The one great thing about traveling alone is the mobility that allows you to change plans without the hassle of having everyone's buy in. You can work on your own time without considering how others may feel about these changes. This was one thing that I particularly enjoyed on this trip as I was able to make last minute changes in my plans as I went through my itinerary for my third day in Iloilo.
I boarded a jeep at "Super" in Iloilo City heading off to the town of San Joaquin. I had planned this part of the trip ahead after I read a blog about a "unique" site to visit in San Joaquin. Afterwhich, I planned to visit the iconic church of Iloilo before finally heading back to the city. As I was travelling through the different towns, I noticed a number of old churches that prompted me to check these churches out on the internet. The internet proved useful that I decided to change plans that very moment. I decided to go one town at a time as I head back to Iloilo City starting off with the sleepy town of San Joaquin.
San Joaquin Church
San Joaquin is a sleepy town that borders the provinces of Iloilo and Antique. I was told by the driver that another 40 minutes along the national higway would bring me to Antique. The reason why I included the town of San Joaquin in my itinerary was because of a century old cemetery that I read about in another travel blog. But I was quite surprised that the town has a few more attractions to offer.
I was dropped off along the national highway, just a few meters from the public market, and I can view the church belfry from that point. The church was just a few minutes walk from the highway so I headed towards that direction, as most Philippine towns have their church as an attraction.
The San Joaquin Church is a great place to visit when you visit the town as it boasts of its own architectural design. The church was completed 10 years after the initial construction started in 1859 and was made from coral stones and limestones. It is flanked by a three-story belfry to the left, if you are facing the church.
What makes the church unique is the facade mural of the church that depicts the Battle of Tetuan where the Spanish forces overpowered the Moors. The intricate design of the church is detailed that one can see the agony on the faces of the wounded soldiers. These design stands out that the National Historical Institute has declared the San Joaquin Church as a National Cultural Treasure. However, the beauty of this church is overshadowed by the more popular Miag-ao Church.
The interior is a wide expanse with a grand altar design with San Joaquin as its central figure.
Getting there: One can take a jeepney from "Super" in Iloilo for San Joaquin. The driver will drop you off near the market where you can take a 5 minute walk to the church.
San Joaquin Cemetery
A lot of people may find it creepy visiting a cemetery except during November but this cemetery is an exception. The San Joaquin Cemetery is one that we can consider as a "preserved" cemetery in the country. Built in 1892, the classical design of the cemetery is hard to miss as it stands out along the national highway as you enter the town.
The cemetery evokes peace and tranquility as you enter the compound. It probably helped that the sea breeze, as the cemetery faces the sea, provided a cool wind to counter the sun's heat a the time of my visit. The cemetery was properly maintained and was not cramped, compared to other cemeteries that I have visited.
The main attraction of the cemetery is the octagonal mortuary, also known as a camposanto, located atop a flight of stairs at the center of the compound. The flight of stairs was said to be constructed by the female residents of the town as an obligation to the Spanish monarch.
The San Joaquin Cemetery is a testament of Spanish influence in the country even in death. It has surpassed time and has kept the history and heritage of the town intact for the younger generation to see. It was great to see how the local community has preserved the site to give us a taste of history. A definite must see place when in Iloilo...although a bit eerie but definitely it is worthwhile to see.
Getting there: One can hire a tricycle for Php30 from the town center. Just tell the driver to bring you to the San Joaquin Cemetery along the national highway.
Mention Iloilo to any seasoned traveler and the first thing that will come into their mind is Miag-ao Church. A trip to this province will not be complete unless you visit this famed church reognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Who will not be awed by the artistic facade that is of Spanish influence infused with a local touch? I was captured by the beauty of the church and I know that a lot of work was invested by the locals in building the Miag-ao Church as it took ten years to finish its construction that started in 1897.
The intricate exterior design is in complete contrast to the simple interiors of the church. The only highlight of the church's interior is the gold-plated retablo which is the centerpiece of the church. The beauty of the church was further romanticized with a simple wedding happening at the time of my visit. The couple must be lucky to have a beautiful and historical church as their backdrop to their wedding.
The beauty of Miag-ao Church is captivating and it is best enjoyed by taking a seat in one of the benches along the church compound and just looking at its intricate design. Say a simple prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty for giving you the privilege to see one of the mankinds greatest art work. Miag-ao Church was the highlight of my Iloilo trip and I encourage every Filipino to visit Miag-ao Church in their lifetime.
