St. Dominic de Guzman Church, Sto. domingo

Around 30 minutes from the city of Legaspi, in the province of Albay, is a little sleepy town of Sto. Domingo. This is an off-route place when visiting Legaspi as a jump-off point to Donsol, Sorsogon.

An old town is evident from its church. Formerly named “Libog”, which is derived from the “libot” (in the Bicol dialect, the word means “roundabout”), it was created in 1749 as a municipality, Ibalon. In 1959, it was renamed to its patron saint, Saint Dominic of Guzman.

Built in 1820, the Sto. Domingo Church has two dome-shaped belfries, framing the main structure, which is the reason why it’s sometimes referred to as the Twin Belfry Church. It is built from solid squared stone walls unsupported by pillars, held together by a mixture of lime, “tangguli” (molasses) and egg albumin. This is the same binder used in other old churches like the Baclayon Church in Bohol.

The Sto. Domingo Church is complemented by the adjacent Municipal Building (another Spanish era structure), the Plaza Pugad Lawin, and the mausoleum of Potenciano Gregorio, Sr., compositor of “Sarung Banggi”.

It’s one of the most scary churches I’ve been into. The massive structure and the “interesting” nooks and crannies made my spine tingle. It’s a very old church reportedly built using forced labor, with many laborers dying during the construction process. I didn’t know that back then, when I decided to go up the belfry, but that didn’t make the experience less heart-thumping.

Photo by: Rouel

Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church,  Daraga

The Church of Daraga was destroyed during World War II and was renovated in 1971-1973. It’s now in the process of being renovated, with funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

The Church of Daraga, also known as Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church, was established in 1773 by a group of Franciscan Priests. The church was made mostly of volcanic stones and its massive structure with belfry on one side and convent on the other side was built based on a Baroque-Rococo structure with Spanish influence.

The religious people of Cagsawa transferred here after the eruption of Mayon Volcano which has damaged a large portion of the town and left only a few remnants including the Cagsawa Church Ruins.

In 1854, the Daraga Church was then dedicated to the new patron, the Nuestra Señora De La Porteria. The church was then used by the Japanese as their headquarters and was damaged during the second world war in 1945. It was reconstructed in 1971-1973 and they made sure that the unscathed stones still exists and renovated only the damaged areas. In 2007, this four-century Daraga Church was declared as a National Historical Site and the marker as a National Cultural Treasure can be found at the facade. Situated on top of a hill above the bustling town, the Daraga Church is one of the many reasons why tourists flock to the province of Albay.

Photo by: stella-arnaldo

San Juan De Bautista, Tabacco city

The church of San Juan Bautista in Tabaco City is one of the most stately religious structures in the province of Albay. According to the Estado Geografico Estadistico Historico written in 1805 by Father De Huerta, the recorded history of the city began in 1587 through the missionary work of the Franciscan Fathers. A church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the city’s patron saint, was first built in Tabaco in 1616 by Fr. Pedro De Alcareso. The construction of the present church started in 1864 and was completed in 1879. The Tabaco Church is unique among Philippine churches because the stones used to build the church bears the distinct marks of the Masons.

According to local folklore, when the Spanish first arrived in Tabaco, they approached a native and asked the name of the place. The native, who was a jealous father and didn’t understand Spanish, thought they were trying to take his daughter. His response was Tabac Co! Tabac Co! meaning My Bolo! My Bolo! His daughter brought his bolo, but by that time, the Spanish had already assumed he was referring to the name of the place. The recorded history of the city begins with the arrival of the missionary Franciscans 1587.

Photo by: bok2009

San Lorenzo Church, Tiwi Albay

Three hundred and forty-four years ago, Spanish Franciscan friars, 39 years after having established Christianity in Malinao in 1619, planted the Cross on a virginal land near the shore north of Malinao. The land was luxuriant with a gabi-like plant named Tigbi. Hence, the friars called the place Tigbi, which evolved into Tivi and, then, finally to its present name Tiwi.

This place began as a barrio of Malinao before it was formally organized as a politically independent pueblo in 1696. As a pueblo, it was governed by a gobernadorcillo. As a Catholic parish, it was administered by a secular priest under the then Diocese of Nueva Caceres, now an archdiocese. In its primeval stages, it had some 1,105 houses, a parish church, a community-funded primary school, and a cemetery outside the town proper. The villagers ordinarily engaged in fishing, planting rice, corn, sugarcane, indigo, fruit-bearing trees, and vegetables. Aside from agriculture, they also busied themselves weaving cotton and abaca clothes, and in pottery.

