Sto. Niño de Arevalo Parish Church

The town of Arevalo was founded in 1581 by the son of an illustrious family in Spain who was appointed Governor-General of the Islands, Don Gonzallo Ronquillo de Peñalosa.

He arrived in Manila on June 1, 1580 and one of the things that greatly impressed him was the wealth of the Panay settlement established by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1567 right after Cebu. This place was known as Sta. Cruz and it now forms part of the town of Arevalo.

When Don Gonzallo created the town in 1581, he named it “La Villa Rica de Arevalo” or the rich town of Arevalo after his hometown in Spain.

Community work

The Sto. Niño de Arevalo Parish Church is a fairly recent construction. A historical account in the parish book said the community had come together to have its damaged belfry repaired on October 23, 1976, finishing it two months later, and then starting on the main building the following year.

Work on the structure took years and under several parish priests. When Fr. Nemesio C. Espinosa and his assistant Fr. Jerry R. Locsin assumed stewardship of the parish on Nov. 3, 1982, they focused in earnest on the church building.

Fr. Espinosa solicited financial aid from the German Mission and when he took a leave of absence, Fr. Locsin carried on the reconstruction until its completion and blessing on October 30, 1986.

Unique location

The church is considered uniquely situated in the middle of the district plaza, unlike the others that are only built beside or near their town squares.

Another distinct feature of the church is its altar, which is supported by Solomonic or helical columns inspired by the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The altar centerpiece is a large wooden cross with the image of the crucified Christ. Enshrined in the parish is the third oldest Sto. Niño image in the country, after the Sto. Niños of Cebu (1565) and Tondo (1572).

Parish priests

Town records were only able to identify its curates (parish priests) from 1581, but it is believed that the community before this time was under the Augustinians and seculars that Legaspi was known to never travel without.

Msgr. Amadeo Escañan showed a written list of town curas which noted that it was very likely the town was under the care of the religious group that accompanied Legaspi from 1567 to 1580.

It is even believed, he said, that Legaspi brought with him the Sto. Niño image enshrined in the parish, which is officially accepted as the third oldest in the country.

An account of this Iloilo City district’s story written by Atty. Rodolfo G. Alcantara says it is very likely that Arevalo’s possession of the image may have occurred earlier than 1581 for Legaspi had used the Sto. Niño image to spread devotion to the faith in Cebu and could have done the same in Panay.

Sto. Niño devotion

The accepted account, however, is that it was Peñalosa who brought the image with him from Spain when he founded Arevalo in 1581.

Alcantara said in his book “A Brief History of Arevalo and the 1581 image of the Sto. Niño” that devotion to the Child Jesus in Panay began in Arevalo.

Arevalo, which became the capital of the settlement in Panay in 1582, was one of the few places in the Philippines to be named in Spanish. It was incorporated as a district of Iloilo City on July 16, 1937.


San Joaquin Parish Church

A Spanish colonial era structure with a distinctive feature on its facade, the San Joaquin Parish Church was constructed from 1855-1869 through the efforts of Fray Tomas Santaren.

The church distinguishes itself from similar buildings of the period in the bas relief of “Rendicion de Tetuan” that occupies the whole pediment.

Shallow carvings on the upper triangular part of the facade depict the triumph of the Spanish army over the Moors in the Battle of Tetouan of 1860 in Morocco. It is probably the only church in Panay and even the whole Philippines with a military theme.

St. Joachim who is venerated together with St. Anne as the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the titular patron of the San Joaquin Parish. Considered the secondary patron and revered just as deeply by town parishioners is the Sto. Niño del Joaquin.

Neo-classical design

Information from the San Joaquin Parish said the design of the church, with its walls made from coral stone blocks quarried from nearby barrios, is neo-classical.

It added that the location of the structure and the adjoining areas for the Casa Real, town square, and burial grounds was donated by Tan Esta (Atanacio Santiagudo) who was then the Gobernadorcillo of Pueblo de San Joaquin. He was also the chief collaborator of Fr. Santaren, the parish priest who served for over 30 years, in the church construction.

According to church records, San Joaquin existed as the Parish of Suaragan from 1692 to 1703. When the central area was moved to Punta Talisay, the territory was merged with the Parish of Guimbal and then added to the Parish of Miagao 28 years later.

It was finally established as San Joaquin Parish in 1801.

Historical site, cultural treasure

Filipino guerillas reportedly burned the church, damaging its interior, as well as the convent and all buildings in the town center during wartime in 1943. Only the facade of San Joaquin Church remained intact.

