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Philippine Churches Made From Coral Stones

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By: Janelle Buguis

Did you know that some of the Philippines’ oldest churches were made from coral stones?

The fact that the Philippines, together with its neighboring countries in the West Pacific Ocean, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands, is located in the Coral Triangle should explain why.

Photo: Bryan Herrera Tagaduar, Wikimedia Commons
  • An example of an “earthquake baroque” structure, the Saint Augustine Church, also known as the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, was completed in 1710. Its walls’ lower parts were made from large coral stones, while the upper parts were made from bricks. It has a three-story bell tower, also made from large coral stones, which resembles a pagoda, a typical tower in India and East Asia.

In 1973, The Philippine Government declared the Paoay Church a National Cultural Treasure. In 1993, the church was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its reinterpretation of the European Baroque architecture by Chinese and Filipino artisans.

Photo: gelai red, Flickr.com
  • Built in 1775, the Old Church of Danao City in Cebu, also known as Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish, serves as witness to the vibrant history of the town.

Constructed with cut coral stones, the church’s walls are thick and solid. Its architecture has hints of the Romanesque style, with a central rose window, faux columns, arched openings, and six white-painted angel statues that adorn the exterior of the church.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
  • The La Purisima Concepcion Dela Virgen Maria Parish Church, commonly known as the Baclayon Church in Bohol, is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. According to oral tradition, laborers—using bamboos only—were forced to cut and drag blocks of coral stones from the sea when the church was being built in 1717.

Besides the Baclayon Church, the municipality of Baclayon, the first municipality in Bohol formed by the Spanish colonizers, has other heritage edifices: the Baclayon Museum and its numerous ancestral houses.

Photo: Ryomaandres, Wikimedia Commons
  • Built in 1774, the Saint Nicolas of Tolentino Parish, commonly known as the Guimbal Church in Iloilo, was made from adobe and coral stones from the nearby Guimaras island.

Its original façade had a two-story structure flanked by twin round-shaped pilasters with floral carvings. Its vintage four-story belfry doubled as a watchtower during the Spanish occupation.

The church was reconstructed several times after the Second World War.

Photo Edit: Jekelyn Nisola

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