In 1993, UNESCO inscribed four churches in the Philippines under the title Baroque Churches of the Philippines as World Heritage Sites. These consists of four old churches located in Intramuros in Manila, Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur, Paoay in Ilocos Norte and Miag-ao in Iloilo and were built between the 16th – 18th centuries. The reason why these were inscribed:
This group of churches established a style of building and design that was adapted to the physical conditions in the Philippines and had an important influence on later church architecture in the region. The four churches are outstanding examples of the Philippine interpretation of the Baroque style, and represent the fusion of European church design and construction with local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition.
The Baroque Churches of the Philippines is one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites inscribed so far in the Philippines with the latest, Mt. Hamiguitan Range in Davao Oriental declared June 2014.
Read more at the UNESCO page.
San Agustin Church
The Mother of All Churches, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila is the oldest church in the Philippines. The present structure was built in 1587 and finished in 1607. It has withstood typhoons, earthquakes and a world war. When the dust settled in 1945, it was the only structure standing in the whole of Intramuros.
The church is notable for its layout and which remains as the best preserved monastery-church complex in the country. It has an interesting and rich interior, stunning carvings in the choirloft and an elaborate 17th century pulpit.
Read more about San Agustin Church.
The fortress church of Miag-ao in Iloilo is the second structure in the municipality and built between 1787-1797. The first one is a small stone church along the coast but was destroyed by muslim slave raiders in 1741 and 1754. The present structure was built atop a promontory in a fortress like manner which also served as a lookout for the raiders.
The facade of the church is one of its best design elements wherin the pediment is richly carved with Philippine floral motif with a bas relief of the legendary St. Christopher a little bit off center carrying the Christ Child.
Sta. Maria Church
Sitting atop a hill overlooking the town of Sta. Maria, the church complex layout is unqiue in the country, but more dictated because of the contour of the hill. Unlike other churches, the simple but beautiful facade of this brick church faces directly with the parochial house or, as locally called, kumbento.
Both sides of the church are lined with simple yet sturdy buttresses and an octagonal belfry is built a few meters from the side. A grand and wide staircase leads from the base of the hill to the church while another staircase at the other side leads to the abandoned cemetery with a chapel in ruins.
The church, built between 1694 – 1710 is one of those churches that have really unique elements. Many compare it with asian temples because of its form. The structure is notable for its really massive buttresses with decorative volutes by the sides. The belfry, located a few meters from the church was used as a lookout by revolutionaries.