Church City


During the Spanish colonization in the Philippines, Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain awarded Iloilo City with the title “La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad” (Spanish for “Most Loyal and Noble City”) for Ilonggos’ (locals of Iloilo) steadfast support towards the crown despite the nationwide uprising against the foreigners. As a city held closely by the Spaniards, Iloilo City was heavily influenced by foreign culture, particularly by Catholicism, the religion of Spain, which played a vital role in the construction and transformation of Ilonggo belief systems, as illustrated by the backstories of the various churches (and the images within them) in the city. The Catholic faith continues to influence the everyday lives of modern-day locals through the continued propagation of religious traditions. Learn about the vibrant history—and still doctrine-impacted present—of Iloilo City as you take a pilgrimage through its Catholic structures.

Updated 9 months ago

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Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Metropolitan Cathedral (Jaro Cathedral)

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Home to the National Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Spanish for “Our Lady of Candles”), Marian devotees flock to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Metropolitan Cathedral to offer reverence to the image of the patroness of Western Visayas, saying a prayer in the hopes of granted petitions. Displayed on the balcony of the church facade, the limestone figure of Madonna and Child is believed to have grown since its installation, no longer fitting its original glass case. According to local lore, the statue comes alive and wanders through the plaza across the street. The miraculous nature of the Candelaria continues to be celebrated by locals during the annual fiesta of Jaro—a major fiesta in the city that often doubles as a holiday. Built in 1874 by order of His Grace Mariano Cuartero, the first bishop of Jaro, was declared Jaro Cathedral as the prime episcopal seat of the diocese, signaling the Iloilo Catholic community’s separation from the bishopric of Cebu. After its destruction by the earthquake of 1984, Archbishop Jose Maria Cuenco directed the restoration of the church to the baroque-style gothic structure it is today. The original belfry, used in the past as a watchtower to warn against intruders, stands across the cathedral.


Jaro, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Church (La Paz Church)

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

The neoclassical red brick edifice of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Church in La Paz welcomes believers of the patroness of travelers. In the early 1600’s, the image of Nuestra Señora De La Paz Y Buen Viaje (Spanish for “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage”) was brought to the Philippines by a Spanish galleon. Its successful voyage across the Pacific Ocean—plus several other unharmed travels—earned its recognition as a guide and protector for seafarers and pilgrims. Comprised of a large population of overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) and seamen, many Ilonggos come to worship the icon (a replica of the original figure) that sits on top of the La Paz Church altar.


Jereos Street. Lapaz, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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Saint Clement’s Church

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Since 1953, parishioners have heard the bells of Saint Clement’s Church invite them to celebrate Holy Mass. Father Francis Burns, an Irish Redemptorist priest, insisted to have the thirteen bells installed to replicate the carillons from his native Belfast. Ordered from Gillett & Johnston, a England-based company famous for their top-notch clocks and bells, the chimes are inscribed with Gaelic (old Irish language) phrases. Near Christmas season, traditional holiday melodies like “Silent Night,” “Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Joy to the World” replace the usual rings to enliven “Simbang Gabi” (a nine-day novena of early morning masses) goers. While many churches blare electronically-produced sounds, the music from Saint Clement’s Church are octave notes generated by manually striking the different sized bells. Jose Mari Chan, a Filipino singer known for his yuletide albums, drew inspiration from Saint Clement’s Church’s bells for some of his songs such as “Christmas Past.”


Luna Street, Lapaz, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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Iglesia de San José de Placer (San Jose Church)

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Around 1607, Jesuits built the first church in Iloilo City to serve the military based in then-called “Punta.” On that site now stands Iglesia de San José de Placer, an Augustinian church that houses two important treasures of Ilonggo culture and history. The image of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Spanish for “Our Lady of the Rosary”) resides in San Jose Church, gracing the lives of rosary advocates. Historians proclaim that Diego Quinones, the commander-in-chief of the Visayas during the Dutch invasion, found the icon of Our Lady with the infant Jesus in a box he chanced upon after falling into a hole. The image was then paraded at a procession towards Fort San Pedro (Iloilo’s defense frontier), leading to the establishment of a confraternity devoted to the Virgin Mary. The Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo City’s annual religious and cultural festival, takes its roots from the arrival of a replica of the image of Santo Niño de Cebu (Spanish for “Child Jesus of Cebu”) in 1968 which was celebrated through street dancing. Now, the statue finds home in the right wing of Iglesia de San José de Placer, open for viewing and adoration.


5000 Calasanz Street, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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Santa Maria Parish

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

After their expulsion from China by the Communist takeover, the Jesuits came to Iloilo to continue their missionary work among the local Chinese community. Inspired by Our Lady Queen of China, Father Guerrino Marsecano, an Italian Jesuit established Santa Maria Parish Church for Iloilo City’s Filipino-Chinese Catholics. As part of their goal of Christian transformation, the Jesuits, led by Father Andrew Joliet and Father Santiago Leon, formed a parochial school called Santa Maria Catholic School (SMCS) beside the church. Now, after years of growth, SMCS has transformed into Ateneo de Iloilo - Santa Maria Catholic School (ADI-SMCS), a Jesuit, Catholic, Chinese-Filipino Basic Education Institution—and one of the biggest schools in Iloilo City—that preserves the mission of its past.


139 General Blanco Street, Barangay Maria Clara, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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Church of Saint Anne (Molo Church)

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saint Anne Parish Church’s neo-Gothic style, particularly the pyramidal red spires on the crown of its bell towers, makes it one of Iloilo City’s most distinct landmarks. At the time the edifice was constructed, cement was unavailable so the white coral rocks and limestones that make up the church were put together by masons using a mixture of sand and egg whites. The women of Molo gathered the egg yolk and created baked goods, initiating a tradition of Ilonggo pastry treats. Panaderia de Molo keeps history alive until today through its beloved local yet Spanish-inspired Galletas (thin biscuits), Bañadas (sugar-glazed cookies), and Barquillos (rolled wafer biscuits).


San Pedro Street, Molo, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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Santo Niño de Arevalo Parish (Arevalo Church)

Iloilo, Philippines • Recommendation • 9 months ago

Enshrined in Arevalo Church, Santo Niño de Arevalo (Spanish for “Child Jesus of Arevalo”), the third oldest image of the Child Jesus, is highly regarded as miraculous by Ilonggos. Wars, earthquakes, and fires have dawned on the church and its community but the image of Santo Niño de Arevalo always survives unscathed, as faithful devotees swarm to the church for healing and protection. Upon the installation of La Villa Rica de Arevalo (now known as Arevalo) as a Spanish settlement, Augustinians brought the image Santo Niño de Arevalo Parish to the town to further their mission of spreading the love of God. Seeing that natives related to the Child Jesus easier by interacting with the icon, the priests propagated its devotion.


Yulo Drive, Arevalo, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines

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