Exploring Ilocos : The Saint Augustine Church of Paoay / Paoay Church

After the exhausting 13 hours of travel from Cavite to Ilocos and after spending enough time to explore Vigan (Check : Vigan by Night), we all headed to our Transient House to rest. We stayed in Carlainton Transient Haus in Vigan which I will provide a review soon. Anyway, our excitement woke us up early us expected haha. After we took our breakfast, we pack our things up and hit the road. The plan was to explore the northern part of Ilocos and visit all the possible attractions in Ilocos Norte as possible. The first destination is one of the most popular churches in the province, the Paoay Church. It was actually one of our target destinations so we really took this place us our top priority during our trip in Ilocos Norte!

We made a quick stop over to the Ilocos Norte Welcome arch. The arch has lesser details compare to what we have seen in Ilocos Sur. It has the image of La Virgen Milagrosa De Badoc which serves as the patroness of Ilocos Norte.

After few minutes of driving, we finally reached our first destination and the magnificent church of Paoay put us all in awe! With its seemingly untouched architecture, you can easily tell that this church has a huge historical significance and it is pretty amazing how such building managed to withstand all the calamities and war although out the centuries. The history of the parish which is dedicated to Saint Augustine can be traced back in 1593 but the construction of the current church began on 1694 and was completed in 1710 but like any other church, Paoay Church also suffered some damages from some natural calamities including the 1865 and the 1885 earthquakes but they were restored through the initiatives of First lady Imelda Marcos (Ilocos Norte is known as the birthplace of the late former President Marcos)

Outside the church, you’ll spot a marker indicating that San Augustin church is one of the four baroque churches in the country to be inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO along with the San Augustin Church in Manila (Intramuros); Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur and Miagao Church in Iloilo. Paoay Church is also declared as a National Cultural Treasure in 1973.
IMG_0751t Just few walks away from the Paoay church is a commercial building known as the “Paseo De Paoay” that features a very unique Spanish-esque theme.It is composed of many famous restaurants in Paoay such as Rufino’s and more. It offers a very refreshing atmosphere and almost every corner is picture perfect.

Just look at this classy staircase which is adorned with many amazing ornaments and intricate details.
IMG_0752tUpstair, you will be welcomed by this eerie-looking art whioch might look so familiar in case you have visited the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo. If you have visited the Pinto Art Musuem, then you might have crossed some of Riel Hilario‘s sculptures (Check: 25 Most Amazing Art Works of Pinto Art Museum). In this particular installation of Riel Hilario, it depicts the famous legend of Paoay Lake.

The story of Paoay Lake will somehow reminds you of Noah’s Arch and Lot’s Wife. It follows a story of a couple who were warned by God to leave the place before the flood hits the village. They were warned not to look back at the village the moment they hear the thunder roar. Unfortunately, they were both tempted to look back which turned them into rocks.  As years went by at the place where the village sank, a beautiful lake emerged which is now known as the Paoay Lake!
IMG_0758tThe church is also notably surrounded by a beautful landscape and not too far from it is the so-called Jardin De San Agustin that offers an immensely beautiful atmosphere.

But if there is one feature that this historical church is notable at, these are the huge and thick buttresses that can be found on both sides and at the back.  There are a total of 24 buttresses of about 5.5 ft thick supporting the entire structure. The buttresses were intentionally made such way to prevent the building from any devastating damage from possible natural calamities such as earthquakes.
IMG_0761tAdjacent to the church is a separate bell tower. It is three story high and is made from coral stones. It was in 1793 when the cornerstone of the bell tower was laid. It stands at some distance from the church as a protection against earthquake. Interestingly, this tower shares an interesting piece of history. It is said that the tower served as observational post for Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards in 1898 and by Filipino guerrillas against Japanese soldiers during the second world war.

On the upper most part of the facade, you can spot the image of Saint Augustin , the patron saint of the province. Much like the bell tower, the facade is made from both bricks and coral stones. 
The interior of the church is equally magnificent. The galvanized roof is exposed along with the wooden beams. Generally, you will appreciate the simplicity of this church. The white washed walls is simply complimented by brown-ish coat is just truly refreshing.
IMG_0766tThe Nave as viewed from the altar. You can also spot a pulpit on one side.
IMG_0764tThe main altar of the Paoay Church
IMG_0765tThe center of the retablo enshrines the image of Tata Uste (Saint Augustin)
Just few walks away from the church is a great photo opportunity for the visitors. There are letter standees that spells Paoay which is ideally placed in such distance to give you a nice overall view of the Paoay church
20170429_095807tJust in case you missed the hit Avocado ice cream of Calle Crisologo, you can still spot sorbeteros near the Paoay Church
Visiting Ilocos will not be completed without trying out their famous empanada! There’s an overwhelming amount of stores outside the paoay church that sells the famous Empanada. The empanada of Ilocos is often stuffed with shredded papaya and the famous Vigan Longanissa.
20170429_100627tThey are selling it for 50Php each

How to prepare Vigan Empanada!

