When visiting a city or a town for the first time, it’s customary for travelers to stop and pray at a local church.
Not only is this supposed to endow blessings and safe travels, but can also give travelers a better idea of the history of a place.
Churches have become major attractions, not just for religious pilgrimages but for those interested in history and architecture as well.
With Holy Week just around the corner, here’s a closer look at some destinations around the country where you can marvel at stunning churches while enjoying a peaceful getaway.
Home to two of the four Baroque Spanish-era churches of the Philippines designated under the UNESCO World Heritage list, the whole Ilocos region is a popular destination for Holy Week.
Saint Augustine Church or Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte is one of the oldest churches in the country, originally built in 1694.
The most striking feature of the church, which is made up largely of coral stones and bricks, are the 24 huge buttresses that measure 1.67 meters thick. Extending from the exterior walls, this design was meant to prevent damage from earthquakes.
Meanwhile, the neighboring province of Ilocos Sur is home to the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion or the Santa Maria Church built in 1765.
This UNESCO property has a unique structure with a diversified architectural design of bricks and mortar. This church stands as a reminder of the four centuries of Spanish domination as it was built on top of a hill, a lookout and a citadel as well as a religious center during the early administration of the region by friars and soldiers of Spain.
Home to some of the most idyllic churches in the country and stunning natural scenery, Batanes offers a worthy pilgrimage destination for those looking for peace and serenity. Mount Carmel Chapel or Tukon Chapel, uniquely modelled after traditional Ivatan houses, offers a stunning seascape view.
In the town of Mahatao, you can visit San Carlos Borromeo Church, one of the cultural icons of the Philippines, built by the Dominicans in 1789. In Ivana, the San Jose de Obrero Church or Ivana Church, showcases one of the best preserved churches in the region.
Meanwhile, on Sabtang Island, you can marvel at the heritage towns of Savidug and Chavayan, a small village known for its well-preserved stone houses and small chapels. A popular stop is the San Vicente Ferrer Church, or Sabtang Church near the port.
The Cagayan Valley Region is home to major heritage churches, which showcase Filipino heritage in the Spanish colonial era from the sixteenth until the nineteenth century. The Saint Peter Metropolitan Cathedral or Tuguegarao Cathedral, an 18th-century Baroque church considered one of the largest churches in Cagayan Valley, is a top tourist landmark for pilgrimage tours.
Other notable churches in Cagayan include St. Philomene Church or Alcala Church, said to be the widest church in the country; Saint Anne Parish Church or Buguey Church, with its striking red-brick facade: and the St. Dominic Church or Lal-lo Church, built in the 1600s. Its red brick facade features a stained glass art of a cross that sits above the main entrance.
Isabela, the second largest province in the Philippines, is home to many notable churches and pilgrimage sites. One of the most interesting architecturally is the San Pablo Church built in 1624. Said to be the oldest church in Isabela, this church stands out because the whole facade and the belltower, the tallest in the whole Cagayan Valley, are what really remain of what was probably one of the biggest churches in the region.
The Tumauini Church, designated as a National Historical Landmark on 1989, is also worth a visit. The church has an elegant four-tiered cylindrical, bell tower, that’s said to be the only one of its kind in the Philippines.
For those based in Visayas, Iloilo is a good option to visit for church tours. As Iloilo is one of the first destinations in the Philippines to accept Catholicism, it’s no surprise that it is a popular destination during the Lenten season because of its centuries-old churches. The most popular site here is the Church of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva, commonly known as Miagao Church, one of the four UNESCO World-listed baroque churches in the Philippines.
The church’s over-all architectural style falls under the Baroque Romanesque architectural style. The church features a foundation six meters deep with massive stone walls 1.5 meters.
Other churches to visit in Iloilo include San Joaquin Church, built in 1869, a National Cultural Treasure, and Jaro Church, with its impressive Gothic-style cathedral and ruined belfry. Saint Anne Church or the Molo Church with its two pyramidal red spires, is also known for its Classical and Gothic details, and as a feminist church because of the statues of female saints inside.