Parish of San Joaquin
During Holy Week, many Filipinos do the “Visita Iglesia” ( or Church Visits in English), a tradition done every Holy Thursday during Lent. This is to commemorate the 14 stations of the cross. Traditionally, 7 churches are supposed to be visited, praying 2 stations of the cross per church. In the modern times, the person who does Visita Iglesia visits 14 churches instead of the 14.
Iloilo is one of the provinces in Western Visayas that was infiltrated by Roman Catholicism and is frequented by those who still practice Visita Iglesia. Whether you are a believer of Roman Catholicism or not, it is still worthwhile to see these churches — for the sake of historical and art appreciation purposes. Here are some suggestions and must visits when doing Visita Iglesia in Southern Iloilo:
San Joaquin Cemetery
1) Parish of San Joaquin (topmost photo)
Located at the town of San Joaquin, the Parish of San Joaquin was built around 1859 – 1860. This is almost at the South Eastern part of Iloilo. It would be good to start your itinerary from this point. The facade shows the Battle of Tetuan, the only church which shows this historic battle between Morocco and Spanish army. While you’re here, visit the San Joaquin cemetery, just a few minutes away from the church. The cemetery was built in 1892 and is made of coral stones. The top most structure is the chapel, where masses for the dead are being held.
2) Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva (or Miag-ao Church)
Miag-ao Church is one of the 4 Baroque churches here in the Philippines located in Miag-ao, Iloilo. The church is made of Carbonaceous Limestone which gives yellowish in color. This was built earlier than San Joaquin, in the year 1786.
3) Parish of St. Anne (or Molo Church)
The Parish of St. Anne is located in Molo, Iloilo and is said to be a feminist church because of the images of female saints instead of male saints inside it. Of course, the patron saint of Molo, St. Anne (or Sta. Ana) is at the main altar together with the Virgin Mary. By the way, St. Anne is the patron saint of pregnant women, mothers and grandmothers. It was constructed in 1831 and is said to be one of the most beautiful churches in Western Visayas. Its architecture is Gothic-Romanesque.
4) Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (or Jaro Cathedral)
Jaro Cathedral (or its official name Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary) is said to have the miraculous statue of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria (Lady of the Candles). The statue, which is made of limestone, is said to be growing through the years. And because the statue is “growing”, they had to put her outside because it cannot fit in its original location. The church was built in 1864 and was destroyed in an earthquake. The original style is Baroque however due to renovations made in 1948, the additional elements such as the belfry towers made it Gothic.
Another interesting thing to know about Jaro Cathedral is its belfry. Usually, the belfry is located near the church however in Jaro Cathedral, it’s a block away. This belfry also served as a watchtower to protect the Spanish from its invaders.