National Commission for Culture and the Arts has spearheaded the
conservation of 26 Spanish colonial-era churches in the country, all of
which were recognized as National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum
in 2001. The declaration was made in support of the state policy to preserve
and protect important cultural properties and safeguard their intrinsic
The chosen churches were found possessing outstanding historical, cultural,
artistic and/or scientific value and are representative
of the original church-building orders of Augustinians, Franciscans,
Jesuits, Dominicans, and Augustinian Recollects, and all the major regions
of the country.
The set general
criteria for the choice were as follows: (1)
most of the church complex (church, convento, church yard) should have been
constructed during the Spanish colonial period (prior to 1898) and must be
reasonably intact; (2) the church interiors must have preserved most of its
pre-1898 furnishing if not ambience; (3) the architecture in these sites
must be an excellent representation of some artistic style or technique, or
must be the best example of religious colonial architecture in the area. An
added consideration was the picturesqueness of location where the church is
The committee on monuments and sites of the NCCA has nominated these
churches for restoration and adopted the same as their flagship project for
the millennium. Added to these 26
churches were the four churches inscribed in the World Heritage List: San
Agustin, Santa Maria, Paoay, Miag-ao.
Aside from the provision of technical
assistance by qualified conservation practitioners, NCCA is also currently
funding the survey and documentation of the 26 churches as covered by
Resolution 2000-167 along with the conservation and restoration of the
ceiling painting at the St. John Church, in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental
(after the documentation of its ceiling paintings was completed in
2002). While the Detailed Engineering Studies (DES) for the world heritage
site Churches in Miag-ao, Iloilo, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila
are ongoing, the masonry cleaning and appurtenant laboratory tests for the
Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte have already been accomplished.
Developments on the project, as of August 2003, include the completed survey
and documentation for the churches of Bohol, Batanes, San Joaquin and Pan-ay
are already finished, while the same process for the churches of Tabaco,
Albay and romblon are underway.
of San Agustin (Bacong, Negros Oriental).
The church was built in
the second half of the 19th century by the Augustinian Recollects and is the
best-preserved church complex in Negros Oriental. It has a late 19th century
pipe organ. The finely- cut stonework of the belltower is noteworthy, as
well as its material, which is not the usual white coralline type, and
stylistic elements (new - Renaissance quoins). There are also painted
friezes in the sacristy.
of the Immaculate Conception (Balayan, Batangas).
The church was built in the early 19th century by the secular clergy, with
later touches by the Augustinian Recollects. It must be noted that by the
19th century, the seculars were already largely
priests, hence, Balayan
(along with Tabaco, Tayum, and to a small degree Maragondon, in this list)
is one of a few examples of churches built under direction of the
clergy. The interior has not changed much since the 1870s when a print
showing the church interior was made, despite several superficial
Parish Church of Santiago Apostol (Betis, Pampanga).
Built in the 18th century by the Augustinians, with ceiling paintings from
the early 20th century, the church boasts of the most beautiful retablo
in Pampanga that is arguably also the best in Central Luzon. The wooden
floor, though not so old, is well-maintained and adds to the ambience.
Original wooden furnishings are still in the sacristy and in the convento.
Church of Patrocinio de
Maria (Boljoon, Cebu).
Built 18th-early 19th century, under the Augustinians, the church and its
decoration are related artistically to those of nearby Argao, Dalaguete, and
Samboan; however, Boljoon has arguably the most developed and unique style.
The pierced woodwork on the choirscreen and pulpit are among the best in the
country. The same goes for the gold-leafing and polychromy on the retablos
that have amazingly withstood the salty air wafting in from just a few
meters away. The complex includes remains of fortified walls, a cemetery,
and a blockhouse. The convento roof still retains the original tiles.
of Saints Peter and Paul (Calasiao, Pangasinan).
Built in the 17th to 19th centuries by the Dominicans, the church is
considered as the best-preserved church complex in Pangasinan. The bell
tower and some parts of the church have been recently reconstructed, having
been damaged by an earthquake: still and all, it is well conserved and the
recent work has not deviated from its original appearance. The sprawling
convento - the site of the 18th century Synod of Calasiao - has an excellent
example of a separate kitchen structure. The retablo mayor is massive and
its complex woodwork may be seen at the back.
of San Vicente de Ferrer (Dupax, Nueva Vizcaya).
