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Title: The Baroque Church of Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur
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Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur September 12, 2010 I often passed by Santa Maria when I go up north of the Philippines to Ilocandia Region in Vi...
Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur
September 12, 2010

I often passed by Santa Maria when I go up north of the Philippines to Ilocandia Region in Vigan City or Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. I always wonders what Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur has to offer me and that I wanted to discover it. It was only yesterday that I went to this place. I stopped at their Municipal Hall which stands right beside the national highway, the building is newly constructed as I can see, they have the Rizal Park and their Auditorium in front of the municipal hall, good for all occasions.

After few walks from the town hall I see a unique and different kind of stairs - concrete stoned stairs going to atop on a knoll and see the part of the bell tower and the church. I wonder how many steps I could do upon reaching the top of the knoll. Then I came to realized that I am making my way to the top which stands one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Baroque Churches of the Philippines - the La Asuncion de la Ñuestra Señora Church or otherwise known as the Santa Maria Church and Convent.

We went together with my friends in an extremely hot temperature (noontime) but as I go on making my steps towards the church it fascinate me that much - the unique architectural design of the tower and the side of the church (buttress) with an sculpted Our Lady of Assumption. It’s hot and I was perspiring a lot but a nice cool air come rushing to my face and brushing up my hair that tingles me with a desires to reach the church and rest under cool shady of an umbrella tree, mango tree, calachuci tree and fig tree. It has 82 steps so better have your bottled water ready for those who haven't exercise for a long time.

Flashback with a little chunk of history, the Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion was built in 1765 under the direction of the Agustinian order, the ensemble resembles a citadel sited on the crest of a solitary hill rising above one side of the Santa Maria town plaza. The architectural ensemble presents its side and detached pagoda-like bell tower rather than its façade to the town. Thick contrafuetes (buttresses) are attached to the walls, reinforcing the structure against earthquake damage (like the buttresses in Paoay Church, Paoay, Ilocos Norte). The bell tower is constructed a distance away, protecting the main church structure from possible earthquake damage. Approached on foot by ascending a long, wide flight of piedra china, steps that rising from the edge of the town plaza, the small, cramped plaza at the top of the steps is bounded by the church façade that faces the convento, enclosed by an arcaded bridge that connects both structures.

In addition, the leaning bell tower of Santa Maria calls attention not much of its unusual location as for its proportion and hexagonal form ( which is a sight in the church surroundings). All four tiers are hexagonal and scaled in size as the tower rises making it as one of the uniformly-shaped better proportioned towers in the Ilocos. Blank walls are arranged alternately with open windows. Other decorative devices, like single pilasters, finials and balustrades indicate that this form is of later vintage.

Partly blocking the frontal view of the façade of Santa Maria Church is the convent. It is accessible from the Church by a structural bridge built over what might have been a deep channel or ditch. In the early days of the colonization, the convent was the seat of the ecclesiastical administration besides serving as a “home or retreat house of the silvery haired or aged ministers of God upon their retirements or after coming from their arduous and hazardous evangelical labors in the hinterlands.

Far to the left, passing the façade of the church a cemetery abandoned and evergreen with brush and weeds lies at the foot of the hill and connected with the church by an old and worn-out but impressive stairway now unused and all in ruins. It is perhaps the limitation of the space on top of the hill that brought about the constricted layout and construction of the Santa Maria Church.

The Our Lady of Assumption or La Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion at the side of the church was recently added and not included in the original date structure of the church. A beautiful wall sculptured painted with color that symbolizes Santa Maria the most beautiful, pretty and attractive. And as time goes by, the town came up with a tag line that goes Santa Maria a Nalibnos and that conduits to their town!

When we are at the church we made new friends from foreign land particularly France, they were just as much as amaze as we are the beauty and unique architectural design of the church and the environment.

Then my friends are starving to death, I ate my breakfast at around 8:20 in the morning so I don’t feel like eating my lunch. We then went to the newly relocated public market just a few meters away from the church riding a tricycle for about Php20.00 at the expense. The market is not as usual luxury market but trying to improve how to deliver the basic commodities of the town to its constituents. You can pass the old Spanish bridge if one goes to the newly relocated public market of Santa Maria. You can see the bulkiness of sidings and a solid rock foundation as you can pass the bridge.

I heard that Santa Maria offers a real unique taste of halo-halo (from Tagalog word halò, "mix") a popular Filipino dessert that is a mixture of shaved ice and milk to which are added various boiled sweet beans and fruits, and served cold in a tall glass or bowl. Halo-halo comes in variety according to the geographical locations that makes it different from places to places in the Philippines. I did not missed any by a chance to eat halo-halo so I eventually ate. So refreshing!!! I even forgot to ask the vendor what makes it different from other halo-halo.

Number of steps taken = 82 steps x 2 = 164 steps

Number of photos taken = 100+

Number halo-halo eaten = 1 glass

Number of hour bus ride from Vigan City = 1 hour/Php 40.00 x 2 = 2 hours/Php 80.00

Picture at the left a proof that I've been to this place. Come and see it for yourself.

There are among other tourism destinations in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur of which we didn't go like trekking to Pinsal Falls and the stretch of Santa Maria beaches along the coastal area of four barangays Nalvo, Suso, Lingsat and Bia-o.

Pinsal Falls - Brgy. Baballasioan

Pinsal Falls can be reached in 45 minutes by any vehicular transportation from the Municipal Hall of Santa Maria. This is the biggest waterfall in the Ilocos Region as the eastern branch of the Santa Maria. It drops from a height of some 85 feet to a narrow gorge below many miles away from the South China Sea. It is considered as the most picturesque waterfalls and considered the pride of Santa Maria.

Municipal Hall

Rizal Park

Located in front of the newly constructed Municipal Hall.

Asuncion de Sta. Maria Kiosk

Found at the northwestern part of the Catholic Church compound, beside the National Highway.

Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King Convent - Sta. Maria Church Compound.

Old Spanish Bridge - Brgy. Baliw Daya

Santa Maria Beaches - Brgys. Suso, Nalvo, Lingsat & Bia-o


Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur is accessible through land transportation from Metropolitan Manila, taking approximately 7 hours ride by Partas Bus most reliable forms of transport to Ilocos Sur from Manila as well as Dominion, Maria De Leon, Florida, Viron Transit, Fariñas, Aniceto Bus and RCJ Bus Lines which plies Manila-Vigan route regularly. Fare directly to Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur from Manila cost around Php 400.00 to Php 500.00.

Santa Maria google map

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Ed said... September 27, 2010 at 8:14 PM

Ilocos is one of the places I've been planning on. Probably next year siguro.

thanks for dropping by my blog! :D

pusang kalye said... October 7, 2010 at 2:41 AM

when I saw your blog---I suddenly felt that I am just a homebuddy. hahaha.nice

dong ho said... October 8, 2010 at 6:30 AM

definitely one of the beautiful churches in ilocos.

th3 qu3st b0i said... October 21, 2010 at 9:04 AM

@ Ed,Ilocos is a mystical place, it's calm and relaxing ambiance plus the hospitality of the people that is nothing in should see the place.

th3 qu3st b0i said... October 21, 2010 at 9:06 AM

@pusang kalye, i saw your blog too it gives me inspiration, thanks for dropping by my blog.

th3 qu3st b0i said... October 21, 2010 at 9:07 AM

@dong ho, yes indeed, Santa Maria Church is one of the beautiful churches of the North, besides of being a UNESCO heritage site.

reagan ordonez said... March 24, 2011 at 8:23 AM

dyan ako ipinangank so improud to be an sta.marians

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