Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, churches will be filled to capacity. It is a momentous event in the whole of Christendom. If there is one set of images in my collection that I enjoy going through over and over again, it is my photographs of Philippine churches – venerable venues of the Lord’s flock. Church structures, with their details, designs and architecture, will enthrall any photographer.
The most interesting churches are the historic ones, centuries-old structures, and there are many of them all over the country. Four of these churches are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites “Baroque Churches in the Philippines.” One of these is pictured above – the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in the town of Miag-ao in the province of Iloilo. Every time I get to visit the province, I make it a point to go to this famous church which is some 40 kilometers south of Iloilo City. The online site of the UNESCO World Heritage List gives a description:
The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva stands on the highest point of Miag-ao, its towers serving as lookouts against Muslim raids. It is the finest surviving example of ‘Fortress Baroque’. The sumptuous facade epitomizes the Filipino transfiguration of western decorative elements, with the figure of St Christopher on the pediment dressed in native clothes, carrying the Christ Child on his back, and holding on to a coconut palm for support. The entire riotously decorated facade is flanked by massive tapering bell towers of unequal heights.
The Augustinian mission station of Miag-ao became an independent parish in 1731, when a simple church and convento (parish house) were built. However, destruction of the town by Moslem pirates in 1741 and 1754 led to the town being rebuilt in a more secure location. The new church, constructed in 1787-97, was built as a fortress, to withstand further incursions. It was, however, damaged severely by fire on two occasions – during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and in World War II.