Travelers looking to rev up their spiritual life need not go any farther than the Philippines, which is home to some of the world's oldest and beautiful churches. The archipelago of 7,107 islands, which was under Spanish rule for more than 300 years, is the largest Catholic country in Asia. Hundreds of churches have been constructed across the nation since the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in 1521. With its rich religious heritage, the Philippines is cashing in on pilgrimage tourism to boost its coffers.
Wise men in the travel industry believe that tourism is not only centered on man-made and natural attractions but also on meaningful rituals that are based on religious faith. Large churches made from indigenous materials have placed the Philippines on the tourism map. This makes the country a versatile player in the sector, as it has a lot of attractions to offer from exquisite natural wonders to colorful events and festivals. Since a whole day, maybe even a week or a month, is not enough to visit all the historic and elegant churches in the country, the following travel information might help in your ultimate spiritual trip to this pre-dominantly Catholic nation.
San Agustin Church
Have a trip down memory lanes by visiting San Agustin Church in Manila. Constructed in 1607, this place of worship is considered the oldest standing church in the Philippines. The church, which is made from adobe stones, has withstood several world wars and numerous earthquakes. A point of interest inside San Agustin Church is the magnificent trompe l'oeil mural on its ceiling and walls.
One of the notable travel destinations in northern Philippines is the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte. Completed in 1894, the church is an excellent example of Baroque architecture. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has 24 massive curved buttresses designed to withstand powerful earthquakes. Its bell tower was used by local militants as an observation post in their revolt against Spanish colonizers.
Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan, ranks among the most historic sites in the Philippines. Dubbed as the "Cradle of Democracy in the East," this 17th century structure was the site of the First Philippine Congress in September 29, 1898. Barasoain Church was destroyed at the height of the Philippine Revolution but was renovated several times to preserve its original structure.
Basilica del Santo NiÃ±o
Another top pilgrimage destination in the country is Basilica del Santo NiÃ±o. Located in the heart of Cebu City; this 16th century church was erected on the same spot where Spanish explorers purportedly found a sculpture of the child Jesus in 1565. A side trip in this historic site is a visit to a museum showcasing the history of Christianity in Cebu. The basilica remains under the Order of St. Augustine.
Aside from the world's famous Chocolate Hills, tourists flock to Bohol to catch a glimpse of the Dauis Church. Located on the island of Panglao, this place of prayer is also called the Our Lady of Assumption Church. Catholic faithfuls believe that the well located in front of the altar contains water that has medicinal powers.
Another famous pilgrimage site in the Philippines is the Quiapo Church in Manila. It is home to the Black Nazarene, a life-sized, dark-colored sculpture of Jesus Christ bearing a cross. Due to the growing number of devotees, Catholic leaders launched an expansion project in 1984. Outside the church, you can find hordes of vendors selling various goods from religious items to traditional medicines.