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Paoay Church

Coordinates: 18°3′41.5″N 120°31′17.5″E / 18.061528°N 120.521528°E / 18.061528; 120.521528
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Paoay Church
  • San Agustin Church of Paoay
  • Iglesia de San Agustín de Paoay (Spanish)
The church in 2022
18°3′41.5″N 120°31′17.5″E / 18.061528°N 120.521528°E / 18.061528; 120.521528
LocationPaoay, Ilocos Norte
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusParish church
Founder(s)Padre Antonio Estavillo
DedicationSaint Augustine of Hippo
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationNational Cultural Treasure, World Heritage Site
Designated1973, 1993
Architect(s)Padre Antonio Estavillo
Architectural typeChurch building
StyleEarthquake Baroque
Length110 metres (360 ft)
Width40 metres (130 ft)
Number of towers1
Number of spires15
MaterialsCoral stone and bricks
ProvinceNueva Segovia
Official nameChurch of San Agustin (Paoay)
Part ofBaroque Churches of the Philippines
CriteriaCultural: (ii)(iv)
Inscription1993 (17th Session)
National Historical Landmarks
Official nameChurch of Paoay
TypeNational Historical Landmark
Designated2 May 1980; 44 years ago (1980-05-02)
Reference no.No. 260, s. 1973

The Saint Augustine Church (Spanish: Iglesia de San Agustín de Paoay), commonly known as the Paoay Church, is a Roman Catholic church in the municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. It is declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993.



The earliest historical record of the area dates back to 1593, becoming an independent Augustinian parish in 1686.[1] Building of the present church was started in 1694 by Augustinian friar Father Antonio Estavillo, completed in 1710 and rededicated in 1896.[2][3] Some portions of the church was damaged in the 1865 and 1885 earthquakes but was later restored under the initiative of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.[4]



Several projects for the restoration of Paoay Church were sought by government and non-government organizations due to possible question on its structural integrity. The local government of Ilocos Norte through resolution is seeking the reconstruction of the church's convent presently in ruins and retrofitting of the church.[2][5]

Restoration of the church's buttresses, walls, tower, and interior was announced in 2018.[6] Conservation of the church's exteriors was begun by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in the second quarter of 2019 and completed in June 2020. Work focused on the historic stone masonry walls and buttresses. Vegetation was removed from the exteriors to prevent stone erosion and lime grout loss. Major structural repair was done on the stairway of the bell tower. The entire roof system was also rehabilitated.[7]

The restored structure was turned over to the Laoag diocese in November 2020, and was reopened on November 15 of that year.[8]



Paoay church is the Philippines' primary example of a Spanish colonial earthquake baroque architecture dubbed by Alicia Coseteng,[3] an interpretation of the European Baroque adapted to the seismic condition of the country through the use of enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building.[2] The adaptive reuse of baroque style against earthquake is developed since many destructive earthquakes destroyed earlier churches in the country. Javanese architecture reminiscent of Borobudur of Java can also be seen on the church walls and façade.[2]



The most striking feature of Paoay Church is the 24 huge buttresses[9] of about 1.67 metres (5.5 ft)[4] thick at the sides and back of the church building. Extending from the exterior walls, it was conceived to a solution to possible destruction of the building due to earthquakes. Its stair-like buttresses (known as step buttresses) at the sides of the church is possibly for easy access of the roof.[3]



Its walls are made of large coral stones on the lower part and bricks at the upper levels.[3] The mortar used in the church includes sand and lime with sugarcane juice boiled with mango leaves, leather and rice straw.[3] Its walls suggests Javanese architectural styles.[10]



The stone façade appear as massive pediment rising from the ground and is built leaning towards the front. Square pilasters and stringed cornices divide the façade vertically and horizontally respectively. Its bottom part is plain. Gothic features are also present through the use of finials while the triangular pediment shows Chinese elements and Oriental strokes.[9][11] Crenellations, niches, rosettes and the Augustinian coat of arms can also be seen.[3] The façade is made of brick on the lower level and coral stones on the upper level.[12]

Bell tower


Adjacent to the façade is a three-storey coral bell tower constructed separately from the church building on the right side resembling a pagoda.[3][11] It was in 1793 when the cornerstone of the bell tower was laid.[4] It stands at some distance from the church as a protection against earthquake.[12] It served as observational post for Filipino revolutionaries against the Spaniards in 1898 and by Filipino guerrillas against Japanese soldiers during World War II.[9][13] According to historians, the bell tower also served as a status symbol for the locals. It is said that 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.[14]



Church PHC historical marker

By virtue of Presidential Decree No. 260, Paoay Church was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973.[15] The church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with San Agustin Church in Manila; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church in Miagao, Iloilo on December 11, 1993.[12]


The church was featured in a scene in the 1993 romance film Saan Ka Man Naroroon, which was shot in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

See also



  1. ^ "Heritage Conservation Society. "Paoay Church"". July 27, 2006. Archived from the original on September 11, 2022. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Lazaro, Freddie (June 28, 2014). "Retrofitting of Paoay church sought". Manila Bulletin. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Gaspar, Roger (1996). "Earthquake Baroque: Paoay Church in the Ilocos". Archived from the original on November 2, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Bagaforo, Nelson (April 20, 2011). "Historic churches of Ilocos Norte". Sun.Star. Archived from the original on October 14, 2014. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  5. ^ "Restoration of Paoay church pushed". The Philippine Star. June 23, 2014. Archived from the original on June 25, 2022. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  6. ^ Adriano, Leilanie (December 11, 2018). "NHCP to restore historic Paoay Church, Bacarra Tower in Ilocos". Philippine News Agency. Archived from the original on August 6, 2022. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  7. ^ Magcamit, Yann (June 22, 2020). "This UNESCO heritage site just got restored, and now you can visit it via video". Nolisoli. Archived from the original on June 15, 2022.
  8. ^ Tabios, Hanah (November 19, 2020). "NHCP delivers restored heritage icons to Ilocos Norte". Manila Bulletin. Archived from the original on December 2, 2020. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c Aquino, Mike (May 15, 2013). "Touring the oldest churches in the Philippines". Yahoo News Philippines. Archived from the original on November 8, 2021. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  10. ^ "The Paoay Church: Ilocos Norte, Philippines". digitaljournal.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Villalon, Augusto. "16th to 19th Century Church Architecture in the Philippines". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Archived from the original on April 28, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  12. ^ a b c "Baroque Churches of the Philippines". UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archived from the original on September 1, 2022. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  13. ^ "Paoay church in Ilocos to get facelift". Balita.ph. March 16, 2011. Archived from the original on January 1, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2014.
  14. ^ "St. Augustine Church in Paoay". vigattintourism.com. Archived from the original on October 15, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  15. ^ "Presidential Decree No. 260 August 1, 1973". The Lawphil Project. Arellano Law Foundation. Archived from the original on June 21, 2022. Retrieved September 5, 2014.