The church is the best-preserved
church complex in Nueva Vizcaya. It was built during the second half of the
18th century, under the Dominicans. The baptistry and narthex are converted
with carved stucco - work possibly unmatched elsewhere in the Philippines.
The convento still preserves slits on the outer walls for archers to fire
their arrows against raiders.
of the Immaculate Conception (Guiuan, Eastern Samar).
Built by the Jesuits in the early 18th century and further decorated by the
Franciscans in the 19th. The decoration of shells and coral throughout the
church and especially in the baptistry is most impressive and the only one
of its kind in the country. There are remains of fortifications throughout
of the Immaculate Conception (Jasaan, Misamis Oriental).
Built in the late 19th to early 20th century by the Jesuits, the church is a
rovincialԠattempt at imitation of an urban design, in this case, San
Ignacio in Manila. There are significant portions of the original brick
paving, neo-Gothic retablo, and ceiling woodwork (reminiscent of basket
weave). The convento is an old wooden structure with huge wooden posts, as
in a massive bahay kubo.
of San Juan Bautista (Jimenez, Misamis Occidental).
The church is the best-preserved church complex in the province, if not in
Mindanao and was built during the second half of the 19th century by the
Augustinian Recollects in a site originally inhabited by the Subanon. The
interior is richly decorated with sculpture, painting and metal work. The
ceiling has a painting on canvas done in 1898; underneath is an earlier
painting on the original wooden panels. The retablo mayor is in good
condition. Its limestone walls are covered with faux marble painting with
matching Gothic arches. The upper walls are of tabique pampango, a
local variant of the wattle and daub technique (panels of interwoven slats
or branches, covered in lime). The original clockwork, as in Tayabas, is
of San Isidro Labrador (Lazi, Siquijor).
Built second half of the
19th century under the Augustinian Recollects, the church is grandly
conceived and occupies two blocks, in the island province of Siquijor. The
magnificent wooden floorwork of the church is among the best in the country,
vying with those of Valencia and Duero in Bohol. The convento across the
church is also one of the largest in the Visayas. The complex occupies the
higher portion of the hilly town and is surrounded by venerable acacias.
of San Pedro and San Pablo (Loboc, Bohol).
The church was built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Jesuits, with
enlargements in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Augustinian Recollects,
and painting added in the early 20th century. The 17th century Jesuit church
was later converted into apart of the three-level convento while the present
church dates from the 18th century, with 19th century additions such as the
belltower, the porticoes, and the funeral chapel. The convento is the only
one in the country with three levels. The complex is picturesquely located
by the banks of the Loboc River, a popular venue for outings.
of Santa Catalina de Alejandria (Luna, La Union).
Built in the 18th-19th centuries by the Augustinians. The church houses one
of the most important pilgrimage sites during the colonial era--the shrine
of Our Lady of Namacpacan. The sprawling convento is now a school. The town
itself has many preserved heritage houses.
of San Carlos Borromeo (Mahatao, Batanes).
The church was built in
the 19th century by the Dominicans and characterized by a stone structure in
the courtyard used to house the beaterio, a local institution to assist in
the work of the church. Elsewhere in the churchyard are stone monuments used
perhaps as guiding lights for fishermen. The entire site gives a good idea
of the simplicity of missionary life (as a counter-balance to the ҢaroqueҠ
sensitiveness of more affluent areas).
of San Guillermo de Aquitania (Magsingal, Ilocos Sur).
Built in the 18th-19th centuries under the Augustinians, the site includes
the ruined walls and intact belltower of an earlier church, said to be
destroyed by Diego Silang, and the 19th century church and convento. The
church is supported by steep buttresses, characteristic of many churches in
the Ilocos. The interior still has the well-conserved retablo and pulpit,
arguably the most important examples of Baroque-influenced art in the Ilocos
region. Originating from the church and linking various streets are fourteen
stone shrines for the Via Crucis.
of San Gregorio Magno (Majayjay, Laguna).
Built in the early 18th
century by the Franciscans, the huge church commands a view of the hilly
town and Laguna de Bay in the distance. The interior with its retablos and
azulejo-tiled floors is fairly well-preserved despite some
alterations of the walls. Access to the belltower has been made easier with
cement steps that also lead to the langit-langitan or the cat-walk
above the ceiling which leads to the crossing over the transept (this
architectural feature is not as easily observable in other churches). The
convento is one of the earliest surviving examples in the country.
of the Assumption of Our Lady (Maragondon, Cavite).
