4 Most Exquisite Baroque Churches in the Philippines

Church of San Agustin in Ilocos Norte, Philippines
Church of San Agustin in Ilocos Norte, Philippines | Source
Church of San Agustin in Manila (Intramuros)
Church of San Agustin in Manila (Intramuros) | Source

Being a predominantly Catholic nation, the Philippines boasts of many exquisite Baroque-style Catholic churches spread across its archipelago.

These churches are remarkable for at least two reasons:

  • The churches are the reinterpretation of local Filipino and Chinese craftsmen of the Baroque-style Catholic churches in Spain and its colonies in Latin America, which the craftsmen did not personally see but which they used as replicas for the churches they were building based on their indigenous knowledge of architecture.

The results of the local craftsmen’s reinterpretation of the Baroque-style churches were Catholic churches that were deceivingly western in façade but very much a fusion of Filipino and Chinese arts in details.

  • The churches were built both to withstand assaults from revolting locals against the abusive colonizers and to survive the Philippines’ strong earthquakes and typhoons that are typical in countries lying in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Thus, the churches look like fortresses, exhibiting thick walls, fortified buttresses, heavy foundations, and even secret passageways. This architectural style eventually became known as Earthquake Baroque.

Below are a few of the most impressive Baroque-style churches in the Philippines that have been considered as national treasures by the Philippine government for their exemplary beauty and historic significance:

  • Parish Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria in Abra (Tayum)
  • Parish Church of San Juan Bautista in Albay (Tabaco City)
  • Parish Church of San Carlos Borromeo in Batanes (Mahatao)
  • Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception in Batangas (Balayan)
  • Parish Church of San Pedro and San Pablo in Bohol (Loboc)
  • Parish Church of San Raymundo de Peñafort in Cagayan (Rizal)
  • Parish Church of Santa Monica in Capiz (Panay)
  • Parish Church of Santa Maria Magdalena in Cavite (Kawit)
  • Parish Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Cavite (Maragondon)
  • Parich Church of Nuestra Señora Virgen del Rosario de Caracol in Cavite (Rosario)
  • Parish Church of Patrocinio de Maria in Cebu (Boljoon)
  • Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception in Eastern Samar (Guiuan)
  • Parish Church of San Guillermo de Aquitania in Ilocos Sur (Magsingal)
  • Parish Church of San Joaquin in Iloilo (San Joaquin)
  • Parish Church of San Matias in Isabela (Tumauini)
  • Parish Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria in La Union (Luna)
  • Parish Church of San Gregorio Magno in Laguna (Majayjay)
  • Parish Church of San Juan Bautista in Misamis Occidental (Jimenez)
  • Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception in Misamis Oriental (Jasaan)
  • Parish Church of San Agustin in Negros Oriental (Bacong)
  • Parish Church of San Vicente de Ferrer in Nueva Vizcaya (Dupax del Sur)
  • Parish Church of Santiago Apostol in Pampanga (Guagua)
  • Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Pangasinan (Calasiao)
  • Basilica of St. Michael Archangel in Quezon (Tayabas)
  • Parish Church of San Ildefonso in Rizal (Tanay)
  • Cathedral of San Jose in Romblon (Romblon)
  • Parish Church of San Isidro Labrador in Siquijor (Lazi)
  • Parish Church of San Andres in Zambales (Masinloc)

Although there are a handful of impressive Baroque-style Catholic churches in the Philippines, UNESCO decided to prioritize the inscription of four Philippine churches in the World Heritage List. These churches are said to be the most exquisite of all the Baroque-style Catholic churches in the country.

1. Church of San Agustin in Ilocos Norte (Paoay)

Arguably the finest example of the Earthquake Baroque style of architecture in the Philippines is the Church of San Agustin located in Paoay, Ilocos Norte in northern Luzon, Philippines.

