Visita Iglesia Bohol: A Guide to the Heritage Churches of Bohol
The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Many of our traditions are rooted in the Christian way of life—like how some fiestas celebrate patron saints, and how locals closely observe the Lenten season. In line with the Lenten season is the tradition of the Visita Iglesia, a custom that involves the visiting of several different churches on Maundy Thursday. Usually, people visit seven churches, although some prefer visiting more, and some visit less.
When we visited Bohol to cover the Ubi Festival 2017 in partnership with AirAsia, Amorita Resort, and Bohol Provincial Tourism Council, we also, in advance, had the Visita Iglesia in the beautiful province. It was over a month before the Holy Week, but we were in Bohol, we were Christians, and it was a great opportunity.
Professor Mariano Luspo gave us a short briefing about the heritage churches of Bohol. He was the former head of the Bohol Arts and Culture Heritage Council or BACH, and it was an honor getting to learn more about the province directly from him. After our short briefing inside the Tagbilaran church, our official tour guide – Mr. Rey Anthony Chiu gave us several interesting facts as we visit each of the churches listed in our Bohol Visita Iglesia Itinerary. Apart from being a professional tour guide, Mr. Rey Anthony Chiu is He is the manager of the Philippine information agency
The first church we visited was Tagbilaran Church, officially named as The Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker. The Jesuit church is one of the oldest in the city, and even in the entire province. It was founded after the missionaries came to the province in the year 1595. The church was reconstructed, renovated, and enlarged at least several times from the years 1839 through 1970. I wondered briefly if the big, wooden doors of the church were at least a century older than me.
We visited the church in the neighboring town afterwards. The church, whose full name is The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Parish Church, is commonly known as Baclayon Church. This beautiful church is cross-shaped and is built out of coral stones, and although parts of it have been reconstructed throughout the years, the elegance of its historical beauty is still preserved.
Since we were still in Baclayon City and it was nearing lunchtime, we decided to have our tummies filled at Cresencia Café.
Cresencia Café is a restaurant located inside a well-preserved bahay na bato (stone house), and is just a short drive’s away from Baclayon Church. The house blends in so well with the surroundings that it looks like it’s been there all along, even when it was just opened on September last year.
For lunch, we had some of their freshly grilled seafood, crispy crablets, kinilaw, sizzling shrimps, sizzling pochero, and even a classic plate of bagnet. My lunch felt like I was taking a bite of the sea itself, except that the ambiance was a warm and cozy stone house, not a beach. I spotted a long list of coffee and some interesting desserts, but we sadly didn’t have enough time for a cup or two.
After our scrumptious lunch, we headed to The Santa Monica Parish Church of Alburquerque, which is more commonly referred to as Alburquerque Church. Like the previous churches we visited, this church had a mostly gray façade, which hinted that it was probably a century older than me again. Its towering bell tower sliced the blue sky of the area, and it was beautiful.
Dimiao Church, or St. Nicolas of Tolentino Church, was the next place in our itinerary. Among the four, this church had the most unique façade. Although it was mostly gray as well due to the materials used to construct it, it had two towers instead of one. The church, which dates back to 1864, had very high ceilings, with colors reminiscent of the sky.
Before we left for the next church, we had a short detour to the Ermita Ruins. This historical site contains the ruins of several coralline structures that were said to be dated back to the Spanish Era in the country. There are a lot of claims on what the ruins really were, but the mystery of the moss-covered limestone remains continue to be unknown until today.
The church in the town of Loay, called Loay Church, was our next stop. The façade of this church greatly contrasted with all the previous ones. Its bell tower was not connected to the main church, and it was colored white. Our guide said that the church was one of the oldest in the province, and was also one of the most heavily damaged in the recent earthquake. Its restoration was a miracle.
After offering our prayers, we headed to the nearby Fanny’s Bakeshop to have some snacks. We sampled local delicacies. These are puto maya, bibingka, empanada, dinuguan, fresh lumpia, leche flan, and their uberly-delish hot chocolate. We sure had a lot for snacks, didn’t we?
We went to Dauis Church afterwards. The church, named Our Lady of Assumption Church, was built in 1697 and had been rebuilt several times. It is one of the most visited places in the town of Dauis, and has a cream and more modern look compared to the other churches we visited.
It was already dark when we left Dauis. We were supposed to visit Saint Augustine Church in Panglao as our last stop but we decided that it was only proper to appreciate the church with daylight the following day. Panglao is a municipality located on the protruding island tip of mainland Bohol, and the church is known for its exquisite ceiling painting.
Bohol, as well as surrounding areas, was struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake sometime in October 2013. Most of the six churches we visited sustained minor to major damages. However, the people of Bohol immediately started repairing and restoring these churches, and it is almost a miracle how the locals continue to stand, along with the churches. This is extraordinary showcase of resilience is just one of the many reasons why I am thankful that I was able to have my Visita Iglesia early in Bohol for this year. It is evidence that faith is stronger than any earthly force we know.
Philippines AirAsia offers daily flights from NAIA Terminal 4 to Tagbilaran, Bohol. Keep updated with AirAsia’s latest promotion and activities via Twitter (@AirAsiaPH), Philippines AirAsia Facebook Page, Instagram (@AirAsiaPh), and on Viber public chat (@AirAsiaPh).