14 Must-Visit Philippine Churches for Historical, Architecture & Pilgrimage Tours

14 Must-Visit Philippine Churches for Historical, Architecture & Pilgrimage Tours

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Molo Church and Caleruega ChurchThe Philippines boasts over 7,000 islands and is the ideal destination for nature, culture, and adventure trips. Because of the Philippines' geographical features, there are many natural wonders that you can explore when planning an itinerary around the tourist spots in the Philippines.

While the Philippines is known for its best beaches and best islands, it also has a rich culture and history that travelers can experience and learn about when they visit famous churches in the Philippines. 

Catholicism has been the foundation of Filipino identity for most Filipinos in the Philippines. Ever since the Spanish introduced Catholicism during their 300-year colonial period, Catholic ideals continue to shape beliefs in Filipino culture. Currently, the Philippines is one of the biggest Catholic populations in Asia, and its century-old churches have been a witness to wars and have survived natural calamities.

While the Philippines is usually sunny all year round, there are days when visiting churches is one of the best rainy season activities/destinations. Many Filipinos practice the tradition of Visita Iglesia or pilgrimage tours, especially during the Holy Week in March or April of every year. This entails a day tour to visit various churches as a type of pilgrimage while repeating the Stations of the Cross at each site.

Whether you’re planning to visit Baroque churches or other church types, you’ll have plenty of churches to explore in the Philippines. Check out our list of the best churches in the Philippines that are worth adding to your itinerary:

14. Mt. Carmel Chapel (Batanes) 

Mt. Carmel Chapel in BatanesMt. Carmel Chapel, also known as Tukon Church, is a stone church in Batanes, the smallest island province in the Philippines known for its picturesque rolling hills and unspoiled beauty. Nestled on top of a hill, this church inspired by traditional stone houses, is excellent for couples seeking a private, intimate wedding celebration. It has a view overlooking Batanes, the Pacific Ocean, and the West Philippine Sea.

The church was constructed by Florencio Abad's family who are from Batanes. Abad served as the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management of the Philippines. Aside from the stone-house design, various saints are shown in artwork created by local artists inside the chapel.

The PAGASA Radar Station, another Bataan tourist spot also known as Tukon Radar Station, is a short distance away from the chapel. Despite the typhoon that hit Batanes back in 2016, Sunday masses are still held at the chapel even though it is still under construction.

13. Binondo Church (Manila)

Binondo ChurchBinondo Church, often referred to as the Minor Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, is situated in Binondo, Manila, known as the oldest Chinatown in the world. This church was established in 1596 by Dominican priests to help the Chinese convert to Christianity.

British bombardment of the church in 1762 led to its destruction. On the same location, a new granite church was constructed in 1852, but it was heavily damaged during World War II. 

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, a person of Filipino and Chinese origin, received his education by Dominican friars in this church. Lorenzo was declared a saint in 1987 by Pope John Paul II and is the first saint of the Philippines. In front of the cathedral is a sizable statue of the saint.

Masses are held in Filipino, Mandarin, Hokkien, and English. Visiting this religious landmark is one of the best things to do in Binondo aside from trying out Binondo restaurants.

12. Caleruega Church (Batangas)

Caleruega ChurchCaleruega Church is located in Batangas, a province in the southern part of Luzon and is one of the top road trip destinations near Manila because of its beaches lined with some of the best beach resorts near Manila and mountains for hiking. Known as a popular retreat place and a wedding church, Caleruega Church, also known as the “Transfiguration Chapel”, was built in 1995. 

Caleruega was given its name in honor of St. Dominic de Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers, who was born there. The Filipino Dominicans established Caleruega with the hope that it would be like the town of Caleruega in Spain. 

Perfectly positioned atop a hill, Caleruega is best for nature lovers because of the lush surroundings. Guests will be able to enjoy its magnificent scenery, which includes hills, farmland, and the view of Batulao Mountains.

This church, which is in close proximity to Tagaytay, has also become one of the best tourist spots near Manila.

11. Baclayon Church (Bohol) 

Baclayon Church in BoholBaclayon Church, a declared National Cultural Treasure and National Historic Landmark, is located in Bohol, an island province known for its diving spots and unique geological formations called Chocolate Hills. It is one of the Philippines' oldest Catholic churches, dating back to 1727 and still uses its original materials. The actual parish missionary was founded in 1596 by Jesuits, only a few decades after the arrival of Spanish conquistadors.

Despite being one of the popular tourist spots in Bohol, Baclayon Church is still run by local parishioners. For visitors, the reception is quaint and warm. Visitors enter from the small museum, which was previously a convent when there are no mass services. On display are religious antiques dating back to the 16th century.