Kagnipa, known today as Barangay Baybay, the dilapidated Sinimbahan, the remnant of the first concrete house of worship built by the Franciscans led by the pastor of Malinao, Fray Pedro de Brosas, remains to be the deaf witness of both the villagers’ ready acceptance of the Christian faith and their suffering of persecution at the hands of the Moslems; Christian missionaries called them Moros. The parola by the shore of Sitio Nipa of the same barangay testifies to the people’s paralyzing fear of the Moros’ capricious forays. The market site of the pueblo before these raids was located in the present location of Baybay Elementary School. In order to sidetrack surprise attacks, at least temporarily, the market site was transferred to southernmost part of now Brgy. Baybay; henceforth, it was called Binanwaan.

he transfer, however, was useless. Finally, to have enough time to escape and keep themselves safer from their enemies’ easy attacks, they moved the market site and their settlement to the present poblacion now named as Barangay Tigbi. Before the Moro’s assaults, Brgy. Baybay was then the center of trade and commerce because of its easy accessibility to marine transportation of goods from the islands of what are now known as Catanduanes, San Miguel, Rapu-Rapu, and Batan, not to mention those from adjoining pueblos in the mainland of Ibalon, now the province of Albay, and the Camarines. In the extant records of the municipality, the first chief executive of the municipal government was Don Lorenzo Mancilla installed in 1776.

Photo by: pinoychurches

San Gregorio Magno Cathedral, Legazpi City

Also called the Albay Cathedral, this is the Episcopal Seat of the Diocese of Legazpi. The cathedral started as a lowly wooden chapel built by the early Spanish missionaries in the 1580s. It was extensively damaged during WW2 and was renovated in 1951. Today, the St. Gregory the Great Cathedral is the most prominent landmark in the Old Albay District and is the endpoint of one of the grandest Good Friday processions in the region.


Photo by: Dex Baldon

St. Raphael Church, Legazpi City

Located in the busy Peñaranda Street, in front of Plaza Rizal, in Legazpi City, the St. Raphael Church stands as one of the historical sites found in the province of Albay in the Philippines. Also known as the Church of Legazpi, the St. Raphael Church is probably one of the less antique-looking old churches found in the country. For some, the current church that stands today looks like a modern church without any historical value unless they thoroughly research about it or see the National Historical Marker found on the left side of the facade. In its history, from 1587 to 1616, the spiritual administration of the Church of Legazpi was under the Cagsaua (or Cagsawa), a town where one can see the Cagsawa Ruins which was buried by the Mayon Volcano in 1814.


Photo by: Ariel Chua

St John the Baptist, Camalig albay

The Church of St. John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista) in Camalig is another imposing religious structure in the province of Albay. The church is built entirely out of solid blocks of volcanic rock from Mount Mayon. Christianity was brought to Camalig by Capt. Luis de Guzman together with Father Alonzo Jimenez, an Augustinian priest who came with the Legaspi expedition. Evangelization was started in 1578 by the Augustinian missionaries. When the Augustinians left, the Franciscan Fathers Pablo de Jesus and Bartolome Ruiz continued their work. In 1579, Camalig was formally inaugurated as a town and as a parish. The original poblacion was placed in Binanua-an. The original church and “escuela Catolica” was established in this place in 1605.

The eruption of Mayon Volcano in 1814 devastated parts of Camalig and totaly destroyed the nearby towns of Cagsawa and Budiao. Although the church was unscathed, the eruption prompted the town officials to transfer the church and the town government to the mountains: first, to Palanog, then to Kitapunte and then to Baligang. After a fire razed the new settlement, the town government was restored to the original poblacion and the intact church was reoccupied.

The current edifice of the Camalig Church was built in 1842. Hundreds of stone-cutters worked under the supervision of Spanish priests to construct the church out of solid blocks of lava rock. The church was completed in 1848 and was considered one of the strongest, most massive and most beautiful churches in the entire region.

Affluent residents and families of the town vied with one another in providing the interior of the church with expensive furnishings, be they wood, in glass, in silver, gold, brass or copper, including the altar linens and ceremonial vestments. The people also generously contributed for the bells, except for the biggest one, which was donated by the Franciscan order, together with the Baptismal Font.

