Heritage Sites

The Baroque Fortress Church of Iloilo: Miag-ao


Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | May 16, 2014

The Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church, or commonly known as Miag-ao Church.

A marker states:

Miagao Church

Construction of this church began in 1787 while Fray Francisco M. Gonzales O.S.A. was parish priest of this town and Domingo Libo-on was Gobernadorcillo. The Church was completed in 1797. It served as fortress against Muslim raiders. In 1898, during the Revolution, the church was destroyed, subsequently rebuilt; it was damaged by earthquake in 1948. Restoration work began in 1960 and completed in 1962, during the term of office of Most Rev. Dr. Jose Ma. Cuenco, D.D. Metropolitan Archbishop of Jaro, of Msgr. Fernando S. Javillo, O.P,, Parish Priest of this town and Dioscoro Mueda, Municipal Mayor.


The church has been described as the finest example of a fortress baroque church by the UNESCO Convention. It's one of the four baroque churches in the Philippines inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

The church is home to the Roman Catholic parish of the town of Miag-ao, Iloilo. It also served as a bastion against Moro raiders during the olden days.


The church was completed in 1797 and is famous for the artistic sculptural relief carved on its façade. This includes the image of St. Christopher carrying the child Christ while holding on to a coconut tree amid the papaya and guava shrubs.

The orangish or yellowish brown color is attributed to the limestone and adobe used in the construction. The church's foundation is 6 meters deep and its walls are 1.5 meters wide. It's hemmed in by flying buttresses that are thrice thicker than the walls, and has twin belfries of different designs. One is a towering two-story belfry and the other is three stories high.

The Miag-ao Church is one of the country’s architectural gems because of its unique and impressive design. It stands as a living legacy of Filipino culture and our way of life.


How to Get There

From Manila, you can fly to Iloilo (estimated cost of Php3,000++, round trip, one hour).

The Iloilo Airport is 30 minutes (approximately 19 km) away from Iloilo City. From Iloilo City, you can take a “Miag-ao” or any southbound jeep from Mohon Terminal in Molo District or from the Iloilo Terminal Market. Miag-ao Church is 30-45 minutes away from Iloilo City.

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