The Church of San Agustin in Paoay is lined with 14 buttresses that support the architecture of its church building. These buttresses give the church building a sense sturdiness, which has been proven time and again as the Church of San Agustin has remained intact despite numerous earthquakes.

The Church of San Agustin was also built with coral stone blocks, which are said to be much durable than either brick or stone. The church’s belfry, built half a century after the church building, was also constructed with coral stone blocks to be as strong as the rest of the church’s other features.

2. Church of La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Ilocos Sur (Santa Maria)

Representing a departure from the colonizers’ traditional practice of building a church in the town center, the Church of La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur in northern Luzon, Philippines was built on top of a hill.

Nestled in a plain between a mountain and a sea, the Church of La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion was located in such place because of the friars’ desire to have a formidable refuge and retreat house that can endure possible attacks.

In 1822 the church was razed to the ground only to be re-built and remodeled by the friars, who converted thousands of locals to the Catholic religion.

Now the Church of La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion has a gigantic facade, minimal ornamentation except on the buttresses and the church’s doors, as well as a bell tower and chapel made of brick.

3. Church of San Agustin in Manila (Intramuros)

Completed in 1607 inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in the Philippine capital of Manila, the Church of San Agustin is said to be the oldest surviving Spanish-era Catholic Church in the country.

Measuring about 67 meters long and 25 meters wide, it is said to be a replica of Mexico’s Puebla Cathedral in the Mexican city of Puebla

It is strikingly unassuming in ornaments and designs, except for some ornate carvings on its wooden entrances.

Its interior, however, holds several treasures of national importance:

  • tombs of Filipino national painter Juan Luna, statesmen Pedro A. Paterno and Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, and several distinguished laypersons
  • tombs of early Spanish colonizers Miguel López de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo, and Martín de Goiti as well as other Spanish Governors-General and Catholic archbishops
  • image of the Nuestra Senora de Consolacion y Correa or the Our Lady of Consolation
  • church ceiling painted by Italian artists Cesare Alberoni and Giovanni Dibella
  • hand-carved seats made of the tropical hardwood molave in the choir loft

4. Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Iloilo (Miag-ao)

Located in Miag-ao, Iloilo in Visayas, Philippines is the Baroque-style Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva that was built in 1786.

The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva tastefully exhibits lore of the local people Miagaowanons.

Its façade, highlighted by two belfries on both sides, features native flora, fauna, clothing, and the coconut tree, which has been known as the tree of life in Miag-ao.

The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva also exhibits architectural defenses against assaults that were typical in the early Spanish colonization.

Its walls are thick, its passages discreet, and its towers generously proportioned.

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

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Comments 9 comments

kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@donate-timeshares Hello! Thanks for dropping by my hub. Glad you enjoyed it :)


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@Sally's Trove Oh, you're very kind. Thank you! Yes, these churches and most other exquisite churches in the Philippines display what has become known as the Earthquake Baroque, which is really the Baroque architecture adapted to the Philippine conditions and interpreted by Filipino and Chinese craftsmen.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

What a fabulous Hub. I studied art history in college and later, but these architectural gems were never in the text books or in the professors' lesson plans. Thank you for an eye-opening experience. Voted up and beautiful.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@stephhicks68 Thanks for the comment and votes! :) I'm glad you dropped by my hub.


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stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Simply gorgeous photographs and these baroque churches are amazing! Rated up and beautiful


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@Peter Dickinson So many historic places to visit, right? :D Glad to hear that you've visited some of the places mentioned here. Hope you get the time to visit the others :)


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ Author

@gogogo Glad that you enjoyed the pictures of these churches although I have to say that they are so much more beautiful in person :) Thanks for your comment!


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from Southeast Asia

A great hub. Thank you. I have visited a few of these on my travels and they are very special. Now I have more to add to my list. Okay I am a non believer but I can appreciate both the architecture and the history. Thanks again.


gogogo 5 years ago

I loved the pictures and enjoyed your article, excellent, look forward to reading more.

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