May 12, 2022

A Look at Pampanga’s Most Beautiful Baroque Churches

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  • A predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines is home to baroque churches of all sizes – many of them dating back to the Spanish colonial period. During Holy Week, devotees flock to these churches in light of the Visita Iglesia, the Roman tradition of visiting and praying in seven churches commencing Maundy Thursday.

    Luckily, you don’t have to wait for Holy Week to see these three stunning baroque churches in Pampanga.

    San Guillermo Parish Church – Bacolor


    They say great things come in small packages – and Bacolor’s San Guillermo Parish Church is certainly no exception. After the devastating eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, this 15th century church became half-buried in lahar and was reduced to 6 meters in height, with some doors accessible only by ducking down upon entry.

    The façade features gorgeous Hellenic pillars, while the church’s interior is marked by beautiful low-lying wooden beams, chandeliers, and charming recuerdos. The retablo is filled with hundreds-old statues that were excavated post-eruption. There’s also a vast and tranquil green space at the back of the church, where an olden artisan-slash-wishing well sits.

    Be sure to check out the on-site museum, Museo de Bacolor, which details the rich history of Bacolor and contains Bacolor’s significant artifacts.

    Immaculate Conception Parish (Guagua Church) – Plaza Burgos, Guagua


    Situated about three kilometers away from Betis Church, the two-storey Guagua Church sits at the center of Guagua’s bustling town plaza, right beside the Catholic Center. Built during the 17th century, the church features a distinct steel dome and quaint walls made up of stones, bricks, and niches.

    St. James the Apostle Church (Betis Church) – Betis, Guagua


    Best known for its Michaelangelo-esque 18th century ceiling murals, this National Cultural Treasure is often called the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines. It flaunts beautiful ceiling and wall paintings by renowned early 19th century painters Simon Flores and Victor Ramos, respectively.

    Massive and fortress-like, Betis Church combines unique elements of Spanish, Latin, and Oriental architecture, including stained glass windows, a high ceiling flanked by Greek pillars, and carvings on its retablo.

    For a brief walk through Betis’ history, head to the museum at the back of the church. Don’t miss out the artesian well too – Pampanga’s oldest – donated by Betis native and acclaimed sociologist Randy David.

    Photos and article by Gretchen Dublin

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