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Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Travel Guide to Paoay Church

Paoay Church: An Architectural Wonder in Ilocos Norte

Paoay, Ilocos Norte — There are many great reasons to head to Ilocos Norte, and one of them is the visually stunning Paoay Church. The church is also known as the St. Augustine Church and has been standing sentinel since 1704.

The church design combines a glorious mixture of Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese influences into a truly Filipino structure.

Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte by Brynht via Wikipedia CC
Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte By Brynht – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC

The building itself is a very solid construction of coral, stucco, lumber, and tree sap. Yes, tree sap. The huge mosaics are glued with natural tree resin.

The Spanish friars who built the church wanted to make sure it would withstand earthquakes, and so they used the strongest materials they could find and to good effect.

Inside Paoay Church
Inside Paoay Church

With a detached belltower and walls that are up to three feet in thickness, this massive structure has weathered earthquakes, storms, and the 1896 revolution without showing signs of becoming weak.

Paoay Stone Buttresses
Paoay Stone Buttresses

While earthquakes and the second world war took their toll on the building, it stands as a testament to the materials, history, and spirit of the Filipino people who have worshipped there.

So much so that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (list) and a Philippines national treasure.

St. Augustine Church in Paoay
St. Augustine Church in Paoay

Upon coming to the church, something that you will notice right away are the 24 massive 1.67 meters thick stone buttresses that have held the church up since it was the completion in 1894. When you look at the historical marker located at the church facade, you will start to understand why this church is so unique.

Construction took place over 190 years, and during that time, the church was active and held congregations who marveled at the sky blue ceiling inside. You won’t find another church like this anywhere in the world.

Travel Guide to Paoay Church
Travel Guide to Paoay Church

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with San Agustin Church in Manila; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church in Miagao, Iloilo on December 11, 1993.

How to get there

To get there, just go to Laoag City and then head out the road a few kilometers. You’ll see plenty of tourist-friendly signs directing you to this incredible national treasure.

Want more updates about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines? Follow #TeamOutofTown, on FacebookTwitterInstagram, Bloglovin, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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