Photo by: Simon Listana

Our Lady of the Assumption, Guinobatan

The Parish Church of Guinobatan, Albay is dedicated to Our Lady of Assumption. Guinobatan as a parish started as a visita of the Municipality of Camalig in 1672. By 1678, Don Francisco Bagamasbad, Chief of the ‘Tenientes Absolutos’, spearheaded a petition to the Governor-General of the Philippines to elevate the visita into an independent municipality. This effort achieved fruition in 1688 when the request was granted. Rev. Fr. Alfonso de Zafra was the first minister of the Parish of Guinobatan. Soon after, the first Guinobatan church was built. Through the centuries, the church of Guinobatan often suffered destruction in a series of calamities including the cataclysmic eruptions of Mayon Volcano, strong typhoons and the ravages of the Revolutionary and the Philippine-American Wars. Despite these setbacks, the faithful people of Guinobatan dutifully rebuilt their parish church. Today, the vibrant town of Guinobatan is a first-class municipality. The parish of Guinobatan celebrates its annual fiesta every 15th of August.


Photo by: Sherwin Magayanes

St. Stephen the Protomartyr Church, Ligao

The Parish church of St. Stephen Protomartyr in Ligao is a prominent landmark in the city frequented by pilgrims and tourists. The city of Ligao traces its history from the 16th century when a small settlement known as Cavasi existed without a ruler or leader. Every resident was peaceful in his endeavor. This trait enabled the settlement to grow and even attracted other natives from nearby settlements. Along with increasing population, ambitious and aggressive leaders emerged causing friction and creating factions endangering the general peace in the settlement. Five divisions were formed led by maginoos (chieftains): Pagkilatan, Maaban, Sanpongan, Makabongay and Hokoman. Chieftain Hokoman considered himself the supreme leader over the whole settlement. Even then, rivalry and strife persisted and the once peaceful inhabitants lived in constant fear. According to accounts by Father Felix de Huerta, a Spanish Corporal endowed with the ability to settle jurisdictional disputes mediated among the ruling Maginoos. With the approval of the other chieftains, Pagkilatan was chosen the Supreme Chieftain over the entire settlement and peace and tranquility returned to the place. The town was founded as a barrio of Polangui in 1606, was ceded to Oas in 1665, and finally became an independent municipality in 1666. Since then, the once minor settlement called Cavasi prospered economically, socially and politically.


Photo by: Shubert Ciencia

St. Michael the Archangel Church, Oas

The St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church in Oas was founded in 1605 by Franciscan missionaries. Fray Marcos de Lisboa was its first pastor. The first Oas church was made of wood and cogon grass. In 1825, a bigger church with a rectory was built out of volcanic rocks and bricks. The construction of the new church was supervised by Fray Francisco de Anunciacion O. Peñaranda.

P. Fray Marcos de Lisboa compiled “Vocabulario de la Lengua Bicol”, the first Bicol Dictionary published posthumously in Sampaloc, 1754, from his manuscript. He resided in the Bikol region for nine years from 1602 to 1611 and was “Definidor y Ministro” of the town of Nabua (1602), administrator of the town of Oas (1605), and Vicario Provincial of the Province of Camarines (1609-1611).

The first structural foundation of the church was made of wood and cogon grass. In 1866, the church and the rectory was damaged in a fire. Later that same year, the church was rebuilt under the supervision of Fray Francisco de Aragones. A transept was added to the church by Fray Santos Herrijon who served as pastor from 1873 to 1878. In 1884, a strong earthquake and a subsequent typhoon demolished the church and the rectory.

Another strong typhoon in 1947 damaged the church and it had to be rebuilt. Fr. Luis Dimarumba spearheaded efforts to repair the church edifice. In 1997, under the dynamic leadership of Msgr. Rolando Diokno, the Oaseños finally realized their dream of coming together for worship in a beautifully renovated church. On May 8, 1997, the fiesta of the patron saint was celebrated with the blessing and inauguration of the renovated church building.

Traditionally, Oas celebrates its town fiesta on May 8, but the parish observes another feast on September 29 according to the church calendar. On this day, the newly established Himoloan festival is held, showcasing the religious traditions of Oas and the spirit of oneness and Alay Kapwa – aid to the neighbor in need.

