Friday, September 15, 2006


According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website, a heritage is a legacy from the past that must be passed on to future generations. A World Heritage --- either cultural or natural --- within this context is exceptional for its universal application and belongs to the world regardless of where they are located.

The Philippines currently has 5 World Heritage Sites. Of these, 2 are natural namely the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park; and 3 are cultural namely the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, the Historic Town of Vigan, and the Baroque Churches of the Philippines. The last site is actually composed of 4 churches: the colonial churches in Paoay (Ilocos Norte), Sta. Maria (Ilocos Sur), Intramuros (Manila), and Miag-ao (Iloilo) --- all built by the Augustinians --- that were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993 because of their “unique architectural style which is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen”. I have the bragging right of having been to all these amazing architectural treasures.

Paoay's Church of San Agustin: A Unique Baroque

Paoay is referred to as Bombay in earlier times presumably in reference to its early settlers who were said to come from India. Its present name was derived from the Ilocano assertion “maka-paoay kami” that means they could do it alone. Paoay was established by the Augustinians as a visita in 1586. It was established as a pueblo more than 100 years later in 1701. Fr. Antonio Estavillo (OSA) initiated building the present church from 1699 to 1702. An earthquake around 1706 or 1707 damaged the church but was repaired by 1710. The convent was built in 1719 and the bell tower from 1793 until 1821. Fr. Jose Nieto (OSA) added improvements to the church from 1818 to 1836. Fr. Valentin Aparicio (OSA) initiated the restoration of the convent in 1844 and Fr. Ruperto Rodriguez (OSA) the church in 1865. Fr. Baldomero Real (OSA) --- the famous orator of San Agustin church in Manila --- initiated major restoration works from 1889 until 1898. An earthquake again damaged the church in 1927. The church provides a breathtaking view from any angle. It is noted for its unique Barouqe fa├žade and massive buttresses flanking the outside walls.

Sta. Maria's Church of Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion: Ermita on a Hill

The visita of Sta. Maria was probably established by the Augustinians before 1660. What might be the first church and convent was burned during Malong’s Revolt of 1661. Another church, originally intended for the pueblo of Narvacan, was built in 1769 in the present site where the image of the Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion was said to appear on a guava tree after periodically disappearing from its ermita. This might have been destroyed and was rebuilt again in 1810 by Fr. Jose Cardano (OSA) who also added a bell tower. The church and the convent were razed by fire in 1822 and were rebuilt in 1824 under the supervision of Fr. Alejandro Peyrona (OSA). This might be the present church that Fr. Lorenzo Rodriguez (OSA) had restored and enclosed in a stone fence in 1863. Fr. Benigno Fenandez (OSA) initiated rebuilding the church after an earthquake damaged it in 1880. Fr. Juan Zallo continued the rebuilding work until 1889. The church is strategically situated on a hill overlooking the central town plaza that makes it unique among other churches in the Philippines.

Intramuros' Church of Conversion de San Pablo: The Philippines' Oldest Stone Church

The first Christian settlement in Manila was established in 1571. One year later, the Augustinians accepted it as a mission and a makeshift church of light materials was built. This was razed by fire during Lim Tao Kien’s (i.e. Limahon) raid of Manila in 1574. Fr. Juan de Alva (OSA) and Fr. Diego de Espinar (OSA) immediately had another church built that was again razed by an accidental fire during the funeral rites for Governor-General Gonzalo Ronquillo in 1586. Another church was built but again destroyed by fire in 1585. Finally, the Augustinians decided to build a stone church and in 1587, Fr. Francisco de Bustos (OSA) initiated the construction work. Fr. Ildefonso Perez (OSA) and Fr. Diego de Avila (OSA) supervised the church building from 1590 to 1596 until it was finished during the term of Bro. Alonso de Perea in 1607. The church’s architect is Juan Macias. The church compound was ransacked and sold in 1762 by the invading British who also desecrated the tomb of Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and other personalities buried in the church. The church compound was expanded in 1861 and suffered damages in the 1863 earthquake. One of the towers was pulled down after sustaining heavy damage during the 1880 earthquake and its 3,400-kilogram bell --- used only to announce the arrival of Governor-Generals and to report incidences of fire --- now adorns the entrance to the convent. The church was damaged during the 1898 Philippine Revolution and again during World War II. It was the only church in Intramuros that survived the battle for the liberation of Manila from the invading Japanese. The church underwent repair and restoration works in 1969 and 1976, respectively. It is the oldest extant stone church in the Philippines. Aside from that of Legazpi, the remains of his grandsons Juan de Salcedo and Lavezares, Blessed Pedro de Zuniga, Juan Luna, and Pedro Paterno are entombed in the church. It was also the site of the following significant events: the first Church Council in 1578, the first National Synod in 1581, the origin of the Royal Seal’s procession in 1584, the first National Council of the Catholic Church convention in 1593, the origin of the Audencia Real de Filipinas’ procession during its foundation in 1598, and it was where Gen. Juan Jaudenes initially discussed the terms for the surrender of Manila to the Americans in 1898.

Miag-ao's Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva: West and East in a Bas Relief

Miagao was probably named after a plant called miagos that grow abundantly in the area. The Augustinians accepted it as a visita of Oton in 1580. Capitan Nicolas Pangkug supervised the construction of the first church in 1731 near the Tumagbok River three years before the arrival of the first Spanish priests. Moro pirates burned this in 1741. Fr. Fernando Camporredondo (OSA) supervised the building of a new church from 1746 until 1747 that was again looted and burned by marauding pirates. Fr. Francisco Gonzales Maximo (OSA) had another church built this time on top of a hill called Tacas from 1787 to 1797 under the supervisions of a Matias from Igbaras and an Aquino from Alimodian. The structure was built to serve as a fortress against frequent pirate raids and has withstood typhoons and earthquakes. Fr. Francisco Perez (OSA) had the bell tower improved in 1839 while Fr. Agustin Escudero (OSA) initiated restoration work in 1869. The bas-relief depicting St. Christopher carrying the child Jesus amidst local coconut, papaya and guava trees were installed during the terms of Fr. Jose Laviana (OSA) and Fr. Jose Sacristan (OSA) probably around 1880. The church was razed during the Philippine Revolution of 1898 and the Filipino-American War of 1899. It was rebuilt but was again damaged by fire in 1910, repaired and damaged again by fire during the Japanese occupation. The church sustained further damager during the 1948 earthquake. Msgr. Wenceslao Enojo and Msgr. Leonardo Javillo had the church restored from 1948 and 1959. Further restoration was conducted from 1960 until 1962. The National Historical Institute later supervised a final restoration work.

1 comment:

Arnesahn said...

thx for all the info.... can not belive that i have been intramouras and seen so little... next time I will use many hours...
here in Norway, by the artic circle, its around 0 degrees and we miss Philippines soo!!!!!!