Paoay Church

Paoay Church

The Paoay Church was built of coral blocks and stucco-plastered bricks. Its architecture is a unique combination of Baroque and Oriental. The materials used for the walls were a mixture of coral stone and bricks. Large coral stones were used at the lower level of the walls, while bricks, smaller and more manageable to transport, were used at the upper levels. The mortar used for the coral stones and bricks points out the desire of the builders to make sure that the church stood against natural calamities. The stucco was said to have been made by mixing sand and lime with sugarcane juice, which were boiled with mango leaves, leather, and rice straw. The church is considered as one of the most striking edifices in the country with its huge buttresses flanking the sides and rear facade.

Viewed from the side, the giant buttresses look like huge volutes making the facade appear as a massive pediment rising from the ground. The facade is divided vertically by square pilasters that extend from the ground and all the way to the top of the pediment. The facade is also divided horizontally by cornices that extend all the way to the edges. The cornices extend to the sides of the church and wrap each buttresses around, adding attention and articulation to the massive side supports.

The facade is complemented with a bell tower located at its right hand side. Bell towers are a very important element in the overall composition of colonial churches, both for its function and aesthetics. For practical purposes, belltowers were used as a communication device to the townspeople. In the case of the Paoay bell tower, it also played, ironically, an explicit role in the lives of the Filipinos during the war. It has been said that the bell tower was used as an observation post by Katipuneros during the Philippine Revolution and by guerilleros during the Japanese occupation.

The Paoay Church was started by the Augustinian Fr. Antonio Estavillo. Cornerstone laying for the church was made in 1704, its convent in 1707, and the bell tower in 1793. It was completed in 1710 and nauguration ceremonies were held on February 28, 1896, just three years before the expulsion of Spanish rule in the country. The style of the church has been dubbed an “Earthquake Baroque.” The church started to be used before its completion and kept in repair by the people under the joint auspices of the Church and the town officials of Paoay. The church was badly damaged by earthquake in 1927 and lated included in the UNESCO’S World Heritage List.

Compared to its still magnificent exterior, the Paoay Church looks austere and stark inside, with but a few old images of saints and a simple wooden cross at the altar, that it is hard to imagine now how it looked like a hundred years ago. Only on Sundays does the Parish enjoy quite a number of worshippers. It is sad to note that on any other day, except for an intermittent bus loads of Taiwanese tourists, the church suffers from the lack of patronage.

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