The structure’s belfry also sustained heavy damages from the strong earthquake called Lady Caycay in 1948.

When it was declared a National Historical Site through Presidential Decrees No. 260 in 1973 and No. 375 in 1974, this marked the start of the earnest restoration of the building.

The San Joaquin Parish Church was also identified as a National Cultural Treasure in 2001.


Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje

La Paz is a district in Iloilo City that was under the supervision of Jaro until it became an independent parish in the 1870s.

It used to be called by different names; it was “Lobo” meaning “needle” or “retreat” at one time, according to Spanish era records discovered by parish officials.

In the decree that separated La Paz from Jaro, it was given the name “Ilawod” to refer to its location downstream, that part of the river that spills out to sea.

The same document said it was also called Iznart once after the Spanish alcalde of Iloilo, Manuez Iznart, who governed from 1868-1869.

None of the three names prevailed because the inhabitants of the place chose to call it La Paz, after their Spanish patroness Nuestra Señora de La Paz.

La Paz church beginnings

The first priest appointed to La Paz when it became a parish was the Augustinian Fr. Candido Gonzales. He was followed 13 other Augustinians until the parish was turned over to a diocesan priest, Fr. Pedro Trano, in 1910.

When he started his duties in La Paz, Fr. Gonzales oversaw the construction of a temporary church and convent made mainly of wood and bricks for the Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje Parish.

From 1870 to 1874, he started erecting a more permanent structure from a combination of bricks, stone, and cement.

Fr. Mariano Ysar had this enlarged and completed in 1895. There were those who likened it to the San Jose Church in the city center but said it had a look and style that is its own.

The Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje Parish Church was damaged during World War II and the infamous earthquake of January 25, 1948. Only its facade withstood the man-made and natural calamities.

Neo-classical facade design

According to parish records, the convent was immediately renovated. It was another story for the church as its restoration work took many years, gaining traction under the leadership of Msgr. Melecio Fegarido in the 1960s.

The fully restored church was inaugurated during the May 24 fiesta in 1995.

A parish feature on the church described its facade as neo-classical with mainly dark brown bricks and white window pillars and frames.

Two columns supporting the triangular pediment are new additions as they bear the inscription of the year 1970.

As the population of La Paz grew, new parishes were also erected. Aside from Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje Parish, there are also now existing the parishes of Our Lady of the Assumption in Barrio Obrero (1962), St. Clement in Barangay Luna (1962), Our Lady of Fatima in Lapuz (1972), and San Lorenzo Ruiz in Barangay Caingin (1992).


St. Clement’s Church

The Church of St. Clement came about as an offshoot of the mission work undertaken in Iloilo by Redemptorist priests belonging to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

They first came to Jaro on January 23, 1928 at the behest of Jaro Bishop Denis O’Dougherty, who later became the Cardinal of Philadelphia, and his predecessor Bishop James McCloskey.

Several years before their arrival, there had been discussions for a foundation in Jaro. Bishop O’Dougherty had known for sometime about the mission work of the Redemptorist fathers in Cebu and invited them to form a house in his diocese.

Bishop McCloskey, also aware of the Redemptorist apostolate that had already reached Oriental Negros, formalized the invitation. Negros was still part then of the Diocese and now Archdiocese of Jaro.

Jaro foundation

Parish records said McCloskey and the Vice Provincial Superior Rev. W. Byrne, simultaneously wrote to the Father General in Rome asking him to accept the Jaro foundation. The cable of acceptance arrived on October 17, 1927.

The Jaro Diocese offered all possible assistance to the Redemptorist priests: McCloskey secured them a house on Number 9, Calle E. Lopez in Jaro and even generously spent on its repair; the Padres Paules supplied altar wine and other items for their residence; the Superioress of St. Paul’s Hospital donated tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, and an alcohol stove.

The first missionaries to come to Jaro, appointed by Irish Provincial Superior Fr. John Fitzgerald, were Fathers Raymund Cleere (superior), Joe Wright, Patrick O’Connel, Joe O’Gorman, Brothers Jarlath and Charles.

Beginning January 23, 1928, the fathers occupied the house and offered mass on their first day. The altar they used was a gift from Bishop McCloskey, the very same one used in the first convent of the Carmelite sisters in the Philippines that was located in Molo.

Mission work

Parochial missions were a long established thrust of the Redemptorist congregation. Its mission work from its home base in Cebu expanded to Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu, and even went as far as Mindanao.

