Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Impressive Church of Miag-ao in Iloilo Province

I can’t remember the number of occasions of people telling me about the Miag-ao church.  Years ago, even my former colleague in Makati, Rannen, told me that it was designated as a U.N. world Heritage Site. Rannen knew a lot about it as he graduated from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, which is located, where else, in Miag-ao. Since then, I have visited the Iloilo Province several times, but have never gone as far as Miag-ao.
         (The UN Heritage Site marker: Miag-ao's church is 
           one of the Spanish-era baroque churches in 
          the Philippines designated as a Heritage Site)
 So, when I had a chance this time, on our way to Caticlan (and then to Boracay Island) from Iloilo City, I made sure we stopped by Miag-ao, which was along the way. We asked the driver of our rented van to stop by for a few minutes, as my mom, my sister and I (especially me, of course!) wanted to take a look at the very famous, Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church of Miag-ao.

                               (The woodcarving artwork on the door)
(Knocking on heaven's door: I wonder how many historical figures in Iloilo's history have passed through this door.)

The municipality of Miag-ao is about 40 kilometers southwest of Iloilo City. We were there by mid-morning after taking our breakfast at a fastfood restaurant in the Jaro district of Iloilo City, where my cousins live. 

          (Visita Iglesia: My mom in front of a UN Heritage Site)

Since it was a weekday, the church doors were closed. So we just roamed around the church, whose construction started in 1787 and was completed in 1797.  At that time, the parish priest was Fray Francisco Gonzales, an Agustinian. Perhaps, after its completion, it must have been the tallest man-made structure in the area. And with its huge, imposing built, it was used as a fortress againt Moro raiders.

                                 ("Anybody home?")

This church is one of the four Spanish-era baroque churches in the Philippines, which are part of the U.N. World Heritage Site. The other three churches are in Luzon; only the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church can be found in the Visayas. For this church to be designated by the United Nation as part of humanity's heritage is such an honor for the people of Miag-ao.  
                            (This detail is high up on the facade)

 While we were there roaming around the church yard, I saw other tourists, too, taking pictures and enjoying the experience of having seen firsthand this structure of such cultural and historical significance, not only to the municipality and province, but perhaps to the whole country. By the way, I heard those tourists speaking Tagalog, which means, they must have also traveled down from Iloilo City to Miag-ao just to visit the church.

 In my readings about this church, I learned that the sculptures on its face is called a bas-relief, where sculptures are created on the flat surface of the facade. Note the details on the photograph above: the coconut tree and on its left, St. Christopher is carrying the Child Jesus. The artist or artists behind the sculpture mixed the religious icons with the native elements of the land.

                   (This picture is actually my screensaver. 
                         So grand and beautiful, isn't it?)

The municipality's fiesta is actually on September 22, the feast day of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, a Spanish saint from the Order of Saint Augustine. I wonder what kind of celebration the parishioners have prepared. I would have wanted to be there during their celebration and see what's behind the impressive facade.

I was happy to have finally set foot on the grounds of this famous church. It would be another memorable experience to enter the church this time and discover what other remarkable artistry awaits for me inside. 

And looking at the picture above, on my next visit, will I be allowed to climb up to the belfry?  I should pray to Santo Tomas, so he'll allow me. :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment