List for the Philippines, meaning that the government intends to consider them for nomination in the future:

1) Church complex of San Pedro Apostol

DESCRIPTION: The present church was first erected by the Jesuit Missionaries in the 18th century, then later taken over by the Augustinian Recollects who had their share of construction. The church complex is near the river and is composed of; the church structure, a three storey convent, a bell tower situated about 50 metres (160 ft) away from the front and a mortuary chapel at the complex’s left side. The Jesuits designed the church with an intricately designed façade (though unfinished), every window has cherub designs under the opening. The Augustinian Recollects added a portico façade, buttresses, the bell tower and the mortuary chapel. The interior has; 18th and 19th centuries retablos, ceiling of the church is painted by indigenous artisans in the 1920s, a 19th-century pipe organ (restored in 2001). In the 19th century, the roof of the church is made of clay roof tiles. The walls are made of coral stone. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines

LOCATION: Loboc, Bohol

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Loboc River and Busay Falls


2) Church complex of Patrocinio de Maria, Boljoon (Cebu)


DESCRIPTION: The Augustinian Friars built the church of Patrocinio de Maria in the 18th century. The church and convent still uses clay roof tiles for its roof. The complex was a fortress church. Within the complex are; block house at the front left side of the complex served as a watch tower, a school at the left rear side built in the 1940s, series of wall ruins, and an 18th-century cemetery. Numerous church artifacts are intact. The ceiling painting was done by local painters in the 1920s. The church walls are made of coral stone. The façade is ornamented with ecclesiastic symbols. A pipe organ was installed in the 19th century at the choir loft. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines


LOCATION: Boljoon, South Cebu

HOW TO GET THERE: From Cebu City South Terminal ride a Ceres Liner Bus (Ordinary or Aircon) with a signboard “Bato-Oslob” and not the “Bato-Barili” unless you wanted to visit Kawasan Falls and Kanlaob Canyoneering. Boljoon Church is just along the highway. The Church is close during Mondays.


NEARBY ATTRACTIONS:Oslob Whale Shark Watching, Osmeña Peak

3) Church of La Inmaculada Concepcion

DESCRIPTION: The present church was first built by the Jesuit Missionaries in the 18th Century, later was taken over by the Franciscan Friars. The church complex is a fortress. Numerous parts of the church interior are decorated with seashells. It is unique in the country. The church still has its original front door, retablos, statues, and other church artifacts. The walls are made of coral stone. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines

LOCATION: Guiuan, Eastern Samar

4) Church of San Mattias

DESCRIPTION: The church walls are made entirely of brick. The façade is a magnificent display of the use ornamented brick laid out in characteristic design. Customized bricks were numbered, and placed customized to fit the walls. The interior of the church, similar to the façade is veneered with ornamented bricks. The upper half of the interior wall is laid with ornately designed brick blocks. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines

LOCATION: Tumauini, Isabela

5) Church complex of San Isidro Labrador

DESCRIPTION: The church complex was built by the Augustinian Recollects in the latter half of the 19th century. The church has two pulpits, the original retablos, and wood floors with herringbone pattern. The church walls are approximately 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) thick, The walls are reinforced with log post which are embedded in the wall. The façade is veneered with coral stone, while the rest is made of fill. The pediments of the church are made of wood panels. http://whc.unesco.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Philippines

LOCATION: Lazi, Siquijor

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