The Miagao Church, with it coral stone walls glowing in the early morning sun, still looks grand even with the scaffolding. This impressive 212 year old architectural treasure, constructed in 1786 and finished in 1797, has every right to be considering that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Baroque Churches of the Philippines).
We were made aware by our friend Carmen that the church is currently undergoing maintenance but we decided to see it anyway. It would be my first time to see the church and I don't want to miss the chance to visit it while I am in Iloilo, with or without the scaffolds..
Built in Tacas, the highest elevated area of Miagao, the church looked more like a fortress with its stout profile and 1.5 meter thick stone walls than a place for worship. I later found out that the church was really designed for that dual purpose. In fact is the third church to be built in Miagao, the first two were destroyed and looted by Muslim pirates. Miagao Church is one of the first Spanish colonial mission churches and during that period mission churches are really military strongholds.
This baroque-romanesque church's facade features an Aztec looking bas-relief (yes its hard to really appreciate it with all that scaffolding). Native influence on the design is evident as coconut, papaya and guava shrubs are incorporated in the sculpture.
The massive stone blocks used for the construction of this church were quarried from the nearby town of San Joaquin. These blocks were originally glued using limestone and egg whites but cement was later used to reinforce the walls (the church was extensively rehabilitated in 1945 after the Japanese occupation during which it was burned).
At the time of our visit, every inch of the walls are being combed with a soft brush to remove lichen and moss. A solution (probably a brine solution) is also sprayed on the walls to discourage the growth of lichen.
We passed by the parish office and asked for permission to enter the church. The interior, though small, is equally as impressive as the church's exterior. Glass stained windows contrast beautifully on the stone walls.
The highlight of the church's interior is the gold-plated retablo behind the altar. I managed to convince a layperson to turn on the lights for a few seconds (yes, only for a few seconds because he'll be in serious trouble if the monsignor finds out). Its always an advantage if you can speak the local dialect fluently.
From the airport, you can hire a van that will take you straight to Miagao for 800 pesos.