Getting there: Take a jeep heading to Iloilo City from San Joaquin Cemetery. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Miag-ao Church. It is hard to miss the church as it is located by the highway. Fare is about Php10 and the trip will take about 15 minutes.
Just 15 minutes away from Miag-ao is Guimbal Church, one of the oldest churches in the country. Built in 1744, Guimbal Church was constructed from adobe stones hauled from the nearby island of Guimaras. The church is in complete contrast with the intricate designs of San Joaquin Church and Miag-ao Church. The facade of the church evokes simplicity having two sculptures of saints guarding the church. It is flanked by a three story belfry on the right.
The simple beauty of Guimbal Church transcends to its interiors as you enter the church. A simple retablo with Jesus Christ as its central figure is the main highlight of the church. It is probably the simplest design that I have seen in Iloilo in terms of architectural design.
Getting there: Take a jeep from Miag-ao town center to Iloilo City. Ask the driver to drop you off at Guimbal Church. The fare is about Php10.
Tigbauan Church is a contrast of the churches in San Joaquin and Miag-ao. If the first two churches boasts its intricate exterior design, Tigbauan Church's pride is found within the walls of the church. Constructed in 1575, the church can be found at the center of the town of Tigbauan. The simple exterior of the church is of Mexican influence and a depiction of San Juan can be found at the front as it guards the church's facade.
The real beauty of the church is the modern design of the church's interiors. The interior walls of the church is highlighted by stone murals in full color that were created by local artists.
Getting there: Take a jeep for Iloilo City at Guimbal Church. Ask the driver to to drop you off at Tigbauan town center where the church is also located. Fare is at Php15.
Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish
I re-read the brochure that I was holding as I stood in front of the Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish. How could a church with a modern design be classified as one of the oldest churches in the region? Unlike the other old churches that I visited first, the Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish has a modern design inside out. The interiors of the church is highlighted with high ceilings and white colored interiors giving it a refreshing atmosphere. Furthermore, the walls of the church are lined with metal grills instead of stone walls that allow natural light and air inside the church. The church, with its modern architecture, gives its visitor a refreshing and light feeling as you enter the church.
One of the main attraction of the church is that it houses the third oldest Sto. Nino image in the country. Apparently, there are only three original Sto. Nino images in the Philippines - one in Cebu, the oldest image, one is housed in Tondo Church, and the third oldest in Sto. Nino de Arevalo Church here in Iloilo City.
Sidetrip: Replica of the Spanish Crown of Queen Regent Ysabel II
Located within the compound of the Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish is a shrine with a metal crown at the top. This is the Replica of the Spanish Crown of Queen Regent Ysabel II, a monument that symbolizes the strong relationship between Spain and Iloilo. The replica was a gift to the people of Iloilo from the Queen.
Now the monument stands as a reminder, not only of Spanish influence, but also to the brave heroes of Panay.
Getting there: Take a jeep heading to Iloilo City from Tigbauan Church. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish which is along the highway. The fare is about Php15 and travel time is about 30 minutes.
Molo Church is considered to be a feminist church as it houses the most number of female saints in the country. The church was offered to Saint Anne and has been a major landmark of Molo and Iloilo City. It has its own share of history having been visited by Gat Jose Rizal in 1896 and it also served as an evacuation center during World War 2.
The baroque architecture of the church is a dominating edifice in Molo District's skyline. In fact, the two pointed belfry of the church is hard to miss and is a stark figure in Molo's skyline as one can see it even as you enter the city from the new airport.
The grand interior complements the exterior of the church. The church is lined up with pillars that lead to the gold-plated retablo with its pointed steeples. The retablo complements the pointed belfry of the church. Each pillar is guarded by a female saint hence the title of a feminist church.
Getting there: One can take a jeep for Iloilo City at the Santo Nino de Arevalo Parish and you can go down at Molo Church as it passes by the church and the town plaza. One can also take a taxi for convenience.
Religion has greatly influenced the way of life of Filipinos. It is one of the most evident influences that we acquired from the Spaniards. Whether we are celebrating a new beginning through marriage or grieving for the dead, our faith plays a huge role in keeping us in the right state of mind.
The great artistry of Filipinos is also evident in all these landmarks. The religious influence, coupled by local artistry, has brought out the best in the integration of two extreme cultures that was immortalized in these structures. We definitely have a lot to be proud of as Filipinos and having seen these cultural artworks, it made me prouder to be Filipino.
Explore the Philippines and be proud of our heritage!
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.