A post shared by Milton Coyne (@bluedreamer1227) on

►The current San Augustin Church was completed in 1710
►The bell tower served as an observation post during the Spanish regime and World war 2
►The church was made from Bricks and Coral Stone
►There are 24 huge buttresses supporting the building
►Paoay Church is declared as a National Cultural Treasure in 1973
►Ilocos Norte is the birth place of former president Ferdinand Marcos

►Since we are a huge group, we realized that it is more practical for us to get a transient house in Vigan. We stayed in Carlainton Transient House which offers a very spacious set of rooms (good enough to accommodate us all). They have an Honest Store here which is really a new experience for me. Anyway, there’s an overwhelming amount of lodges, transient houses and hotels in Vigan. If you are looking for a luxurious hotel experience, you might consider hotels like Ciudad Fernandina (Check Details Here) or the Hotel Salcedo De Vigan (Check Here). For Solo Backpackers or Couples who are in budget, you can try Balai Mestizo which is just one kilometer away from Calle Crisologo. Check the list of affordable Ilocos Sur Hotels here! (I personally prefer TravelBook Ph because of their “Pay At Hotel” service which doesn’t require any credit cards when booking).

After leaving the Paoay church, we headed to another notable spot in Paoay, the famous sand dunes! Unfortunately, we just stayed there for few minutes and we didn’t get a chance to try any of their extreme activities. I will share more about it on my next #ExploringIlocos entry!

For the mean time, feel free to watch the video summary of my Ilocos tour below (and don’t forget to subscribe

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12 thoughts on “Exploring Ilocos : The Saint Augustine Church of Paoay / Paoay Church

  • August 22, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    It is still so fresh in mind during my visit to this stunning Church. I couldn’t exactly elucidate my feeling as I traipse my two little itchy feet here during my visit cause I’ve just seen this on the books, magazines and even TV. Truly, this is really worth a visit. I love how you were able to elucidate all its intricate design and a bit of its rich history. You truly captured its unique features from the exterior to its interior. Oh, you have just made me miss the Empanada of Ilocos. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I truly appreciate it.

  • August 23, 2017 at 12:30 am

    I have never anywhere farther than Baguio in the North. I believe someday, somehow I can visit this place with my family. I would love to try the avocado ice cream and empanada. I am not good with places, history, and churches, so this is the first time that I learned about Paoay church. It definitely is an old but strong church. And lovely too!

  • August 23, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Paoay Church is one of the main reasons why I love to visit Ilocos. I would love to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site upclose and personal. I have not seen any of them and I intend to see all of our local UNESCO heritage sites in this lifetime. I sure hope I can visit this place sooner. We’ve been planning to do an Ilocos trip but have not been able to push through with it yet. This is a beautiful and majestic church, any Filipino should see it upclose!

  • August 23, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I’m drooling over that avocado ice cream! I so want one now! Lol. Apart from that, this is a beautiful place. It is really nice that a part of history is kept intact that will tell so many stories to today’s generation and the next generations to come.

  • August 23, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Most of the historical sites in Ilocos are left untouched and well-preserved. I also admired these architectures about three years ago. I should try to visit again. It is better when it is all sunny and brught! Glad you enjoyed your stay!

  • August 23, 2017 at 9:29 am

    When i first saw Paoay Church, I was also at awe by its beauty. It looks like a virgin lady, untouched by science and any impurities. Perhaps it has been twenty years since my first visit at iIocos and I am not yet that keen on travels. I hope I could go back to Ilocos withmy my family andloves enjoy its beauty, food and culture.

  • August 23, 2017 at 10:14 am

    This is a stunning church.Thanks for introducing such a beautiful world heritage site.Always churches are with unique architectural features.This ancient church is also full of such.I’d love to visit such places…

  • August 23, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    How I wish to visit this church now!
    I love such old churches, visited several of them myself. This one looks similar to the one in Goa India.
    Empanada… a nutritious bite. Must be crispy and crunchy to bite in.

  • August 23, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    I am very very amazed by the church as well as its significance. It is simply wonderful and it would be first on my ‘to-visit’ list when visiting Paoay. I’ll suggest it to my historian boyfriend who loves visiting places of historical importance. The place with the restaurants is also excellent. That’s my area. I think I would eat in each and every of them. 🙂

  • August 23, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Wow what a fantastic place. You are so lucky to be able to visit such a wonderful church. I love the history and the archetecture. The landscape is amazing too!

  • August 24, 2017 at 4:23 am

    I have been to Ilocos but I don’t remember if I’ve visited Paoaay church. It looks so regal and majestic despite being old. Anyway, the empanadas are making me hungry. I wish I could go back sometime soon.Great pictures!

  • August 25, 2017 at 11:47 am

    I am always fascinated visiting old Churches. That’s why when I have been to Ilocos Region, never had I forgotten to include in my itinerary to visit Paoay Church–a world UNESCO heritage site. I love how the church stands firm though it had been established over hundred of years ago. I would love to visit it again, soon!


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