The Redemptorist community in Jaro spent four months learning Ilonggo from a local teacher before embarking on their first mission in Dumangas in June 1928 upon the invitation of parish priest Fr. Vicente Militar.

Pleased with their work, he sent them to Lublub the following November and then to Pototan. Despite the heavy rains and the fact that it was rice planting season, many gathered to listen to the Redemptorist priests.

Within the apostolic community in Iloilo, in their early years, the priests helped out in the Jaro Cathedral upon the invitation of Msgr. Luis Capalla, heard confessions in Ilonggo, English, and Spanish. They also administered retreats to fellow priests, sisters, and students.

Monastery, church

The congregation picked La Paz as the permanent site for its new foundation in the Diocese of Jaro. It decided to build its monastery in the area, signing the contract for construction on January 15, 1931. The finished structure under the advocation of St. Clement, picked because of his influence over students, was blessed by Bishop McCloskey.

The diocesan apostolate for the students of the Provincial High School and Normal College (now West Visayas State University) was continued by the Redemptorist fathers. They held regular masses for the people and later on established a Confraternity of the Holy Family as a weekly service for male students and adults in the area. The Confraternity survived for 30 years and had a weekly attendance of around 250.

With attendance growing steadily over the years, the Catholic Truth Hall was no longer an adequate venue and a decision was reached to build a permanent church.

St. Clement’s Church was inaugurated on February 23, 1941, with then Cebu Archbishop Gabriel Reyes delivering a special sermon for the occasion. The following day, a solemn mass was celebrated for benefactors, with a misa de requiem offered for those already deceased.

St. Clement’s College

Over a period of 10 years, the number of Redemptorist missions increased from 1930-1940. This was however interrupted by the advent of war in 1941.

The realities of war were brought home to the congregation in December 18 of that same year. Japanese forces began dropping bombs in Iloilo City, damaging the airfield and oil installations along the docks. They invaded Panay on April 6, 1942.

It was decided after the war to establish a Minor Seminary as a first step in the training of Filipino vocations. The superiors agreed to the proposal in October 1946 and construction of seminary was immediately started. Fr. John Ryan was Vice Provincial at the time.

The college was completed in time for school year 1949-1950 and Fr. Patrick Nulty became its first director. It became known for discipline, high academic standards, and basketball and has supplied the nucleus of the Philippine vice province/province.

Filipino priests who studied in the college included Msgr. Ramon Fruto, Bishop Ireneo Amantillo, Willie Jesena, Filomeno Suico, Emerardo Maningo, Gerry Loarca, Tommie Tancinco, and the late Fernando Yusingco, Luis Hechanova, and Rudy Romano.

New parish

A new development happened for the foundation in 1967, when it was established as the Perpetual Help Parish on Easter Sunday.

In his inauguration address during the occasion, first Jaro Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco said: “The more parishes in the diocese, the less chance of error among the people; the supreme law is the salvation of souls. This responsibility was brought home to me very clearly during the Second Vatican Council.”

Another apostolate of Perpetual Help Parish is the enclosed retreat movement. The first enclosed retreat was held in the convento on December 7, 1963. The new retreat house was completed in 1967.


Espousal of Our Lady Parish Church

Today’s Espousal of Our Lady Parish Church is a modern structure, inaugurated just at the turn of the 21st century.

But the very first church was built in the early 1900s and served the people of Mandurriao in Iloilo City until the 1940s when it was burned down by guerillas during World War II.

Parish records said Fr. Felimon Galutina ordered the creation of a temporary place of worship made out of coconut trunks bearing a nipa roof when the war ended. Mandurriao had to make do with this makeshift church for 35 years.

When Msgr. Perfecto Capalla took over as parish priest, he oversaw the construction of a more permanent structure in the 1970s. He was also behind the building of an adjacent two-storey convent and Cursillo House.

Major church renovation

A major renovation happened during the tenure of Fr. Andres Sagra from 1985-1998. The first thing he did was put up a concrete fence around the church for security purposes using funds from the 1985 May Flower Festival.

He then spearheaded fund-raising activities beginning in 1987 or 1988 for church renovation.

Bishop Fernando Capalla, Archbishop of Davao, presided over the formal launching of the church reconstruction during the patronal feast on November 26, 1989.

A building plan prepared by the late Engr. Timoteo Jusayan was fine tuned by Engr. Ermelo Porras and Architect Rolando Siendo. The final design was later approved by then Jaro Archbishop Alberto Piamonte.

