Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The Churches of Cebu South

Yasunari Ramon Suarez Taguchi - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Cebu is home to centuries-old churches and heritage sites. This fact is necessarily brought to the fore during the yearly “Visita Iglesia” pilgrimage during the Holy Week.

“Visita Iglesia” is a church tradition that dates back to the days of the Roman Empire. It takes after the original pilgrimage to seven basilicas in Europe that were believed to house the remains of Christian martyrs. The practice has reached the Philippines via the Augustinian missionaries to the Philippine in the mid-1500s, and is traditionally observed on Maundy Thursday.

The south of Cebu has a number of old churches that draws pilgrims during the “Visita Iglesia” every year:

Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church


Elements of Byzantine architecture dominate the façade and overall design of the church.

Designed by Spanish engineer-architect Domingo de Escondrillas, it is distinct from the other churches in the province because of its imposing “from the ground rising up” stance, as opposed to most Spanish-period churches that tend to be wider than their overall height.

Archdiocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary


With a façade adorned by elements of early Gothic and high Renaissance period design, this hilltop church was built by the Augustinians. Fr. Nicolas Lopez led its main construction in 1880, with different parts of the church added-on over the years. It was declared an archdiocesan shrine in 2007.

Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi


Formerly the St. Francis of Assisi Parish, this church was declared an archdiocesan shrine in 2007. Made of coral and limestone and completed in 1852, its construction was spearheaded by Fr. Simon Aguirre in 1839, and parts of the church had undergone major renovations in 1974.

San Isidro Labrador Church

San Fernando

Completed in 1886, this church is famed for its Neo-Cothic architecture, which has been spared from the ravages of World War II.

Spanish engineer and architect Fernando Escondrillas reportedly drew the construction plan of the church in 1870. Part of its notable design, its twin belfries, was added after 1886.

Nuestra Señora del Pilar Church


Characterized by gothic-themed architectural elements, this church was completed in the early 1880s. It is famed for ceiling frescoes depicting various scenes from the Bible – done around 1924, the paintings are the masterful works of the so-called “Michelangelo of Cebu” Raymundo Francia.

Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church

Talaga, Argao

Researchers say that the construction of this parish was spearheaded by Bishop Juan Bautista Gorordo, the first Filipino bishop in Cebu, during the American occupation, in 1921. It is regarded as a daughter parish of the Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel in Argao.

Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Church


Completed sometime in the mid-1790s, this church is the only church in Cebu that’s listed as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. It was constructed by the famous soldier-priest Fr. Julian Bermejo, who, apart from seeing to the construction of different churches in the province, also led the construction of watchtowers from Carcar to Santander. The watchtowers served as a warning system against marauders and raiders.

St. Joseph the Carpenter Parish

Nueva Caceres, Oslob

Historians note that the hailed “El Parroco Capitan” Fr. Julian Bermejo, who served as the parish priest of Boljoon town in the early 1800s, saw to the construction of this church. It is distinct for its modest architectural design, without intricate ornate designs.

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