Paoay Church: The Magnificent Historical Icon of Ilocos Norte

facade of paoay church

Ilocos region is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines that is both full of magnificent natural beauty and rich preserved colonial era cultural sites. It is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Vigan City in Ilocos Sur and Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Church, also known as San Agustin Church, is one of the top tourist destinations in the province. Its spectacular view from all angles occupies most tourists’ posts on social media, as well as postcards, books, and magazines.

What’s inside this blog?

Paoay Church Location

Simabahan ng Paoay is one of the most famous and oldest churches in the Philippines. It is located at Marcos Ave, Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

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Paoay Church History

facade of paoay church with candy-colored sky

Ang Simbahan ng Paoay was founded by Augustinian missionaries in 1593, and was a labor of love over time and in the face of earthquakes and other disasters.

The Paoay Church history began in the 17th century. What started as Paoay Church drawing turned into reality. The construction of the Simabhan ng Paoay in Ilocos Norte was spread over a century beginning from 1604: the cornerstone of the church was laid in 1704; the convent in 1707; and the belltower in 1793. Even while still unfinished, Paoay Church was already used by parishioners. In 1896, it was finally inaugurated. But in 1706 and 1927, it was damaged by earthquakes.

Its scars made it more beautiful and worth visiting. Because of San Agustin Church Paoay’s historical and artistic significance, it was designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site among the country’s baroque churches in 1993.

Seeing it in person in Paoay Ilocos Norte, you’d think it’s like straight out from a postcard. The sky above the church is often a deep cerulean making it a photographer’s haven. 

Paoay Church Ilocos Norte, overall, is an interesting design. It is adorned with eight pilasters and 24 extravagant coral-block buttresses and ornate stone finials that hold it up and protect it against earthquake damage.

The bell tower was intended to be constructed at a distance from the church to minimize damage should it fall.

According to historians, the bell tower served as a status symbol for the locals—the bell would ring more loudly and more times during the wedding of a prominent clan than it would during the wedding of the less privileged. It was also said to have been used as a Filipino watchtower during the 1898 uprising against the Spaniards.

Photo credits to Dan Lundberg via Flickr

Its altar and retablo are of a plain design compared to others; the latter bears an only a statue of the church’s patron saint, San Agustin. Nevertheless, it doesn’t diminish the church’s beauty.

Paoay Church being one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites


In 1993, Paoay Church Ilocos Norte was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the best examples of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines. The historical church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses.

Portions of the church were damaged by two major earthquakes. In 1973, it was designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government. During an excavation inside the church in 2000, a prehistoric human skeleton and fragmented ceramics were discovered and are now on display at the National Museum. 

How to get to Paoay Church

From Manila, you can go to Paoay Ilocos Norte in two ways: by plane and by bus. 

By Plane

You can book a flight from Manila to Laoag which is the gateway to Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

From the Laoag Airport, Paoay Church is 45 minutes to an hour away. Vans and tricycles are available outside of the airport.

By Bus

From Manila, ride a bus bound for Laoag. There are hourly bus rides to Laoag via Farinas, Florida and Partas. Some buses take you directly to Paoay.

Travel time from Manila to Laoag by bus  is around 10 to 12 hours. From the bus terminal, Paoay Church is 45 minutes to an hour away. Vans and tricycles are available outside of the terminal

Places you can visit near Paoay Church

After you tour Paoay Church Ilocos Norte, there are still many great places you can check out near the area. 

1. Malacañang of the North

Malacañang of the North ilocos Norte

Photo credits to Troy Alyson Espiritu via Flickr

Malacañang of the North, also known as Malacanañg ti Amianan, is a presidential museum in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It was the residence of the family of Ferdinand Marcos when he was the President of the Philippines.

2. Paoay Sand Dunes

a lime 4x4 vehicle at paoay sand dunes

If you want an extreme and thrilling adventure while in Ilocos, make sure to visit Paoay Sand Dunes and book a 4×4 ride! Once you’ve finally decided to take the adventure, brace yourself for a bumpy but oh-so-fun ride like no other!

3. Paoay Lake

aerial view of paoay lake

Locally known as Dacquel a Danum, Paoay Lake is located in Ilocos Norte. Measuring 470 hectares, it is the largest lake in the province of Ilocos Norte and one of the largest natural lakes in the area. Paoay Lake is adjacent to the spectacular Malacañang of the North. The lake is home to almost 77 species of common, endangered, and nomadic birds. Make sure to try boating so you can explore the surrounding areas. 

San Agustin Church Paoay may have gone through devastations like wars and natural calamities. But it has stood the test of time.

Today, Paoay Church stands proud as a mighty icon of the town and the entire province and its unparalleled grandeur continues to make us fall in love with Ilocos Norte over and over again.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paoay Church

Q: Why is Paoay church famous?

A: Paoay Church is famous because of its historical significance and its baroque architecture. The historical church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses. Portions of the church were damaged by two major earthquakes. In 1973, it was designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government.

Q: How old is the Paoay Church?

A: Paoay Church is more than 300 years old  already as it was built in the 17th century.

Q: What is the oldest church in the Philippines?

A: The San Agustin Church, built between 1587 and 1606, is considered the oldest and longest standing church in the country. The church was the only structure left intact in Intramuros during World War II.

Q: What are the best places to visit in Ilocos?

A: Ilocos Region is such a great place to explore. Some of the best places to visit in Ilocos are:

  1. Calle Crisologo in Vigan
  2. Vigan Church
  3. Paoay Church
  4. Baluarte Zoo
  5. Malacañang of the North
  6. Paoay Sand Dunes
  7. Paoay Lake
  8. Bantay Church Bell Tower

Q: Ano ang alamat ng Paoay?

A: Base sa alamat, ang lawa raw ng Paoay ay hindi talaga lawa kundi isang bayan na nalunod sa baha bunsod ng walang tigil na pag-ulan dahil sa kasakiman at hindi magandang pag-uugali ng mga mayayamang nakatira noon.

If you’re planning to visit Paoay Church, make sure to book the nearest and quality budget hotel in Ilocos! Check out for more details.

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