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.
Paoay Church History
It 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. The construction of the church 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, 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.
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 Ilocos Norte in two ways: by plane and by bus.
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.
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, 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
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
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.
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