There are so many churches in the Philippines that people can visit at any time. Whether you’re attending mass or just touring, you can certainly find a nearby church wherever you are in the country. One thing is for sure, those who built these churches spared no expense in glorifying the Roman Catholic faith.
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Stunning churches in Metro Manila
1. Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church is one of the most famous churches in the Philippines because it plays host to the Black Nazarene. Located in the heart of Manila, the church regularly welcomes flocks of devotees who visit to touch and pray to the revered figure. It becomes even busier every Friday, also known as Quiapo Day, as novena masses are held during this time of the week. Once a year, a feast is held in tribute to the Black Nazarene, and the miraculous figure goes through a procession around parts of Manila. Thousands attend this procession in hopes of touching the statue for a miracle.
As for the stunning church itself, it had gone through a lot of changes before it became the Quiapo church we know today. Shaken by wars, earthquakes, and fires, the historic church has been redesigned and rebuilt for preservation. Under the design of National Artist of the Philippines for Architecture Juan Nakpil, the Quiapo Church has inevitably been restored to its magnificent self.
2. Baclaran Church
Another popular church in the Philippines is Baclaran Church in Pasay. It shares some similarities with Quiapo Church: For one, it sits on a national road, making it very accessible to visitors and devotees alike. And while Baclaran Church doesn’t have a figure like the Black Nazarene, it also has a dedicated day for novena: Devotees tag Wednesdays as Baclaran Day.
On that note, Baclaran Day and Quiapo Day are both notorious sources of traffic around the area. So unless you’re going to the said novenas, avoid visiting on their dedicated days.
The Modern Romanesque architecture is a sight to behold, from the altar aisle to the extravagant but meticulous faces in its belfry. The church also has an icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help framed inside a gorgeous mosaic. Other than these stunning characteristics, the church has a vastness that encourages many believers to pay a visit. The church itself normally contains at least 2,000 attendants but can extend to as many as 11,000 guests with its standing room.
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3. St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church
One of the more modern churches in the Philippines is St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church. Compared to other churches on this list, this church’s size is a bit more reserved. It is among the younger churches in Metro Manila as well, having only been built in 1968.
Also known as Magallanes Church, this church boasts a breathtaking facade and altar. It owes its iconic Brutalist design to the incredible National Artist of the Philippines for Architecture Leandro Locsin. With this kind of beauty, the church makes experiences like wedding and baptismal ceremonies more special and unforgettable.
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4. Barasoain Church
Many firsts were etched in Philippine history with Barasoain Church as the stage. This legendary church in Malolos, Bulacan birthed the first republic of the Philippines. More importantly, this is where legendary figures that led the Philippine revolution convened and organised their rebellion against the Spanish colonisers and incoming American invaders.
A lot of events have taken place since the birth of the Filipino republic, but Barasoain remains the same. It is still the iconic church it has always been, and the government has made sure that generations to come will recognise the heritage. The church was declared a National Shrine in 1973, and an old convent inside the church serves as a museum managed by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
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5. Nagcarlan Church
Nagcarlan Church is a pretty stunning church in more ways than one. This humble place of worship in Nagcarlan, Laguna adapted Baroque architecture for its construction and has a four-storey bell tower with bells bearing the Franciscan coat of arms. These features have made the church so famous that it was the setting for the film and television adaptations of Kampanerang Kuba.
Underneath the church lies the only underground cemetery in the Philippines. The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is a memorial reserved only for Spanish friars and prominent members of Catholic families. The NHCP declared the site a historic landmark and also supervises the nearby museum. The underground cemetery doesn’t accept burials anymore; however, the church complex still uses it as a venue for special occasions, such as the Feast of Christ the King.
6. The Pink Sisters Convent
Tagaytay is the most obvious choice for a quick getaway from Metro Manila. And if you frequent the city, you would know how congested it has become from the commercial spaces sprouting left and right. Fortunately, The Pink Sisters Convent offers a space wide enough for people who want to find peace and serenity from the bustling tourist destination.