Blessing and inauguration

Fr. Severino M. Montiague administered the second phase of the project when he took over the parish on September 8, 1990. This lasted from 1991-1997.

The reconstructed Espousal of Our Lady Parish Church was blessed and inaugurated in December 1997. The cost of its rebuilding amounted to around 15 million pesos.


Jaro Cathedral

Among the most illustrious in Iloilo City is the heritage district of Jaro. This is the home of the national hero Graciano Lopez y Jaena. The district pays him tribute through the numerous streets and buildings named after him and statues built in his honor.

The Jaro Cathedral is the seat of Catholicism in Western Visayas and is the center for devotion to the Our Lady of the Candles. The stairs on the cathedral’s facade leads to a shrine of the Our Lady of the Candles above the main entrance of the church.

This photo reportedly taken in about 1889 shows the Jaro Cathedral and belfry with a bamboo replica of the Eiffel Tower, the icon of modernity in its times. Note the absence of the two church towers that were added much later.
This photo reportedly taken in about 1889 shows the Jaro Cathedral and belfry with a bamboo replica of the Eiffel Tower, the icon of modernity in its times. Note the absence of the two church towers that were added much later.

What’s distinctive about the church is that it’s bell tower is located across the street, near Jaro Plaza. While belfries are typically built next to their churches, the Jaro bell tower was built away from the church because the area is prone to earthquakes.

The cathedral was built in 1874 but was damaged by an earthquake in January 1948. It was repaired in 1956 by the first Archbishop of Jaro, Jose Maria Cuenco.

The Archdiocese of Jaro is one of the oldest dioceses in the country, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines website.

“It was created a diocese by virtue of a papal bull of Pope Pius IX on May 27, 1865, according to a document signed by Archbishop Gregorio Martinez, then Archbishop of Manila, under whole ecclesiastical province the new diocese belonged as suffragan,” the site said.

Its fiesta every February 2 is marked with pageantry, gastronomy and cockfighting.

A gift shop is found beside the church and blessed candles are always a good buy – for pasalubong or personal use.

A street separates the church from its belfry, which is built high so it can be seen almost all throughout Iloilo City.


Welcome to Samboan

As one of the few towns located at the southernmost tip of Cebu, Samboan is an unspoiled gem of natural wonders and ancient stone monuments.

It is home to rivers, springs, waterfalls, caves and clean coastlines as well as structures that are hundreds of years old and bear silent witness to Samboan’s early years.

The town center is perched atop hill and forms a landscape that offers a panoramic view of the Tañon Strait and neighboring islands like Negros.

Town officials explain the name Samboan as coming from “sinamboang,” a method of fishing once commonly used by local fishers.

The story goes that during the early Spanish period years, the Spaniards who were the first to reach the town asked a fisherman for the name of the place. The fisherman, who didn’t understand a word of Spanish, thought they wanted to know what he was doing and so he answered “sinamboang.”

For reasons of simplicity and brevity, the name was shortened to Samboang which later on became Samboan.


Located shorly before the very tip of the island, Samboan is one of the oldest towns in Cebu.

Historical accounts state the town was spotted by combatants of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi while they were doing reconnaissance of the island from March 15 to April 22, 1565, during the first few months of their arrival in Cebu.

The tranquil place started out as the Encomienda Canamucan and became one of the visitas of the Parroquia de Barili de Santa Ana (parish of Barili) in the 1600s. As a visita, it was under the jurisdiction of the parish priest of Barili who made scheduled visits to hold masses and other religious activities.

Samboan was made an independent parish on November 3, 1784 under the patronage of San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael Archangel), with Ginatilan, Malabuyoc and Alegria under its territorial jurisdiction. Its first parish priest was Romualdo Avila, a Franciscano Decalzo.

One of the priests that came after him was the great Fray Melchor de Vera, a Jesuit priest that was credited with having built the Spanish fortifications that served as protection against pirate raids.

People’s paradise

Life in Samboan, which is 140 kilometers or four hours of travel by bus from the central city of Cebu, is rustic and simple.

The town has progressed with the times while preserving the old ways, evidenced by the extant centuries-old structures and collection of rare items that offer glimpses into Samboan’s distant past.

People still live on the bounties of the water and the soil.

They seek to preserve the seas that provide them with an abundant catch by creating marine sanctuaries and the land that yield a plentiful harvest by keeping the forests untouched and the waterways clean.

