Miag-ao Church or Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church is one of the Baroque Churches in the Philippines that belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. Along with the baroque churches of Intramuros, Paoay (Ilocos Norte) and Santa Maria (Ilocos Sur), Miag-ao Church is something that we should be proud of.
I first learned about this “yellowish” church ( due to its silt and clay material) when I was processing my college admission for University of the Philippines that has a campus in Miag-ao. And for four years, this church has been my place of worship as I stayed and studied in Miag-ao for my four-year college education. And through my class in Humanities, I learned more about how brilliant its designs and architecture are as European Baroque elements were impressively interpreted by local craftsmen.
One of the striking feature of Miag-ao Church is its facade of a man carrying a child in the middle of a forest. As explained to me and to the rest of my classmate, it was St. Christopher carrying the Infant Jesus in the midst of local trees like papaya, coconut and guava.
There are also three statues in its facade, namely that of St. Thomas de Villanueva, the Pope and a Spanish king who was then the ruling monarch of Spain during its construction in the 18th century.
Like Paoay Church, it also has buttresses which defends the church from earthquakes, making these type of churches as “Earthquake baroques”. Also if you are keen enough, its two towers are not of the same proportion.
Its right tower has four storeys while the left only has three. The towers were built under two different parish priests with the other having his own preference on how many storeys the tower should have. Before, visitors can climb its belltower but lately it is now prohibited when one Korean tourist rang the bell and caused a commotion in the whole town. Keep in mind that ringing the church’s bell still means something from mourning, weddings even to alert the people of a disaster like fire, earthquake or flood.
Miag-ao Church is not plainly a place of worship but served military purpose as a fortress. It sits on a hill, and you can see a nice angle of this church as you cross the bridge going Miag-ao. The church served as a watchtower against raiding Muslims or Moros who attacked coastal towns in Panay and make the captured people as slaves. Hence, the Salakayan Festival of Miag-ao.
How to get there
You can take a jeepney going to Miag-ao from the Super Market in Iloilo City ( close to Robinson’s Place) or in Mohon Terminal in Villa.