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.
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.