ILOILO CITY, Iloilo — I got the chance to visit Iloilo, a province in central part of the Philippines, with the recent meeting of Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC) held here. And as someone who loves to travel, I didn’t let the chance to pass for me to roam around the province.
What I’ve found in wandering in Iloilo are treasures. Its century-old church structures are gold. Three of these churches are must-visit in the province: Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, and Miagao Church.
Built in 1864, Jaro Cathedral, or the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles (Nuestra Señora de Candelaria), in Iloilo City is an iconic structure.
Deviating from the norm, its Romanesque Revival architecture stays away from the semi-circular arches commonly used in churches. Its bell tower, which is usually attached to the church, is detached from the structure. Jaro Cathedral’s bell tower is adjacent to the church.
What made Jaro Cathedral more special is that it’s the first and only cathedral in Panay Island.
Since it is a national shrine of Our Lady of Candles, lighting candles is a must when visiting the Cathedral. It is believed that when you light candles and offer your prayers, the Lady of Candles also prays for your prayers for them to come true.
Another unique church in Iloilo and in the entire Philippine islands as well, is St. Anne Parish Church, or popularly known as Molo Church, which is still located in the city.
Molo Church is known for being a “feminist church” as all statues in it represents female saints.
It is built by Dominicans in 1831 with a Gothic architecture, making it the only Gothic church in the country.
Some 50 kilometers away from Iloilo City is Miagao Church in the municipality of Miagao.
Miagao Church was declared as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, naming it as a “must-visit church” in Iloilo.
The Baroque Romanesque-structure is one of the four churches in the country declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site along with San Agustin Church in Manila, San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur.
Constructed in 1787, Miagao Church served as fortress against Muslim raiders.
Despite being a stronghold, Miagao Church was destroyed during the 1898 Revolution, damaged by fire in 1910, and badly hit by earthquake in 1948.
Miagao Church undergone a restoration in 1960 and was completed in 1962.
Aside from these century-old churches in Iloilo, there are other beautiful churches in the province.
Among them are St. Clements Church in La Paz, Iloilo City, St. Nicolas of Tolentino Parish or Guimbal Church in Guimbal and St. John of Sahagun Parish or Tigbauan Church in Tigbauan, which are all along the way when visiting Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, and Miagao Church.
Iloilo has benefited from old but gold structures from the Spanish era as Visayas, the central part of the country, was the gateway of Catholicism in the Philippines.