Virtual Visita Iglesia: 7 of the Most Beautiful Churches in the Philippines

Make a pilgrimage to seven of the country’s most stunning Catholic churches.
IMAGE Eugene Alvin Villar / Wikimedia Commons

While it has been centuries since Spain colonized the Philippines, the vestiges of that time still remain with the plethora of religious structures proliferating our built landscape. Travel through different facets of local architecture and see it through the lens of religion this Holy Week.

Basilica Menor de San Sebastian

Reputed for its neo-gothic architecture and steel construction, the basilica was originally built with wood in the 1600s, but it was burned down during an uprising. After several fires and natural disasters, the church was rebuilt with brick, and finally, steel. Constructed through prefabricated steel sections, San Sebastian marries religious history with technological innovations, having been completed in the late 1800s. Part of the charm of this church is its rumored connection to Gustave Eiffel, the engineer behind the famous Paris landmark. Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila

Church of the Gesu

Acclaimed for its streamlined angles and sparse, contemporary façade, this modern church takes religion straight into the 21st century. Designed by Jose Pedro Recio and Carmelo Casas, the structure’s triangular form is representative of the Holy Trinity. The church’s high ceiling affords the space the drama and reverence of a traditional cathedral but stripped of any filigrees and ornamentations. What is left instead is a solemn connection to spirit. Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan, Quezon City


Parish of the Holy Sacrifice

Designed by renowned architect Leandro Locsin, the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice is recognized as a National Historical Landmark and Cultural Treasure by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines as well as the National Museum of the Philippines. The round church is an engineering feat—It is the first structure in the country to have a thin shell concrete dome. The mid-century modern structure also doubles as a gallery of the country’s most important artists—Napoleon Abueva, Arturo Luz, Vicente Manansala and Arturo Luz. University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City



Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Manila Cathedral earned its title as a cathedral in 1581, not long after the Spanish settlers brought Roman Catholicism into the Philippines. Still standing strong today, it is both a religious and historical triumph. Touted for its impressive portal and façade, one of its more famous facets is the cast-bronze central door and its artistic reliefs. Continuous restoration work is being undertaken in the Cathedral to ensure its preservation. Cabildo cor. Beaterio Street, Intramuros, Manila



San Agustin Chruch of Paoay

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government, Paoay Church has an impactful baroque façade. Impressive buttresses on its perimeter have helped the structure stay put through natural disasters and destructive earthquakes. This Augustinian church is a testament to local building techniques, with walls fashioned out of coral and mortar composed of sand, lime, sugarcane, mango, leather and rice straw. Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church

A confluence of the Baroque and Romanesque style of architecture, the massive façade of the church is said to have doubled as protection against Moro invaders. Constructed relatively late into the Spanish occupation (late 1700s), the church holds a lush and ornate façade known for its bas-relief. With depictions that recall medieval Spanish, Chinese, Muslim, and local traditions, it serves as an early signpost of the country’s melting pot status. Miag-ao, Iloilo

Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church

Malate Church retains the charm of old Manila as it is fronted by a traditional plaza as well as the Manila Bay. Noted for its twisted column and retablo (Mexican folk art that uses Catholic iconography as a devotional painting), the baroque church merges both Muslim and Mexican influences, also known as mudejarismo Filipino, according to writer Alice Coseteng. Because of its location, the Malate Church was also considered particularly strategic—it was used by the British during their occupation of Manila in 1762. Malate, Manila


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