This Baroque church with Gothic spires stands in the middle of Jaro district in Iloilo City, the richest district in Panay island during the Spanish colonial period. The cathedral aptly became the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jaro, one of the oldest in the country, which encompasses the whole province of Iloilo and the nearby Guimaras island.
The cathedral was built in 1864 when Pope Pius IX declared Jaro a diocese. An earthquake in 1948 damaged the church but it was restored in 1956 by the Jose Ma. Cuenco, the first archbishop of Jaro. (information culled from http://www.exploreiloilo.com)
A collection of life size statues of male saints line the main corridor of the cathedral, probably Jaro's answer to Molo district's Feminist Church. I wasn't able to take photos of the statues at the time of my visit because the interiors were under restoration work (November 2009).
The cathedral is also a shrine dedicated to the devotion to Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria (Lady of the Candles). The 400-year old miraculous statue can be seen on a platform on top of the main door. Pope John Pall II canonically crowned the statue during his visit in 1982. It remains to be the only religious icon in the Philippines to have been personally crowned by the Pope.
Another interesting fact about Jaro Cathedral is its belfry is not within its campus, its right across the street in Jaro Plaza.
The bell tower is actually a remnant of the original church that was destroyed by an earth quake.
You may also want to visit the following churches in Iloilo:
- St. Anne Parish (The Feminist Church, Molo district)
- Miagao Church (UNESCO World Heritage, Baroque Churches of the Philippines)