Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Rediscover the Beauty of Miag-ao

I really don't know much about Miag-ao but I often heard it from my colleagues about its historical importance. So, when the opportunity came, I took the time to make the most out of the place.

I have been to Iloilo City when I was in college but I had never been to Miag-ao. I just came here now to visit our branch office. I added as part of my itinerary the Spanish-old church of Miag-ao. Though some of my officemates decided to cancel our Miag-ao trip because of the intense heat this summer, I pushed with my plan and went along with my 6 other officemates.

We travelled about 40 kms south-west of Iloilo City by a hired jeepney and we reached this famous religious gem of the south about 45 minutes. The Santo Tomas de Villanueva church which was listed in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest baroque churches in the country built more than 200 years ago.

According to the Philippine history, Miag-ao church helped the town defend itself from the frequent raids of the Moro pirates in the 16th to 19th century that plagued most of the neighboring towns and caused the whole town to relocate to another town called Iloilo.

To honor and commemorates the bravery of its ancestors, last February, the town celebrates its fiesta thru "Salakayan Festival" which also showcases Miag-ao's brilliant culture and history.

I noticed that it had a big resemblance of the great Paoay Church in Vigan. Its structure is also made of adobe but it has a unique silt and clay that according to some locals can only be found in this part of Iloilo. It gives the building a unique warm-yellowish glow that was so perfect when lighted by the sun.

I love the artistry, the refinement in skills and talents of local artists who were engaged in the architecture of the church. This can be considered truly as "Pinoy Church" because of the native touch in the sculpture of St. Christopher carrying baby Jesus amidst coconut, papaya and guava shrubs in the facade that was carefully crafted. There was also a large stone image of St. Thomas of Villanova, which is the parish patron saint, dominated the center. It has also a carved life-size statues of the Pope and St. Henry with their coat-of-arms above them that flanked the main entrance. Architecturally, this church is really a masterpiece.

As I finished taking photos of the facade and its interiors, I joined my officemates in a solemn prayer and thanked him for giving me the chance to visit the place. I looked around again and convinced that the church is truly worth a treasure for our cultural heritage. There were stories behind its walls that are worth telling for today's generation. I only hope that someday, I can go back here and share stories of its past.

At present, the church is under renovation. I hope the church still remain as it is, intact and preserve. This eclectic architectural design with the predominance of baroque and artistry must have the proper conservation method to prolong its life and be enjoyed by the next generation.

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