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Guimbal Church was estimated to have been built under the guidance of Friar Juan Aguado sometime in the early 1740’s. Located along the coastal municipality of Guimbal, Iloilo province, the church was completed three decades later in 1774, under the auspices of Friar Juan Campos, making it one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.
Also known as the Parish of Saint Nicolas of Tolentino, the church was named after Nicholas of Tolentino, the patron saint of holy souls.
A Glimpse of the Spanish Colonial Past
One of its most distinctive features is the facade’s yellow appearance, the result of using adobe, yellow limestone blocks or “igang”, and powdered coral stones quarried from Guimaras. The frontage is flanked by two round pilasters with floral carvings as well as a formidable looking vintage belfry that is said to have been used as a watchtower during the Spanish period. With its two meter thick wall and four-storey tall belfry, it must have been an effective fortress against the pillaging Moro pirates, which was said to have been its other main purpose: to protect the municipality from unsavory characters.
Moorish and Baroque Design Elements
Gimbal church was destroyed twice - during the second world war, and in 1948 during an 8.2 earthquake that shook Panay island. It had to be reconstructed both times, and while the inside of the church has a more modern look, it has retained the integrity of its centuries-old facade to this day.
Art enthusiasts and history buffs alike will appreciate the use of antique sculptures and design elements. Some harken back to ancient Greek, Romanesque, and Renaissance periods with its rosette carvings and finials, while the appearance of pilasters and Corinthian capitals remind us of Baroque distinct design features. Incidentally, rosette design elements can also be found in antique Asian art, such as those found in Thai or Indian motifs.
Don’t miss the public plaza in front of the Church, sometimes called the Little Luneta of Southern Iloilo, as well as the gorgeous Guimbal shoreline along the Gulf of Panay, which locals claim to have the bluest waters in the area.