Formally known as Sister-Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, the church derives its popular name from the colour of its habit, which symbolises love and joy coming from the Holy Spirit. Visitors can take a serene and solitary stroll in their Station of the Cross Garden. The high-altitude sanctuary also provides a stunning front-row view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.
Don’t forget to visit their souvenir shop for delicious homemade snacks made by the nuns themselves. There are also keychains and shirts for sale, so you can take a piece of this retreat home with you.
Churches in the Visayas that you should visit
7. Trappist Monastery
For more stunning churches in the Philippines, Visayas has an abundance of these. While a bit more secluded than most churches in the Visayas, the Trappist Monastery in Guimaras is a great choice if you’re looking for a site to meditate. Monks and nuns of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance manage this monastery; they’re also some of the friendliest people around and won’t hesitate to listen to your troubles and problems.
The Trappist Monastery has a lot in common with the Pink Sisters Convent. For one, the Trappist Monastery has no shortage of dedicated spaces for meditation and prayer. They also sell handcrafted souvenirs as well as delicious snacks made from Guimaras’ most famous product: their sweet, sweet mango!
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8. Baclayon Church
Possibly one of the most resilient churches in the Philippines, Baclayon Church has been through so much — from wars to earthquakes. But you can easily overlook its cracks and dents because it still stands as beautiful as ever. For its longevity alone, this Bohol icon is deserving of your time and visit.
Baclayon Church’s walls are made from strong coral stones that give the church a firm fortitude over its foundations. Combine that with a firm and vigilant community that is always ready to mend structural damages, and you get a church that can stand for future generations. It is an impressive testament to what abiding faith can initiate.
Baclayon Museum is open for tourists to learn more about the history of this church. It houses artefacts significant to the growth of the church.
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9. Basilica de Santo Niño
One of the most famous churches in the Philippines, Basilica de Santo Niño is visited by hundreds of people on any given day. Located right in the heart of Cebu, it is as historic as Barasoain Church, as it is believed to be the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. Its importance has also been recognised by the Vatican itself, with the Holy See recognising Basilica de Santo Niño as the “Mother and Head of all Churches in the Philippines”.
The story behind its importance is pretty simple. This is where the first Spanish navigator and coloniser Miguel López de Legazpi found the image of the Child Jesus or Santo Niño. This same image was presented as a gift by Portuguese explorer and coloniser Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon when he was baptised into Catholicism.
Today, this open-aired church can house almost 3,500 devotees. Its theatre-like seating outside the church is utilised during religious ceremonies and activities. Just outside is Magellan’s Cross Pavilion, which is believed to be erected by Magellan’s crew to mark their circumnavigation of the world. The cross and the basilica are considered to be National Treasures of the Philippines. So, if you had to choose one and only one church to visit in the Philippines, consider Basilica de Santo Niño.
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10. Christ the King Cathedral
Christ the King Cathedral holds the record for being the largest church in Mindanao. But beyond that, this impressive structure in Tagum, Davao is evidently one fascinating church. The sight of it alone is bound to incite intrigue and raise questions.
It doesn’t share the Spanish colonial architecture with most churches in the Philippines. Instead, it shows an eclectic mix of traditional and modern architecture, resulting in a castle-like structure when seen from afar. In front of the church is a fountain inspired by “The Feeding of the 5,000” miracle. Behind it is a big bronze statue of the Risen Christ, with the longest rosary in the Philippines resting beneath its feet. The church is pretty eccentric, but since it stands out, it definitely leaves every visitor in awe.
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Beyond showcasing faith, the stunning churches in the Philippines exhibit a unique brand of resilience and beauty — one might say, “very Filipino”. And with the sheer number of churches we have, every visitor can get a glimpse of the Roman Catholic faith we share. So if you ever find your faith faltering or if you’re just feeling grateful, consider visiting these churches to say grace.
Featured image credit: Allan Jay Quesada. Facebook image credit (L-R): Judgefloro; Wayne S. Grazio.