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Miagao Church in the Philippines, a must for Visita Iglesia

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The ‘Visita Iglesia’ remains a significant part of the Holy Week traditions for a number of Ilonggos.
For theater performer and university student Nikki Angeli Minsalan, Visita Iglesia is not only a time to visit seven Churches during Good Friday to pray. It is also an opportunity to strengthen family ties through visits to centuries-old Spanish period churches.
“Visita Iglesia is an annual activity of my family. We started in 2009,” she shared.
For Minsalan, her family’s Visita Iglesia will not be complete without stopping by Miagao Church in the southern part of Iloilo.
“Every time we stop by Miagao Church, I feel a sudden urge of nostalgia. The church is relaxing, like a healing experience for me by just being there,” she said.
Miagao Church, also known as Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church, has been dubbed as the finest example of a fortress baroque church by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Convention.
Built in 1786, the church in baroque-romanesque style, sinks six meters deep into the ground with walls one-and-a-half meters thick and buttresses thrice thicker in size.
The church not only served as a house of worship for the townsfolk, it also became a fortress against Muslim raiders during the olden days.
According to history professor Randy Madrid of the University of the Philippines Visayas, Miagao Church is a truly ‘Philippine Church’ for it exudes a native touch.
Its artistic facade is decorated with a relief sculpture of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child amidst coconut, papaya and guava shrubs.
A large stone image of St. Thomas of Villanova, parish patron saint, dominates the center. Carved life-size statues of the Pope and St. Henry with their coat-of-arms above them flank the main entrance.
Supporting the facade are the twin belfries, one towering two-storeys and the other three-storeys high.
As a world-renowned religious structure included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, Miag-ao Church is one of the country’s architectural gems which epitomizes the Filipino culture and way of life.
The Lenten tradition of Visita Iglesia is a time to commemorate and solemnly celebrate Christ’s passion in prayer and sacrifice.
While it is a period of spiritual renewal and personal repentance, it is also an opportunity for Roman Catholics like Nikki Minsalan to admire the beauty and history of our treasured churches like Miagao Church for a meaningful Lent.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.