Photo by: Arnel Constantino

St. Peter and Paul Church, Polangui

Polangui traces its roots in 1584 when a Spanish friar, Baltazar de la Magdalena founded it shortly after the landing of the Spaniards in the remote part of Pantao in Libon, a neighboring municipality. The 10-year construction of the parish church began in 1654 by Fr. Juan Bautista. Camilo Jacob, a photographer and resident of Polangui, was executed along with other Bicolanos in January 1897. A year later, the “Guardia Civil” in Naga City led by Don Elias Angeles mutinied against Spaniards. This ended the Spanish rule in the Bicol Region.


Photo by: Shubert Ciencia

St. Rose of Lima Church, Bacacay

Bacacay was found in 1649 as a barrio of Tabaco. By 1660, the barrio became independent and developed into a town or poblacion. It occupies the rolling terrain of the eastern slope of Mt. Mayon, descending to the low lands facing the open sea, Pacific Ocean. Under the watchful eyes and guidance of the beautiful St. Rose of Lima and the Lady of the Abandoned, the parish came into its spiritual being..

Legend has it that the name of the town was derived from “BAGACAY” a bamboo specie. It was said that the plant, “Bagacay” thrived luxuriantly in the place where Bacacay is right now. When a group of Spanish conquistadores arrived to survey the land, the leader inquired the natives as to what the name of the place is. The natives thought that they were asking about the plant, as such they replied, “Bagacay”. Thus, the Spaniards started to call the area, “Bagacay” after hearing the reply of the natives, and over time it became “Bacacay”.

The poblacion was once a small settlement of Negrito farmers and fishermen, clustered along the coast of what is now only a small sitio in the Barrio of Pili that still retains the name, Bacacay. The increasing number of inhabitants spread out inland in search for more land till they reached the plains of San Pedro, which eventually became the first seat of Bacacay. Traces of old ruins are still alive to testify to the glory of San Pedro as the town seat. Descendants of the old negrito population may still be seen in Magsagisim, a sitio in the barrio of Manaet and in the barrio of San Pablo.

329 years passed before civil and political structures were introduced in the town. It was 1807 when the town gained a town captain, Don Justo del Rosario. The last town captain of Bacacay was Mariano Penaloza who served from 1895 to 1898.

Photo by: Jessy Lim

Our Lady of Salvation Shrine, Joroan, Tiwi

Joroan and Nuestra Señora de Salvacion are inseparable. When we speak of Joroan, we speak of Nuesta Señora de Salvacion because the recorded history of the former is intertwined in the traditions of the Blessed Virgin. In fact, Joroan was known in Bicol because of her image and title as Nuestra Señora de Salvacion.

It was a very simple man by the name of Mariano Dacoba who brought to life the Our Lady of Salvation in Joroan in circa 1700. He was a salt maker by profession and a caretaker of the property of a wealthy Buhinon named Don Silverio Arcilla.

It all began on a certain day when Dacoba was clearing the land which he was tilling. He cut a calpe tree, which is good for use as firewood or post. However, he was amazed because despite the many hours that passed by, the tree remained as fresh as it was before; its leaves did not wilt “Milagro!” he said to himself. He informed his landlord about it. That landlord was Don Arcilla who then consulted the pastor of Buhi of what could be done with it. The friar pastor of Buhi summoned as sculptor named Bagacumba. Out of the tree, he was able to carve three statuettes-Nuestra Señora de Salvacion, San Antonio de Padua, and Nuestra Señora de Solidad—now in Brgy. Joroan of Tiwi, and in the poblacion and Brgy. Tambo both of Buhi, respectively.

In the meantime, a dispute arose between Camarines and Albay as to which province Joroan really belongs. This happened when Jose Maria Peñaranda was the judge in Albay still of the Spanish regime. A political survey was conducted with Capitan Vicente Vera as the leader. Since Capitan Vicente Vera knew his jurisdiction, he was quick in pointing out the landmark—clear proof that Joroan belongs to Albay. Having won the case, Capitan Vera took charge of Joroan and the image of Our Lady as well.

It was a divine plan that the Blessed Virgin be known, love and venerated as Nuestra Señora de Salvacion in Joroan, Tiwi, Albay. The present Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi, Msgr. Jose C. Sorra, D.D., traces back the beginning of devotion to Our Lady in Joroan in the year 1776.

Photo by: Dex Baldon

Copyright © 2017 | Cynthia L. Perdiz

Page last updated: October 12, 2017