The church was built in the early 18th century by the Jesuits, with later
additions by the seculars and the Augustinian Recollects. Much of the church
and belltower, and the lower portion of the convento is made of irregular
river stones, indicative of the early level of technology operating at that
time. The intricately-carved retablos, pulpit and church doors (with
galleons and floral designs) date from Jesuit times, while the hugely carved
beams crossing the nave were installed by the seculars-- one of the beams
even carries the name of the indio priest who commissioned them. The unusual
horseshoe-shaped communion rail, with a flooring of inlaid wood of various
colors, recalls that of San Sebastian Church, Manila, another Recollect
Parish Church of San Andres (Masinloc, Zambales).
Built in the 18th-19th centuries by the Augustinian Recollects that was
extensively hit by a recent earthquake. The doorway from the choirloft is
carved and polychromed and after the facade, is the most unique feature of
Parish Church of Santa Monica (Pan-ay, Capiz).
Built in the 18th-19th centuries by the Augustinians characterized by its
several retablos and other decorations. A recent report on its current state
reveals that the structure's roof is in danger of collapsing. The other
church treasures are kept in the adjacent museum, which has suffered at
least three burglaries. The largest bell in the Philippines is also found in
the Pan-ay belltower.
19. Cathedral of
San Jose (Romblon,
Built in the 18th-19th centuries by the Augustinian Recollects, the church
has several baroque-influenced retablos. There have been some recent
Parish Church of San Raymundo de Pe⢦ort (Rizal, Cagayan).
Formerly known as Malaueg, the site was an important mission to the peoples
of what is now Apayao and was built in the 1600s by the Dominicans in the
foothills of the Cordillera. The people in the area still speak Malaueg, a
language spoken only in this district but is related to Ibanag. Throughout
the church grounds one find shards of blue and white porcelain. As in
Maragondon, the rough stonework belies the early technology of that time.
The retablo is a composite of parts from earlier baroque altarpieces. Though
Cagayan province may have bigger churches and other ruins, Malaueg - now
Rizal - definitely possesses the most character, and its ruins are the most
Parish Church of San Joaquin (San Joaquin, Iloilo).
The church was built in the 19th century by the Augustinians. It has a
carved pediment depicting the Spanish victory over the Moors at Tetuan -
second only in magnificence to that in nearby Miag-ao. The three retablos
are also of carved limestone, and were formerly polychromed. Among the
sprawling ruins of the convento are an oval well and a kiln for baking
bread. The church complex is magnificently located on a plain overlooking
22. Parish Church
of San Juan Bautista (Tabaco, Albay).
Built in the 19th century
by the secular clergy; the belltower features rocaille elements dated from
an earlier time. The church has an unusual floor plan, with compartments
that are inexplicable as of now. The stones on the walls bear masonsҠmarks,
rarely seen elsewhere in this country.
Parish Church of San Ildefonso (Tanay, Rizal).
Built in the second
half of the 18th century by the Franciscans, the church's interior is rich,
with five beautiful examples of rococo-influenced retablos. On the walls are
the panels of the Via Crucis, celebrated because of the way in which they
were indigenized through perspective, proportion, and other details-- one of
the characters even wears glasses.
24. Basilica of St. Michael Archangel (Tayabas, Quezon). Built in the
18th and 19th centuries by the Franciscans, the church's overall interior
decoration is a good example of the neo-classic style. Within the town are
two other tone chapels and an ancient cemetery with its own chapel. The town
is located in the foothills of Banahaw, with a cool temperature.
Parish Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria (Tayum, Abra). The
church was built in the 19th century by the secular clergy among the
Christianized Tinguians. The convento, later turned into a house for nuns,
and now a school, is across the church. Around the churchyard and continuing
into the main streets are fourteen small shrines of the Via Crucis.
Important examples of early Tinguian art, such as carved wooden baptismal
font, are now in the bishop's house in Bangued. The belltower is
structurally unsafe due to earthquakes and the construction of a water
reservoir inside the structure. The church is fairly well-maintained but
must continue to be conserved to prevent future deterioration.
Parish Church of San
Matias (Tumauini, Isabela).
The church was built in the 1780s by the Dominicans with its unique
cake-like belltower added some years later. The church may be considered the
best and most artistic brick structure in the Philippines. In the convento vaulted ceiling may still be seen impressions of the mats used to hold up
the plaster. The churchyard is bounded by a brick wall with a unique