History and Culture

Have the Most Unforgettable Simbang Gabi: 9 Awe-Inspiring Churches in the Visayas

Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | Dec 01, 2014


They say that the Philippines has the longest Christmas season and celebration in the whole world. You can already hear Christmas carols as early as the start of the “Ber” months (September), and it lasts until either Epiphany (January 9) or the third Sunday of January. The official observance, though, is from the beginning of Simbang Gabi until the first Sunday of the year (known as the Epiphany). Simbang Gabi masses starts from December 16 and run until December 24. This culminates in Christmas Eve, when the Mass is known as “Misa de Gallo” which is Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass.” Tired of your usual simbang gabi venues? Go to Visayas and experience a truly unique December!

1) Old Hispano-Filipino Church (Anini-y, Antique)

Also known as the Anini-y Church, this is the oldest church in the province. Built in the 19th century during the Spanish era, it is a massive white coral building; the corals were carved into blocks to form an adobe and glued using egg whites and yolks.

Anini-y Church; photo from en.wikipedia.org

2) Sta. Monica Parish Church (Capiz)

Commonly known as the Pan-ay Church, this is the home of the largest church bell in Southeast Asia, and is also said to be the third biggest in the world. The bell weighs 10.4 tons and measures 7 ft in diameter, 5 ft in height, and was made from 70 sacks of gold and silver coins donated by the townsfolk.

Pan-ay Church; photo from en.wikipedia.org

VIEW: Captivating Capiz: A Recap of the Philippines' Seafood Capital

3) San Sebastian Cathedral (Bacolod City)

Made of coral stones from Guimaras and wood from Palawan, the San Sebastian Cathedral was built in 1876 and was originally a small chapel. The cathedral is named in honor of an early Christian saint and martyr, Saint Sebastian.

San Sebastian Cathedral; photo from en.wikipedia.org

VIEW: The Century Old Cathedral in Negros Occidental

4) St. Joseph the Worker Church (Victorias, Negros Occidental)

This is moe commonly known as the Church of the Angry Christ because of its famous mural. Completed in 1950, the chapel was a forerunner of liturgical reform prior to Vatican II. The chapel incorporates modern design, both in the structure and the liturgical symbols.

The Angry Christ Mural; photo by Jaazeal Jakosalem

VIEW: 3 Must-Visit Artistic Churches in Negros Occidental

5) Jaro Cathedral (Iloilo)

The seat of the Jaro Archbishop embracing the whole of Western Visayas, this is the first and only cathedral in Panay. It was built in 1864.

The Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, more commonly known as the Jaro Cathedral and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, is one of the oldest churches in Iloilo.

The images of the male saints of Jaro Cathedral.

VIEW: The Jaro Cathedral: One of Iloilo's Oldest

6) Basilica Minore Del Sto. Niño (Cebu City)

This says everything: this is the country's oldest Roman Catholic Church, built in 1565 where the miraculous image of Santo Niño was discovered.

The belfry and the Santo Nino Basilica when it was still standing; photo by Berniemack Arellano.

The church is made of hard wood, mud, and nipa and a replica of the Santo Niño is on public display, while the original is kept in the parish convent.

VIEW: Basilica Minore del Santo Nino Cebu

After the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook Visayas last October 15, 2013. The belfry lies ruined in the ground; photo by Berniemack Arellano.

VIEW: The Day History Came Crashing Down: The Fall of Cebu's Ancient Belfry

7) Chapel of the Last Supper (Mandaue City, Cebu)

The church has life-sized wooden statues of Jesus and his 12 Apostles seated at a long table for the Last Supper, also known as Señor de Cena.

Señor de Cena; photo from cebuphilippines.wordpress.com

And -- did you know the relic dates back to 1601? The chapel belongs to the National Shrine of St. Joseph.

The National Shrine of St. Joseph; photo from pinoychurches.blogspot.com

8) Church of St. Augustine of Hippo (Bacong, Negros Oriental)

Listed as a national cultural treasure, this is one of the oldest churches and the biggest in Bacong. It also features the oldest existing altar in the province, as well as an imported pipe organ that was built on August 28, 1962.

St. Augustine Church; photo from cityofdumaguete.com

9) Palo Metropolitan Cathedral of our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo, Leyte)

The cathedral was constructed in 1596 by the Jesuits, and it served as their residence for some time. The two towers were built in 1850 and the clock on the façade was installed in 1896. Proclaimed as a cathedral on March 25, 1938, this was used as a hospital from October 1944 to March 1945 by the American liberation forces during World War II.

Palo Cathedral before super typhoon cathedral; photo from en.wikipedia.org

The cathedral has endured so many tests of time, such as typhoons and fires, and last November 8, 2013, it was again severely tested by supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan). With the help of big companies and the local communities, the church is now slowly getting back to form.

Palo Cathedral after super typhoon cathedral; photo from papalvisit.ph

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