Paoay Church: Wonderful Philippines!

November 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Paoay Church

There’s no dispute—the Philippines is the most beautiful country in the Asia-Pacific region. Look around, and you’ll find that Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporeans and even Indonesians envy us.


Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte

We have the most beautiful coastlines, the most iconic mountain and mountain ranges and we have the most diversified wildlife ever in the entire Asia. To top it all, we Filipinos serve the most delicious food and our unique way of welcoming our guests to our homes is truly special.

Yes, we don’t have old, ancient structures such as what Cambodia or Vietnam or Thailand have, but we have our old churches, like this one, Paoay Church in the Ilocos.

Built by the Augustianians in 1563, it is one of the most unique Baroque churches in the country. It has withstood the test of time, just like our brothers and sisters up North.

Paoay Church--Baroque style

Paoay church is beautiful both inside and out. Its 24 massive buttresses are carved and evokes Javanese influence.

Look closely at these buttresses and you’ll find that they are made of coral rocks, baked clay stones, tree sap and other materials found exactly at Paoay. These buttresses have withstood the test of time. Fact is, the church is known as the best earthquake-proof structure in the country. It has remained intact since its establishment.

Inside Paoay Church

Of course, the sized does not really matter. It is not as big as the Taal Basilica but it is more impressive–both inside and out.

Enter the church and find that the design has Chinese, European and Javanese influences. This probably reflects the composition of the population way back when it was built. When I first saw the church, I told myself that this is really not a Catholic church since the facade looked like those Javanese temples in Cambodia. Noticed those pointed pyramidal things on top of the buttresses? I haven’t really seen those in other churches in the Philippines.

my son infront of Paoay Church

Legend says that the church was built on top of an existing pre-colonial structure. This is really not surprising since most of the churches we have right now were built in several pre-colonial settlements. For example, the Santa Ana church built by the Franciscans was said to have been built on top of an ancient burial mound. That explains why the Franciscans discovered ancient bones in the area.

Pre-colonial history do suggest of a flourishing kingdom in the Ilocos. Fact is, Ilocos Norte was a thriving community made up of Japanese, Chinese, Arabs and indigenous Filipinos, mostly traders. It would not be entirely surprising if, sometime in the future, our archeologists dig and find something of a magnificent ancient structure below the Paoay church. It would be extremely exciting if those finds include ancient pottery and ancient manuscripts.

Pulpit inside Paoay church

When my family and I visited the place, there was no mass and I don’t exactly know if the Paoayanos still practice that old Catholic tradition of the priest going to the pulpit to say his piece. At the left side of the church, there is still that old pulpit which the priest use when he’s proselytizing. The pulpit also was a political propaganda tool. Not only do the priest chastise the faithful for their sins, the curate also make use of the pulpit for political and personal reasons.

I remember one scene in the Noli and Fili where certain parsonages got their tongue lashing from the pulpit. It was such a humiliation back then if you get yours from way up there. I mean, the entire community would know of your trespasses and would avoid you like a plague.

altar at Paoay Church

You ask, why is it that the pulpit was put in a raised platform? Simple. For the religious, it means that God (which the priest represents) is speaking from way up. The true reason is really about acoustics. There’s no microphone back then and the only way for the laity to really hear what the priest say is when he’s up there.

Anyway, Paoay church reminds us of the traditional religious values inculcated by the Westerners to us, Filipinos. Obviously, I think, the priest now assigned at the Paoay church uses the microphone and other modern conveniences, like projectors and stuff. Yet, I did not see any signs of that in the altar.

Paoay church in Ilocos Norte

These photos were taken when my family and I visited the Ilocos country.

I don’t have an SLR camera. What I used was just my Canon video camera with photo-taking capabilities. I also used the camera of my Nokia 5233 phone and my LG phone.

I still don’t have money yet to buy me a Nikon or a Canon SLR camera, but if someone out there wants to dispose of theirs for a reasonable price, please email me at I’ll gladly buy yours if its reasonably priced.

Look at the photo at the right. It says much about the Ilocos. This symbolizes the perspective of our former colonizers who see our country as just a place of palm trees and tropical conveniences. They really don’t see the entire thing in our perspective. That’s why we ousted them.

More of my trips in the Ilocos soon.


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