November 19, 2014

Iloilo: Miag-ao Church

Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church, also known as Miag-ao Church, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site included in the 4 Baroque Churches of the Philippines (together with San Agustin Church in Manila, Santa Maria Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte).

            “Construction of this Church began in 1787 while Fray Francisco M. Gonzales O.S.A. was Parish Priest on this town and Domingo Libo-on was Gobernadorcillo. The Church was completed in 1797. It served as fortress against Muslim Raiders. In 1898, during the Revolution, the Church was destroyed. Subsequently rebuilt, it was damaged by fire in 1910. It was badly damaged by earthquake in 1948. Restoration work begain in 1960 and completed in 1962. During the term of office of Most Reverend Dr. Jose Ma. Cuencio, D.D. Metropolitan Archbishop of Jaro, of Msgr. Fernando S. Javillo, O.P. Parish Priest of this town and Dioscoro Mueda, Municipal Mayor.”

            The Miag-ao Church began construction in 1787 under the supervision of Fray Francisco Gonzales. It was completed in 1797 with a Baroque Romanesque architectural style. The church was built with 2 things in mind: First, as a worship place and second, as a fortress and defensive tower against Muslim raiders. The church also stands on the highest point of Miagao to serve as a watchtower.

Foundation is 6 meters deep with massive stone walls at 1.50 meters thick and supported by 4-meter thick buttresses. The thick walls are made to serve as protection from invaders and to withstand any attack. Purportedly, there are also secret passages within the walls. The rich cream hue of the church owes it to the materials used which were a mixture of adobe, egg, coral and limestone.

            The construction of the church was under forced labor or “folio”. Men from the surrounding areas were required to work plus pay their taxes while residents are required to bring eggs and a block of limestone once a week. Failure to do so will result in flogging by the authorities or the parish priest.

The twin belfries, when looked upon closely, have two different designs because it was commissioned by 2 different priests. The west belfry is the older one and also the tallest with 4 levels or 3-storeys high.

            The bas-relief on the fa├žade is a mixture of influences from the Spanish, Chinese, Muslim and local traditions in the area. The focal point of the sculpture, just above the door, is the life-size form of St Thomas de Villanueva, the patron saint of Miag-ao, with a kid on each side. On the pediment, the coconut or the “tree of life” stands in the middle surrounded by papaya and guava trees. Holding the trunk of the coconut tree is St. Christopher carrying the Christ child.

            There are also 2 figures beside the main door. On the left is St. Henry of Bavaria and on the right is Pope Pius VI. On top of them is their respective coat-of-arms.

            The window moldings have disintegrated and yet, if you look long enough, you can still imagine how beautiful it was on its glorious days through the details still present.

            The interior of the church is simple. The walls were not painted (thank God!) and thus retain its unrefined beauty through the natural limestone blocks. The only elaborate thing inside the church is the retablo, painted in gold.

            Here are more pictures:

The monument in front of the church with a statue of Jesus Christ.
Side entrance of the church
A close-up of the smaller belfry
The buttresses
Stained glass window

Interior of the church, rear view

            Miag-ao Church may not be as massive as Paoay Church, not as grand as San Agustin Church in Manila or not as vibrant as Sta. Maria, but its simplistic organic appearance makes it more elegant and compelling. Moreover, the bas-reliefs and sculptures provides an added depth and profundity that makes it more exceptional.

Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church
Barangay Tacas, Poblacion, Miag-ao, Iloilo
Telephone: 63 33 315-8001
*Miagao Church is approximately 45 minutes away from Iloilo City.

How to get there:
Public Transportation
You can ride any jeep with a “Miagao” sign in front. Or you can opt for the jeepney terminals for southbound trips: Iloilo Terminal Market and Mohon Terminal.
Iloilo Terminal Market
This is located in downtown Iloilo City near Robinsons Place.
Mohon Terminal
This terminal is located at the boundary of Arevalo, Iloilo City and Oton town.

Van Rental
For a more comfortable option, you can go for the van rentals. Van rentals for 8 hours in Iloilo cost around 2000php + gas consumption.

Iloilo Series:
Molo Church: The Feminist Church

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1 comment:

  1. Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading through some of your earlier posts as well and decided to drop a comment on this one!