10. Barasoain Church (Bulacan) 

Facade of Barasoain ChurchBarasoain Church is a Roman Catholic church constructed in Malolos, the capital province of Bulacan. The province of Bulacan is known for being a melting pot of urban living and tradition. One of its top religious landmarks is Barasoain, also known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. This church is renowned among Filipinos for its historical significance, making it one of the must-visit Bulacan tourist spots.

Three important Philippine historical events took place there: the First Philippine Congress in 1898; the Malolos Constitution in 1899; and the First Philippine Republic in 1899.

The church and the nearby convent make up the historical landmark known as the Barasoain Church. The museum inside the church, known as the Museo ng Republika ng 1899, includes five galleries. A dramatic light and sound performance on the Malolos Congress and the Philippine Constitution, as well as a stereoscopy chamber with stereographs of the conflict with the United States, are installed in the museum.

9. Santa Maria Church (Ilocos Sur) 

Santa Maria Church in IlocosSanta Maria Church is located in Ilocos Sur, a province known for its heritage sites and cobblestoned streets found in Vigan City. This church is part of the Baroque churches in the Philippines, and one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines.

Santa Maria Church has a varied brick-and-mortar architectural design. Established in 1769, when the area was first governed by Spanish soldiers and friars, a lookout, a castle, and a religious complex were built on top of a hill. 

A flight of stairs must be climbed in order to reach the church itself, but don’t worry as the journey to the top is well worth it with its scenic views. Although the church has a simple interior, its lush green surroundings have made it one of the well-liked tourist attractions in Ilocos Sur.  A sculpture of Our Lady of the Assumption perched atop a tree is located close to the entryway, and a belfry next to it served as a watchtower during the Spanish colonial era. 

The area around the church is open to the public and is great for strolls and backdrops for photos. The church is perfect for travelers looking for solemnity and tranquility and is one of the must-visit places in an Ilocos trip itinerary.

8. Molo Church (Iloilo)

Molo ChurchMolo Church is located in Iloilo, a province known for its Spanish colonial churches, ancestral houses, and the home of Islas de Gigantes. This church,one of the acclaimed Spanish churches in the Philippines, draws visitors who are keen to see one of the historical and heritage Visayas tourist spots because it is renowned for being the only Gothic-Renaissance Church in the entire country outside of Manila.

Also known as St. Anne Parish Church, it is renowned for being a feminist church as it is the only one in the nation with 16 statues of female saints arranged in two rows and perched inside the church. St. Anne’s image, along with the statues of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Trinity, are located at the center of the altar. 

Its white coral stone front highlights the building's distinctive Gothic-Renaissance features. The church's distinctive two red pointed bell towers, pointed arches at the main altar and pulpits, as well as its Renaissance dome and interior, are examples of its Gothic characteristics, making it one of the top Gothic churches in the Philippines.

7. Daraga Church (Albay)

Facade of Daraga ChurchDaraga Church, one of the historical churches in the Philippines, is situated in Albay, a province in Bicol known as the gateway of the world-famous Mayon Volcano. Also known as Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church, this church is located on top of a hill overlooking Mayon Volcano. 

This religious site was built in 1773 by Franciscan missionaries after the people of Cagsawa were allowed to move their town center to avoid the disasters caused by the eruptions of Mayon Volcano and the floods of the Yawa River. 

The Daraga Church was created in a distinctive manner as a result of the catastrophes that occurred in Cagsawa. This may be due to the notion that it serves as a portal to heaven and a haven of safety. This principle is demonstrated in numerous ways. As an illustration, the church's retablo-style exterior depicts a group of saints in heaven, features Our Lady of the Gate of Heaven as its patron saint, and features floral themes that allude to the Garden of Eden. 

It also served as the Japanese army's command center during World War II. Today, Daraga Church is considered one of the top Albay tourist spots.

6. Taal Basilica (Batangas)

Facade of the Taal Basilica in BatangasTaal Basilica, another renowned church in Batangas, is considered to be the biggest church in the Philippines and in Asia. Also known as Basilica of St. Martin de Tours, this neo-classical church located on top of a hill at Taal Town stands 96 meters high and 45 meters wide.

The Taal Basilica underwent numerous reconstructions in the nineteenth century. Architect Luciano Oliver is credited with giving the church its current Baroque aspect when he redesigned Taal Basilica in 1856. 

The church's silver tabernacle and facade, which resemble those of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, are its main attractions. The 26 classical columns at the entrance of Taal Basilica are a striking sight.

5. San Agustin Church (Manila) 

San Agustin Church's facadeSan Agustin Church, the oldest church in the Philippines, is located in Intramuros, a historical walled city in Manila. The church, together with the monastery nearby, was the only structure left standing after World War II. The current structure is actually the third version of the church which survived several natural disasters through time.

