Christ is Risen!
Today, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The Semana Santa that preceded today’s celebration saw a number of Catholics visiting churches all over the country for the time-honored tradition of Visita Iglesia.
The faithful visits seven churches to pray and contemplate on the 14 Stations of the Cross and to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which is exposed on the altar on Maundy Thursday.
A journey to the historical churches scattered along the countryside offers not only a religious experience for those who choose to undertake it, but also a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Philippines.
These help relive the time when churches stood proudly at the center of their towns and churchgoing is a practice observed with pious faith, a far cry from these modern times where Masses are often held at malls for the sake of convenience.
Luckily, in areas such as the Western Visayas region, there are still many beautiful centuries-old churches that offer travelers a chance to experience a solemn and beautiful visit. Here, we take you on a tour of historic churches that have withstood the tests of time.
San Joaquin Church
This beautiful church made of coral stone was constructed in 1859 under the supervision of the Spanish priest Tomas Santaren, who oversaw Spanish and Mexican artists. This grayish-white church became a fort when the Moro raiders invaded the southern Panay coast. Stone carvings found at the entrance of the church depict the Battle of Tetsuan in 1860, where the Spanish colonizers fought off Moro raiders from Mindanao. Instead of a cross, a carving of Nuestra Señora de Angustias was installed. The church is often compared to the Angkor Wat because of its architectural style.
This church is touted to be the most beautiful in the whole Western Visayas, It is also known as the “Women Church” because of the 16 nearly life-size images of female saints occupying the columns on either side of the church’s central aisles. Construction started in 1831, the structure is supported by posts of “ancient” designs in several areas. Dr. Jose Rizal was said to have visited this church on his way from Dapitan in Mindanao to Manila in August 1896. The bells in the belfry can be heard at a radius of one kilometer.
This sandstone church, built in 1787, has an absolutely stunning façade and has been called “the most truly beautiful of Philippine Churches”. This church is said to exude the native Fiipino touch, because the façade is decorated with reliefs of coconut, banana and papaya trees and stylized guava fruits occupying the pediment which supports a statue of St. Thomas of Villanova. This church was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.
This church is most famous for housing the masses for the Sto. Nino of the Ati-atihan festival. The structure is more modernistic than its neighbors because it was rebuilt in the post-war era, in replacement of the original church that was completed in 1826. A strong magnitude earthquake in 1990 damaged the structure, but restorers, including National Artist Leandro Locsin were able to retain the post-war architectural style.
Sta. Monica Church
This 200-year-old baroque structure is probably one of the most well-known churches in the country, and one that is usually included in Philippine history books. The church was constructed in 1884 under the supervision of Fr. Jose Beloso. The bellfry houses the famous Panay bell, one of the largest bells in the world, made of seventy sacks of coins donated by the townspeople. It measures seven feet in diameter, five feet in height and weighs 10,400 kilograms. Its inscription reads: “I am God’s voice which shall echo praise from one end of the town of Pan-ay to the other, so that Christ’s faithful followers may enter this house of God to receive heavenly graces.”
"Better late then never, ika nga, kesa walang ipakita!"