Miagao Night Facade

Miagao Church Night Facade

One of the must-see places when you visit Iloilo province in Panay Island is the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church or most commonly known as the Miagao Church. This church is one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines inscribe in UNESCO‘s list of World Heritage Sites. On our first day in Iloilo City, the coastal town of Miagao was our first top where we stayed with our kind host Tita Linda.

Miagao gate shadow and Church

Miagao gate shadow and Church

Going to Miagao is quite easy. Coming from the spanking new Iloilo Airport, we rode an Airport Shuttle which dropped us at Molo, nearby the Molo Church. From here, there are regular jeeps plying south of Iloilo. It’s hard not to miss and people will point you to it if you ask. The jeep fare is Php40/ pax and would take 45minutes to an hour ride. From the road approaching the town you could already see the church. You can alight there directly if you want.

Miagao Monument

Miagao Monument

From afar, the golden facade of the church already stands out from the town and looking at it up close will impress you more. We held on to our excitement when we got there as our priority was to find Tita Linda’s place. A tricycle ride took us to her house and found that it’s very near. Seems like a block away from the church and easily walkable. After we settled our stuffs and paid our homage to our host we proceeded to take photos of the church.


Miagao Left side view

There are already so many details about the history of church in the internet so I’ll try to make a brief recount. This church was built between 1787 and 1797 under Francisco Maximo Gonzales, OSA. The design has a two fold purpose, one as a place of worship and the other as a fortress of protection against the invading Moro Pirates.

Miag-ao Church

Miag-ao Church

Among the Philippine Churches, Miagao may have the most artful facade. it was quite unusual to have an Aztec-like bas-relief of St. Christopher Carrying the baby Jesus in a Tropical forest. And the large coconut tree at the top central of the facade may symbolize the Tree of Life. Other themes of the bas-relief are the daily life of the town’s people as well as the local flora and fauna.

Miagao Aisle to Altar

Miagao Aisle to Altar

The Church walls was said to be 1.5meters thick and made from glued limestones and egg whites since there weren’t any cements at that time. The two flanking bell towers on the side which also doubles as a watchtower were made in different times, the left tower when facing the church is older than the other.

Miagao Night Door Path

Miagao Night Door Path

Truly, this is one of the Philippines Architectural Gems. It’s imposing structure, symbolizing power and strength will captivate you from a distance and up close. It also represents Filipinos Artistry in its bas-relief. With its popularity, Miagao may also be one of the most photographed Churches here in the country so capturing a new angle can be quite a challenge here.

Miagao Night Glow

Miagao Night Glow

At night, with only the glow of ambient light to reveal the details, the mood somehow changes. Powerful and looming yet a bit darker in feel.

Just a technical note: My Olympus E500 camera here struggled to take long exposures up to 5 minutes. It isn’t really its strength as the longest it can hold in bulb mode is up to 8 minutes, unlike the newer models which can take up to 30minutes. Aside from that, the processing time of the camera doubles. So in between, you can either chat with your friends or grab a burger at the nearby 24 hours burger stations. Resulting image also has some visible banding and noise so I had to run the images here through a noise reduction software (neat image). I wouldn’t recommend my cam for exposures longer than 3 minutes, but for regular use I think its still stellar camera for a 2005 model.

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Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

23 Responses to “Iloilo: Facets of Miagao Church”

  1. Frenz Fries

    nostalgic and nice shots. reminds me of the time i first visited maig-ao church. actually the strip from jaro down to oton, tigbauan and guimbal is lined with beautiful old churches. hope nakababa ka pa sa san joaquin (next town to miag-ao). the town also has a historic, baroque church by the sea. its facade has nice moro-inspired carvings. i actually have two favorite chuches in the country: the titanic paoay chucrh and the cute, charming miag-ao. and they’re both unesco world heritage sites 🙂

  2. na miss ko tuloy ang iloilo… ibang excitement ang dinulot sa kin ng church na yan pag baba ko pa lang ng jeep. akala ko nasindi yung neon lights sa gabi, di na pala nagana yun… yan ang wala ako sa pics ko ng miag-ao, yung nightshot… nicely done ferdz…

  3. The church is amazing! I like the ambiance especially in the night photos. Very dark and mysterious.


    Off topic; about the harsh shadow on the portrait, the reflector was not on my side (if it was it would have been better I know). It was an impromptu shot b/c I loved the way she stood and looked at the other side.

  4. oist! finally, your miag-ao church post! makes me look back to that wonderful trip — wow, it was like 2-3 months ago na pala 🙂 kahit saan mo talaga tingnan yung church exterior, it’s really impressive. kahit gabi pa 🙂

  5. Ferdz, galing ng pagfeature mo ng mga lugar. balance promotion of domestic and international tourism. i’ve been to Iloilo already but never had the chance to see Miagao church. Maganda nga talaga. Pero nakita ko na yung Molo church dahil sa Molo nakatira ang lola ko dati. that was years back tagal na rin akong hindi nakapunta ng Iloilo.

  6. I seem to remember reading about a church made with egg whites. The post was also from your blog but not sure which church it was.

    Church/fortress….. I guess it’s pretty successful as a fortress since it’s still standing. 😀

  7. carmila

    gaganda talaga ng shots! i’m from Iloilo. i frequent miag-ao back in college days (UP Visayas). hmm, i am more encouraged to buy a camera now. i only rely on my 3.2 megapixel camera phone kaya i could not document my travels well (the photos that is). if ever i finally decide to buy one, what would you recommend for starters like me and which could fit my 10-15k budget? practice practice muna ako.

  8. baby rhey

    wow!nice shots……..i appreciate those shots of yours….even at night you can appreciate the beauty of the church…and the altar so magnificent….ooohhhhh…im dreaming that someday im walking at the aisle looking to the guy in the altar…the guy im dreamig to w/for a lyftime……ooohhhhh..im dreaming :-)!

  9. I’ve taken pictures of this beautiful church last year too, but of course your pics are way way better. There was even a funeral going on and the white car (that carries the coffin, whatever you call that) was parked in front, kaya umalis muna kami and went to the beach thinking na pagbalik namin wala na. Pagbalik namin wala na nga but when I started taking pictures meron na namang dumating na patay, this time the car (that carried the coffin) was black and parked in front of the church again. Hehehe wala na kami time para maghintay, kaya my brother-in-law (an Ilongo) kindly asked the driver to move the car on the side. Buti na lang at pumayag. I took pictures inside the church too while the funeral service was going on.

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