The San Agustin Church is one of the churches that were constructed when the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines to propagate Catholicism. The Augustinian Order sponsored the construction of the church in 1571. Iglesia y Convento de San Pablo was the name given to the church after it was built from nipa and bamboo.

The first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines, Miguel López de Legazpi, is buried next to the church's high altar. After two more reconstructions, San Agustin Church became the pinnacle of Spanish Baroque design with its lofty altar and trompe l'oeil ceilings. Its lengthy history led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 as part of the Philippines' Baroque Churches.

4. Miagao Church (Iloilo)

Facade of Miagao Church in IloiloMiagao Church, another well-renowned church in Iloilo, is part of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines and one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines. Also known as the Church of Saint Thomas of Vilanova, this historic church was built in 1786 and has baroque design elements.

Above its elaborate wooden doors is a picture of St. Thomas of Villanueva, the town's patron saint. The main entrance is bordered by life-size sculptures of the Pope and St. Henry, both with their coat-of-arms above them. The twin belfries, one two-storey high and the other three-storey high support the facade. The church's basic interior is enhanced with a dazzling gold-plated retablo.

It is particularly well-known for the intricate sculptures that adorn its exterior and display a distinctive fusion of Chinese, Muslim, and Spanish customs, influences, and components, making it a special place of worship and one of the best architectural landmarks in the Philippines

3. Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño (Cebu)

Basilica Minore del Santo Nino CebuBasilica Minore Del Santo Niño, one of the heritage churches in the Philippines, is located in the city of Cebu, the oldest city in the Philippines.

Known as the oldest Catholic Church in Cebu, the church houses the image of the Sto. Niño, the city’s patron saint that represents Jesus as a black Holy Child. Each year, a great number of people travel there for prayer and pilgrimage. 

The church has long been the Santo Niño’s sanctuary. The Augustinians were given ownership of the nipa home where the Santo Niño was discovered and the surrounding land, where they constructed the first chapel in the Philippines. After a total of four reconstructions, the present church was finished in 1739. By 1965, Pope Paul VI converted the church into Basilica Minore.

The facade of the church combines Muslim, Romanesque, and neo-classical elements in a classic setting. The facade has been kept true to the original stone's texture and color, and its bell tower acts as a balance to the convent that is situated on the far opposite end. Visiting the Basilica is one of the top things to do in Cebu for a complete experience.

2. Paoay Church (Ilocos Norte) 

Paoay ChurchPaoay Church, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, is situated in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, a town near Laoag and is known for its majestic sand dunes and natural rock formations. This church is part of the four Baroque Churches of the Philippines and one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines.

This Roman Catholic church was completed in 1710 after 2 decades of construction. The church is renowned for its architecture, which combines baroque, gothic, Chinese, and Javanese styles. It has a colossal pediment and a bell tower that stands imposingly on an open plain. 

Additionally, Paoay Church's three-story bell tower, which is separate from the main church, has a significant role in Philippine history at specific times. In the 1800s, the Katipuneros used it as an observation station to fight the Spanish, and again during World War II, Filipino guerillas used it to fight the Japanese.

It is formally referred to as the Saint Augustine Church. Paoay Church has been designated a National Cultural Treasure in 1973. The church was further recognized as a piece of national heritage when the National Historical Commission began the multimillion restoration project in 2018.

1. Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral in IntramurosManila Cathedral, located in the Plaza de Roma in Intramuros, Manila, is one of the best cathedrals in the Philippines. Recognized as the main Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, its official name is Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, and is the seat of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Western church architecture was brought to the Philippines in 1521 when Catholicism spread out. The Manila Cathedral is one of the important and opulent churches constructed during Spanish colonialism.

The first church was built in 1571 by a nonreligious priest named Juan de Vivero. The simple parish made of bamboo and nipa was known as the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate with La Purisima Immaculada Conception as the patron.

After eight more reconstructions, it was finally reconstructed for the last time by Fernando Ocampo from 1954 to 1958 and was introduced in 1958.

It was the location of the Spanish Archbishop of Manila, who during the Spanish colonial period held jurisdiction over the entire archipelago. Visiting the cathedral is one of the best things to do in Manila and a great place for biking tours.

Visit the Top Churches in the Philippines

Manila Cathedral's facadeAside from booking Philippine tour packages, booking a Philippine hotel for a staycation, or attending festivals in the Philippines, one of the best reasons why you should visit the Philippines is because of its churches. A trip to these notable churches is perfect for travelers wanting to appreciate the history and culture of the Philippines.
This list of the beautiful churches in the Philippines might be helpful to you, especially if you want to try pilgrimage tours. Make sure to bookmark for a complete experience in the Philippines.

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