As a result, they’ve created a people’s paradise for everyone to enjoy, in the form of unspoiled waterfalls, rivers, and seas.

Quick facts

Classification: 5th class municipality
Population: 18,140 (2010 census)
Land Area: 4,500 hectares
No. of barangays: 15: Barangays Basak Bonbon, Bulangsuran, Calatagan, Cambigong, Camburoy, Cañorong, Colase, Dalahikan, Jumangpas, Monteverde, Poblacion, San Sebastian, Suba and Tangbo
Distance from Cebu City: 140 km, southwest of Cebu City
Estimated time of arrival from Cebu: 4 hours via public transport
Means of transportation from Cebu: Bus
Livelihood: Farming and fishing


Campanario de Antigua

A painstaking restoration of the original watchtower, the Campanario de Antigua in Samboan formed part of a series of fortifications in southern Cebu aimed at providing coastal settlements early warning of pirate raids during the Spanish colonial era.

The watchtower in Samboan is located over 200 feet above sea level.

When it was constructed in 1878 under the supervision of then parish priest Toribio Gerzon, coral stone slabs were used for its foundation and walls and terracotta tiles for the roof.

It was built on a plateau that was the nucleus of the Spanish settlement in Samboan beginning in the 17th century.

Now the location of the town center, the flat hilltop also hosts the Municipal Hall and other local government buildings, St. Michael Archangel Church and belltower, Samboan Museum, and a small picturesque plaza.

A series of stone steps hand-carved on the side of the hill connects the coastal area with the plateau.

Called the Escala de Jacob or Jacob’s Ladder, the staircase ends at the foot of the watchtower. Before the coastal road that snakes around the island of Cebu was built, the steps reached as far down as the shore.

Samboan’s Campanario de Antigua faces the Tañon Strait. A 1970 photo of the watchtower owned by the Filipinas Heritage Library showed the structure to be in ruins, without a roof and with only one side of the square base and the two pillars remaining.

The three-storey Samboan watchtower has been restored to its former glory, with stone walls, sturdier flooring and steps leading to the two higher levels, and wooden railings.

Visitors may go up to the watchtower’s third level for a breathtaking vista of the town center, sea, and neighboring islands.


Escala de Jacob

This flight of steps in Samboan that goes all the way down to the coastal highway is called Jacob’s Ladder or Escala de Jacob.

It was named after Jacob, the biblical ancestor of the 12 tribes of Israel who in his dream saw a ladder extending all the way from earth to heaven, explained the Filipinas Heritage Library.

Before the coastal highway that snakes around the island of Cebu was constructed, the steps that ascend up to the town center, which is located on a plateau over 200 feet high, began on the seashore. A portion of the stairway was demolished to make way for the coastal road.

Built in 1878 upon the instruction of then parish priest Fr. Toribio Gerzon, the hand-carved staircase of flat stones and lime was intended to make it easier for parishioners in the low-lying areas to attend mass.

Like any Spanish settlement in the Philippines, the central complex was where all the important buildings were located. In the case of the Philippine pueblos, the blueprint was for the settlement center to host the church, rectory, municipal hall, and plaza.

In the case of Samboan, the St. Michael Archangel Parish Church was built atop the plateau and best accessed from the lowlands through the Escala de Jacob.

The staircase, now made up of 147 steps, immediately ends at the town’s three-storey Campanario de Antigua (Ancient Watchtower).


Museo de Samboan

For its cultural treasures and heritage memorabilia, Samboan finds a fitting repository in what used to be the town’s old municipal hall.

The Museo de Samboan was inaugurated during the town’s fiesta celebration in 2010. It displays stoneware and pottery, wooden implements and tools, celadons, and religious artifacts.

Some of the relics exhibited – such as Chinese pottery – date back to even before the Spanish colonial period.

Paintings of local artists like Benji Goyha, John Dinglasa, Mimitz Carredo, Lito Nellas, and Roel Fisalbon are also displayed in several galleries.

Another feature of the museum are wooden handicrafts fashioned in the workshop of French exporter Fabrice Desvaux. These were created by native craftsmen.

Prior to its conversion as the town’s two-storey museum, the building was used for a time as the municipal jail and a storage facility by an electric cooperative.

The town ceased using it as a Municipal Hall when the new one beside it was completed.

Prior to its conversion as a two-storey museum, the building had to be stripped of its cement finishing to reveal the original coral stone block walls underneath.