Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Post card from the Philippines: Paoay church

Paoay Church

The Philippines is blessed with beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, and the scenic volcanoes. It might be a challenge to decide where to go and what to do in this country made up of 7,107 islands. But if and ever you are to visit this Southeast Asian nation, don't miss the baroque churches. One of my highly recommended sites: Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Church
Paoay Church at dusk. This photo was taken using film.

Practically every town has its own lumang simbahan (old church) constructed during the Spanish occupation, including my own home town of Lipa, whose well-preserved frescoes are a sight to behold during masses

But when I chanced on a personal trip to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur (and a media tour exactly a month thereafter where I was fortunate enough to watch Filipina piano virtuoso Cecile Licad play inside the church), I just realized that there's more beyond my Southern Luzon hometown.

What makes Paoay church so fascinating is how it stands out in the middle of this hot, desert-like province.

The walls are made of coral stone and bricks, and some experts said it was constructed using egg whites. I don't know how possible is that but this manner of construction was said to have been practiced in other parts of the country, hence the abundance of pastries using egg yolks in certain provinces.

What makes this church distinct (as well as the other Baroque churches in Northern Philippines) from those in Spain is the presence of large buttresses to make the structure earthquake-proof.

The bell tower on the side, which stands separated from the church, makes the church even more picturesque (sorry I can't find my nice photos of the church with the bell tower on it, teehee).

What's saddening about this structure, though, is the absence of vaulted ceilings (and of course the lack of beautiful frescoes as with other Agustinian churches in the country). I was told that sometime in 2004 or 2005, the bishop or the parish priest has ordered the destruction of the vaulted ceiling -- with much opposition from the parishoners -- as bat poop and pee destroy it, anyway.

As far as I remember, there was a promise of having it restored. But when my mom went there a couple of months ago, the ceiling is still made up of GI sheets that make it look like it's dilapidated.

But even without the vaulted ceiling, Paoay Church is still a must-see.

Tip sheet:
1. Aside from Paoay Church, other places of interest in this town are the Malacañang of the North (the presidential palace that could be an equivalent to the summer palaces or second or third residences of  royals in Europe) and the Paoay Sand Dunes.
2. It is possible to do all these on a daytrip, coming from Laoag, Ilocos Norte or from Vigan, Ilocos Sur.