24 Historic Philippine Churches
All around the Philippines, amazing centuries-old churches stand as silent witnesses to their town’s culture and history. Many of them have been declared national treasures, and therefore during Holy Week these places of worship will not only attract worshippers, but also visitors interested in the unique architecture and relics these churches have to offer.
Here, we have compiled a list of 24 beautiful Philippine churches that will transport you back in time.
Parish Church of San Carlos Borromeo, Batanes
The parish church, also known as Mahatao Church, was declared a Natural Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001. Made of limestone, the baroque church features an espadaña belfry located on top of the facade's pediment, which contains a bells dating back to 1874.
San Jose de Ivana Church, Batanes
Another beautiful church in Batanes, this place of worship was initially established as a chapel by the Dominicans in 1787. The current stone church was built in 1795, while the bell tower was erected in 1817. The church, renovated in 2001 after an earthquake, features an old convent and a small museum housing centuries-old relics.
Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte
Completed in 1710, the baroque church is a National Cultural Treasure as well as a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Completed in 1710, the place of worship also known as Saint Augustine Church is famed for its 24 massive buttresses on the sides and back of the structure. Its three-story coral bell towers resemble a pagoda, and were built separate from the church for earthquake safety reasons.
Bacarra Church, Ilocos Norte
One of the country’s most visited churches, it is known for its centuries-old “beheaded” belfry known as Torres di Bacarra. The Museo di Bacarra, a church museum located in the former convent, houses religious and cultural artifacts, as well as archival photos and documents.
Sarrat Church, Ilocos Norte
Built in 1779 and also known as San Miguel Church, Sarrat was declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines, in part due to the length of its nave, the largest in Ilocos Norte.
Santa Maria Church, Ilocos Sur
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the church was built on a hill top to serve as a citadel, lookout and religious center for the friars and soldiers stationed here to administer the region during the Spanish colonial era. Also known as the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, this house of worship and its adjacent convent are surrounded by fortress-like walls, and is reached by way of an 85-step granite rock staircase.
Bantay Church, Ilocos Sur
Actually called Saint Augustine Parish Church, the church is known for and named after its Bantay Tower. Established in 1590, it is one of the oldest churches in the region, accounting for the Neo-Gothic architecture featuring pseudo-Romanesque elements, reminiscent of Spanish architecture. Unfortunately, the church was damaged during World War II and had to be rebuilt in the 1950s.
Calasiao Church, Pangasinan
Also known as Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, this house of worship was declared a National Cultural Treasure by both the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
It was built in the baroque style using massive bricks or ladrillo, and has with a fortress-like façade which was designed to withstand attacks. Beside the church is the Museo Calasiao where visitor can see vintage photos and church artifacts.
Betis Church, Pampanga
Recognized as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and Arts, the Betis Church is also known as the Saint James the Apostle Parish Church. Its ceiling mural and Holy Family painting were created by the painter Simón Flores, and an artesian well from the 1800s can be found on the church patio.
Barasoain Church, Bulacan
Featured on the old peso bill, the house of worship known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Cradle of Democracy in the East, is likely familiar-looking to many Filipinos, and is considered one of the most important religious sites in the Philippines. This is where the First Philippine Congress was convened, the 1898 Malolos Constitution was drafted, and the First Philippine Republic was established the next year.
Paete Church, Laguna
The only Roman Catholic Church in the municipality, Paete Church houses an amazing collection of religious relics, including depictions of the Passion of Christ, century-old paintings, and wooden images of saints. Previously destroyed during earthquakes, the church was rebuilt featuring large buttresses to withstand future calamities.
Liliw Church, Laguna
Also known as Saint John the Baptist Parish Church and Lilio Church, this distinct red-brick church awes worshippers with its unique stained-glass windows and beautiful interior.
Pakil Church, Laguna
Notable for being the home of the Our Lady of Turumba painting, the image of our Lady of Sorrows, the church is architecturally interesting because of its cruciform layout, classical Corinthian columns and cornices across a floral stone relief.
Taal Basilica, Batangas
Built in 1575, three years after the town of Taal was founded, the basilica is considered the largest church in the Philippines as well as Asia at 88.6 meters long and 48 meters wide. The most recent restoration effort was concluded in the 2000s.
Tayabas Basilica, Quezon
Also known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel, the church is considered the largest Roman Catholic Church in the province of Quezon. Affectionately called “Susi ng Tayabas” because of its key-shaped architecture, the basilica is also widely recognized for the clock inside its belfry, one of the oldest clocks of its type in Asia.
Daraga Church, Albay
This church was built as a sanctuary in 1771 for people escaping another possible eruption of Mayon Volcano. Formally called Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church, the church’s baroque architecture features a Churrigueresque-style façade and walls made of volcanic rock common to Daraga.
Parish Church of San Raymundo de Penaforte, Cagayan
Declared a Natural Cultural Treasure, this small and distinctly designed church was built mainly using fired bricks, which is unique among other Spanish-era churches established by the Dominicans in the Cagayan valley region. Notable features are the church’s main doorway is flanked with saints, and a relief of a cross covers the triangular pediment topping the façade.
Our Lady of Piat Church, Cagayan
Known as the Pilgrimage Center of the North and one of the country’s twelve Minor Basilicas, this house of worship is the home of the 407-year-old black image of the Virgin Mary, after which the church is named.
Parish Church of San Andres de Masinloc, Zambales
The façade of this church is predominantly a semi gothic style with Neo-classic features. It features saints‘ niches on the first level, rectangular windows on the second and an elaborately carved niche of the town‘s patron saint and carving of geometric shapes and medallions on the pediment. The belfry is designed like a circular templete surmounted with a lantern and a cross.
Parish Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, Cavite
Declared a National Cultural Treasure, this Jesuit house of worship, which is also known as Maragondon Church, is unique because its unique façade which is narrow but tall, unlike many other churches. In contrast to the simplicity of its façade is the ornate door, divided into boxes, with features different floral designs as well as ships and castles carved into it.
Our Lady of Light Parish Church, Cainta
Cainta Church was declared a historical site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2007 because of its significant role during the Philippines-American War. An icon of Our Lady was created by Filipino National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. This replica is considered the Philippine version of the original painting of Our Lady of Light in Palermo, Italy.
Baclayon Church, Bohol
Also known as La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, the place of worship is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, and built out of coral stones. Featuring a cruciform layout, Baclayon church is a nominee to become a UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but unfortunately has sustained major damage during the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and other parts of Central Visayas in 2013.
Miag-ao Church, Iloilo
The baroque church is known by different names, such as Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church and Miag-ao Fortress Church, and has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The church's two uneven bell towers were used to defend the town against Muslim raids during the Spanish colonial era, and it also contains the limestone image of the Birhen ng Barangay, traditional Filipino clothing recovered from excavations conducted in 1982, as well as the original late 1790s images of Saint Thomas of Villanova.