Cari amici oggi voglio visitare insieme a voi la chiesa di Sant’Agostino, che si trova proprio nel centro di Paoay nella regione filippina di Llocos. Questa chiesa è sopravvissuta a diversi terremoti ed è considerata una dei maggiori esempi di architettura barocca nelle Filippine. E’ un edificio a tre piani di pietra corallina con una torre campanaria che sorge a pochi metri di distanza dalla chiesa. Si ha quasi l’impressione di trovarsi di fronte a una fortezza. Imponente e bellissima!
St. Augustine Catholic Parish Church, or more popularly called as Paoay Church, in Ilocos Norte is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and is among the major attractions of the province. The construction of Paoay Church was started by the Augustinian friar Father Antonio Estavillo in 1694. It was completed in 1704 and re-dedicated in 1894. It is inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage list (together with 3 other Philippine baroque churches) in recognition of its unique architectural style which is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. The church is particularly famous for its distinctive Gothic, Baroque and Oriental architecture. Its façade reveals Gothic affinity, its gables show Chinese elements, while the niches topping the walls suggest Javanese influence (reminiscent of the famous Borobudur Temple).
The Paoay Church was dubbed “Earthquake Baroque” because for its fortress-like structure, with 24 massive buttresses designed to withstand the destructive forces of earthquakes. Its thick walls were built of coral stones and bricks and sealed by hard lime mortar, which according to historians, was made by “mixing sand and lime with molasses boiled with mango leaves, leather and rice straw for two nights.” The façade of the church, even as it is beginning to lean towards the front, still manages to be as equally impressive as the buttresses. It is divided vertically by square pilasters that extend from the ground and all the way to the top of the pediment. The façade is also divided horizontally by stringed cornices that extend all the way to the edges. The cornices extend to the sides of the church and wrap each buttress around, adding attention and articulation to the massive side supports. At the apex is a niche, while the otherwise stark plaster finish is embellished with crenellations, niches, rosettes, and the Augustinian coat-of-arms.
As one enters the edifice, the church abruptly relinquishes the powerful strength of the massive buttresses that they discharge at the exterior. Inside, the church has a very solemn, almost sentimental ambiance. The interior looks bare and empty. The ceiling was once painted with a scene similar to that of the Sistine Chapel in Italy. Unfortunately, the original ceiling is no longer in existence today. What is left is a cavernous maze of truss work with exposed and rusting corrugated roof sheets.
A three-story coral stone bell tower stands a few meters away from the church. The bell tower served as a look-out point for Philippine “Katipuneros” during the Philippine revolution against the Spaniards, and again by the Filipino “guerillas” during the Japanese occupation in World War II. The bell tower also served as a status symbol for the locals. The bell would ring more loudly and more times during the wedding of a prominent clan that it would during the wedding of the poor. The panoramic view from the top of the bell tower is simply magnificent. Here you can see the vast expanse of land until it merges with China Sea.
The most enduring impression, perhaps, that any visitor takes with him as he departs from the church, are the poignant memories of a tumultuous yet glorious past of a nation, imbedded among the layers and heaps of huge stones and bricks that make a church.
It’s more fun in the Philippines.