10 Augustinian built heritage churches in the Philippines you should see

April 28, 2015 marks the 450th year of the presence of the Augustinians in the Philippines, the 450th year of the finding of the image of the Sto. Nino in Cebu and the 50th anniversary of the Minor Basilica of Sto. Nino. This post, celebrates these milestones by honoring the pioneering Augustinian order thru the churches that they built.

To simplify things, I based it on the four churches inscribed under the Baroque Churches of the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage list and the rest, a selection of Augustinian built churches known for their outstanding architecture, and are declared National Cultural Treasures (NCT). Boljoon, other than a NCT, is also nominated in the Baroque Churches of the Philippines extension list. And of course, The Minor Basilica of Sto. Nino is an important shrine and is a declared National Historical Landmark.

The mother church of the Philippines, San Agustin Church is the oldest in the country

The mother church of the Philippines, San Agustin Church is the oldest in the country

1 San Agustin Church (Manila)

Baroque Churches of the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural)
Built in 1587-1607, San Agustin Church and its attached monastery complex is the oldest in the Philippines and follows the Mexican design. It is one of the few best preserved and still intact churches in the Philippines with a rich history. Inside, the remains of the founder of Manila, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi is enshrined at one of the chapels.

It has withstood several earthquakes, the left belfry cracked in the earthquake of 1863 and was pulled down. It survived fires and typhoons and was the only standing structure in Intramuros at the end of World War II when Manila was the second most damaged city during the war. Today, its popular church for weddings and its ecclesiastical treasures are showcased in its museum.

READ MORE: San Agustin Church

Paoay Church is one of the churches in the  UNESCO World Heritage list, Baroque Churches of the Philippines

Paoay Church is one of the churches in the UNESCO World Heritage list, Baroque Churches of the Philippines

2 Paoay Church (Ilocos Norte)

Baroque Churches of the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural)

Built 1699-1702 while the belfry was built 1753-1756. Paoay Church is one of the unique churches in the country with its triangular form with massive buttresses, perhaps the biggest in all churches, decorated with volutes. The belfry was occupied by the Katipuneros during the revolution against Spain and as an observation tower during World War II. It’s patron is St. Augustine.

The baroque church of Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur

The baroque church of Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur

3 Sta. Maria Church (Ilocos Sur)

Baroque Churches of the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural)

Dates relating to the building of the church are a bit hazy except for a note that in 1824, it was reconstructed after a fire. This church is strategically built atop a hill with great views of the area and the sea. Like most Ilocos churches, the belfry is separate from the main structure. It is also the only church wherein the kumbento is built infront of it. A grand staircase at the left side leads to the ermita ruins. It is under the advocation of the Our Lady of the Assumption.

Miag-ao Church with it's interesting pediment

Miag-ao Church with it’s interesting pediment

4 Miag-ao Church (Iloilo)

Baroque Churches of the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage Site (Cultural)

The current structure is the third constructed after the first two were burned and located near the sea. This structure, fortress like and located on top of a hill was built in 1786-1797. The twin belfries are asymmetric with one taller than the other. It is the stunning bas relief at the pediment and facade of the church that makes this one of the interesting churches in the country. It depicts St. Christopher with the Christ Child at the center with native flora around. Its patron is St. Thomas, Tolentine.

The simple church and kumbento of Boljoon

The simple church and kumbento of Boljoon

5 Boljoon Church (Cebu)

Baroque Churches of the Philippines (extension, nominated), National Cultural Treasure

Building of the current structure started in 1783 when the first structure was burned by Muslim slave raiders. This was then finished during the term of Fray Julian Bermejo (1802-1808, 1829-1830, 1839-1842, 1846-1848). The setup is a fortified church complex with the church, belfry, cemetery and kumbento at the center, a blockhouse at the front, right side and enclosed by a wall (front was demolished during the American period and is now the main road). Entrance is at the two sides with each corner having a bulwark.

The interior is intact with its gilded retablo and ceiling paintings done in the early 20th century. The attached cemetery has an entrance arch with a sculpture of death while the walls are decorated with skulls and crossbones.

The retablo like facade of Minalin Church

The retablo like facade of Minalin Church

6 Minalin Church Pampanga)

National Cultural Treasure

Pedor Galende, OSA, writes in Angels and Stone that there are no records about the building of Minalin Church with one document saying it was completed before 1834 while another states it was rebuilt in 1854. Nevertheless, Minalin church’s facade is one of the most interesting in the country, with ts retablo like design. It’s one of three churches that still has its capilla possa (four small chapels within the atrium) intact. It’s patron is St. Monica.

The side facade of Betis Church

The side facade of Betis Church

7 Betis Church (Pampanga)

National Cultural Treasure

Built probably 1690 till 1738, this church is one of only four churches in the Philippines and the only Augustinian built church that still has its wooden flooring intact. Although the exterior is well decorated, the interior will almost blow you away with its ceiling paintings, done in the early 20th century, other decorations and an antique baroque retablo. It’s patron saint is St. James the Great.

Pan-ay Church known for the largest bell in the Philippines

Pan-ay Church known for the largest bell in the Philippines

8 Pan-ay Church (Capiz)

National Cultural Treasure

Built in 1774, Pan-ay Church is known for its massive bell, the biggest in the Philippines and was cast from 70 sacks of coins donated by the townsfolk at the foundry of Don Juan Reina from Iloilo City. It is seven feet in diameter and weighs 10.4 tons. It has an inscription:

Soy la voz de Dios que llevare y ensalzare desde el principio hasta el fin de este pueblo de Panay para que los fieles de Jesus vengan a esta casa de Dios a recibir las gracias celestiales.

(I am God’s voice which I shall echo and praise from one end to the other of the town of Panay, so that the faithful followers of Christ may come to this houseof God to receive the heavenly graces.)

Its patron is St. Monica.

San Joaquin Church is known for its interesting bas relief at its facade which depicts the battle of Tetuan

San Joaquin Church is known for its interesting bas relief at its facade which depicts the battle of Tetuan

9 San Joaquin Church (Iloilo)

National Cultural Treasure

The current structure was built during the curacy of Fray Tomas Santaren (1855-1886). It was during building of this church that news of the victory of Spain against the Moroccans, thus capturing Tetuan. It was with this news that the priest depicted the victory as a bas relief at the pediment entitled Rendicion de Tetuan.

The shrine of the Sto. Nino, this is the minor basilica in Cebu

The shrine of the Sto. Nino, this is the minor basilica in Cebu

10 Minor Basilica of Sto. Nino (Cebu)

National Historical Landmark

The present structure was built in 1735-1739 with coral stones from Panay and Capiz and molave from Talisay and Pitalo in San Fernando (Cebu) with the workers paid in cash. It is where the original image of the Sto. Nino, found at a hut in 1565 and is believed to be the one given by the group of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Although the belfry crashed during the earthquake of October 2013, it is currently being reconstructed.

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5 Comments

  1. I’ve been in San Joaquin church and Miagao church and the place were really spectacular. Having a tour in their bell tower almost stop my breath. It was really nice to be on that places.

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