I knew that Ilocos had a lot of old churches but had no idea where and what they were, except probably for Paoay Church.
First stop of our tour was the town of Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur. We parked in the grounds of the town hall and walked towards the Iglesia de Nuesta Señora de la Asuncion or Simbahan iti Asunta in Ilokano or what is more commonly known as the Sta. Maria Church. I was surprised to see that the Church was actually built on top of the hill overlooking the town, which meant we had to climb all the way up the grand staircase. There were a lot of people in the area. A marching band was coming down the steps as we were about to go up. Then we realized there was a funeral… and the people were coming out of the church to join the procession. We had to wait a while for the crowd to thin out.
82 steps! I hope I counted right.
Upon reaching the top of the steps, there were still more people. Apparently, they waiting for the other coffin to be carried out of the church door. It gave us enough time to catch our breath.
Built sometime in 1765 by the Augustinian Friars, the Santa Maria Church was designated as a National Historical Landmark on Sept. 26, 1982 and included in the World Heritage List on December 11,1993. It is grouped together with three other churches under the category of “Baroque Churches in the Philippines” — San Agustin Church, Miagao Church, and the Paoay Church. The facade of Sta. Maria Church somehow looked bare. But the reddish exterior of the exposed brickwork made it attractive and charming. It may still pale in comparison with the other Baroque churches that have more intricate design… though the 360 degree view of the town while standing in the church grounds makes up it.
An octagonal bell tower is located a few feet away from church itself. During major earthquakes, tall bell towers usually are the first to topple down. Building it separate from the church would minimise the risk and damage to the church structure.
I’m always struggling with photographing churches or architectural landmarks. I don’t know what angle or detail I should emphasize. What often fascinates me with this kind of structures are stained windows and glass, the interplay of lights and shadows. It feels awkward to be walking around inside the church taking photos. There’s that sense of solemnity that I feel I am intruding.