10 Must-Visit Catholic Churches in Iloilo for Holy Week and Beyond

Rekindle your faith and learn about history in these fascinating churches in Iloilo.

By: Hyacinth Bangero | April 05, 2017
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Before Iloilo City became popular because of its exciting night life district, promising business opportunities, and mouth-watering restaurants, it was a tourists’ destination for its awe-inspiring churches. People come and visit Iloilo mainly because of the dazzling architectural design and alluring history that its religious structures have.

Get to know the 10 main destinations for the religious and lay people in the City of Love through our list of must-visit Catholic churches in Iloilo.

1. Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral is also known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles. (Image: Wilhelm Inventor Jayobo)

The Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Jaro celebrates mass at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral across Jaro Plaza, Jaro, Iloilo City. The church is also popularly known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles because of the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin who is carrying the Baby Jesus and holding on the other hand a candle, or what the locals call a candelaria.

In fact, it is everybody’s go-to church every February 2, when the Feast of Our Lady of Candles is celebrated. This is the time when Catholics from all over the Philippines purchase the blessed candle for their whole year’s supply as they pray for their families’ intentions.

Jaro Cathedral is the church with the most number of devotees who flock there every Sunday. It is as well every priest in the Archdiocese of Jaro’s destination during Holy Thursday as they renew their vows.

It is interesting to note that this structure is an example of a colonial church that has underwent a design transformation during World War II.

2. Miag-ao Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

Miag-ao Church is one of the few Baroque churches in the country.

When tourists mention Iloilo, oftentimes, they can’t do away with Miagao Church or Iglesia de Santo Tomas de Villanueva. The place of worship has been identified as a national historical landmark by the National Historical Commission, and as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The church is just one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines.

As you visit the holy place, you will see from its exterior a blend of Baroque, Rococo, and indigenous art and ingenuity. Prominent in the design are the two asymmetrical belfries, yellowish walls, and bizarre architectural design. In fact, the place is a popular spot for photo shoots, whether for debuts or weddings.

However, aside from is grandiose external structure, the very reason why people keep coming back to this church is to worship God and to travel back in time to when the Augustinians built this structure in 1754.

3. Molo Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

Molo Church: the women’s church in Western Visayas

Iglesia de Santa Ana or Molo Church is dubbed as the Women’s Church of Iloilo because what’s inside the imposing structure is a row of women saints. The Neo-Gothic Renaissance structure was built in 1831. History books claim that the church plays a great role in the history of Panay Island, and even of the Philippines. In fact, it was said that the national hero Jose Rizal had a chance to visit the church before he reached Dapitan in 1896.

Just like Miag-ao Church, Molo Church is also listed as a national historical landmark.

Churchgoers here claim that this used to be the place of worship of the Filipino saint Pedro Calungsod before he went on with his mission.

4. Sta. Barbara Church

visit Catholic churches Iloilo

The newly restored Sta. Barbara Church in Iloilo (Image: Santa Barbara Iloilo Parish Church and Convent)

The Roman Catholic church of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo is known to be the historic cradle of independence in Western Visayas. It is not a wonder why in 2015 it hosted the 1st National Independence Day Celebration outside Luzon. The church was built by Augustinian missionaries in 1617 as stated in the Augustinian Archives in the University of San Agustin Archives and Museum.

The place of worship was built for the community known as Catmon so named because of the proliferation of katmon (Dillenia philippinensis) trees in the area. However, the current structure was built in 1845.

The history of the church is inseparable with the foundation of the Revolutionary Government of the Visayas headed by Gen. Martin Delgado. It is also in this very place, just across the church, where the first raising of the Philippine flag outside Luzon transpired.

5. Guimbal Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

Guimbal, Iloilo’s limestone church built by the Augustinian order (Image: Ma. Sylvia Garingalao Toledo)

The Church of St. Nicholas de Tolentino in Guimbal, Iloilo was built in the 1700s by the Augustinian friar Juan Aquado. However, the construction was completed during the term of friar Juan Campos. The church was ruined by fire but it was reconstructed through the leadership still of the Augustinian friars by means of polo y servicio or forced labor.

6. Spousal of Mary and Joseph Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

Spousal of Mary and Joseph Church, also known as “The Wedding Church” (Image: Danilo Aguado San Bueno)

The Parish of Spousal of Mary and Joseph Church in Buntatala, Jaro, Iloilo City is one of the newest churches built in the Archdiocese of Jaro. The church operated by the Oblates of St. Joseph (OSJ) was built through the desire of the townsmen and the OSJ.

The Spousal of Mary and Joseph Church was originally intended to propagate the Catholic faith in the five barangays (communities) in Jaro, as well as to encourage devotion to St. Joseph and St. Joseph Marcello. Today, it has become one of the top wedding churches in Iloilo. Since the church has attracted a number of matrimonial engagements, it has been dubbed as “The Wedding Church.”

7. Tigbauan Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

The façade of Saint John of Sahagun Church in Tigbauan, Iloilo which features the Churriqueresqe style. (Image: Pitik Ilonggo)

The Saint John of Sahagun Church in Tigbauan, Iloilo was built by Augustinian friars sometime in the 16th century. The structure has undergone a series of renovation and reconstruction but it has retained the Churrigueresqe style that is characterized by extreme, expressive and florid decorative detailing at the façade.

8. Dingle Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

The facade of St. John the Baptist Church in Dingle, Iloilo (Image: Dingle Church)

The Parish of St. John the Baptist Church in Dingle, Iloilo is also a work of art by the Augustinian friars who first came to evangelize Panay Island. Just like most Augustinian churches, this was completed through forced labor.

The church is built mostly of limestone rocks which were sourced out from the caves of Dingle, Iloilo and mainly from Mt. Bulabog, which is now considered as a national park.

9. Cabatuan Church

visit Catholic churches Iloilo

Cabatuan Church, the largest brick structure ever built in Western Visayas (Image: Makki Patarata)

The current structure of the St. Nicholas de Tolentino Parish Church in Cabatuan, Iloilo was preceded by a very simple structure. The current structure which was built by the Augustinian friar Ramon Alquezar became the very first brick structure in the Visayas.

Other than this, it has become the largest brick structure in the region. The structure followed the Tuscan style of architecture which is characterized by rectangular plaques, and pilasters alternating with plain walls where windows and doors are contained.

10. Leganes Church

must-visit Catholic churches Iloilo

The pilgrim church of San Vicente Ferrer in Leganes, Iloilo (Image: What’s UP Iloilo)

San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church in Leganes, Iloilo is a major destination of worshippers of the Catholic faith. The original chapel was dubbed as the first stone-and-brick church which was well-built with local materials.

The church was designated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo as a diocesan shrine in April 2008 in honor of the miraculous works received by the people which were credited to their patron saint.

Nowadays, people continue to flock to the San Vicente Ferrer Church in Leganes, Iloilo, making it one of the most visited and honored pilgrimage sites in the Philippines.

Truly, the dominant touch of the Augustinians in Iloilo, who were the first missionaries to circumnavigate the island, influenced not just the religion of the townspeople but also their valuation of art.

Undeniably, strong faith comes with a good haven for worship. And while strong faith comes from the heart, it is undeniable that beautiful places of worship can inspire one to pray.
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About Hyacinth Bangero
She is a young broadcast journalism professor and marketing officer of the University of San Agustin. She's a proud volunteer of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. Hyacinth is geared to educate, experience, and explore.
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