Rediscovering One Of The Country’s Historical Treasures


To pay tribute to the upcoming Lent, which is only three days from now, I was prompted to post about my Visita Iglesia (Church Visits) to two of the most prominent churches and one not-so-known church in two different regions of Luzon. I have the most visited and miraculous church of Our Lady of Manaoag for Region I (Ilocos Region) last January this year. For Region II (Cagayan Valley), I have the equally thaumaturgic church of Our Lady of Piat in the province of Cagayan and the underrated church in the province of Isabela, San Pablo Church, last December.

Visita Iglesia is widely practiced by Catholics in the country. It is an ecumenical bustle on Maundy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the apostles. To date, the used to be one church visit was already extended to fourteen churches to represent and recite the fourteen stations of the cross. Having said that, I only have three literal visits for this theme as mentioned earlier and I will only feature one, the underrated San Pablo Church, for this post.

I used to pity my province, Isabela, for being unpopular when it comes to tourist attractions, and I grew up knowing just a little about our province’s historical significance more so the church’s. I’m not proud of it. Nonetheless, I believe it’s not yet too late for me to take another shot.

One gloomy Friday morning of the 30th day of December last year, my wandering feet zoomed off to San Pablo to rediscover one of the country’s historical treasures. I had been to this place actually when I attended my aunt’s wedding where the ceremony was held right at the church. That was already more than a decade ago. Back then, I know nothing about the church simply because my teachers during grade school, high school, even in college never mentioned it. What’s more saddening is that this church is neglected in the classrooms up to this day.

Hence, on this very day, let these be known…

My gratitude to my hunger to explore places because it taught me to research. I would not have known that there’s a historical treasure right next to my hometown, Cabagan. The antique church standing in the oldest municipality of Isabela, San Pablo, reachable by a fifteen-minute trike drive from our place.

The most historic among the several information I gathered about San Pablo Church is it has served the country for more than 300 years now from sheltering our unsung heroes during war times to impacting the formation of our nation. The most notable of which would be the influence of the clergy on government during the Spanish era and the establishment of Catholicism in the country. That strong influence is still shaking the nation in spite of the separation of the church and state doctrine.

Digging more to what this historical treasure has to brag, I came across the book that was published last 27 March 2008 titled “The Silent Sentinel” (San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan Church Reveals 300 Years of Secret of the Philippines) by an American author, James E. Cleland. Its aim is to divulge the undervalued historical contributions of the church and to propose a restoration project. It can be gleaned from the title just how less known the church is compared to its contemporaries.

Noteworthy additions to this promotion include San Pablo Church is actually a heritage site per the information I got from Heritage Conversation Society of the Philippines; this adobe and stone church is the oldest church in the whole of Isabela and its belfry is the tallest in Cagayan Valley; and its magnificent ruins has already been featured in Cable News Network (CNN) by Dan Rivers when he went here to pursue a typhoon in Cagayan Valley last November 2009.


It pains me though to announce that the church’s imperial facade is the only part most preserved today. Its once elegant interior and walls had already succumbed to the blows of bombings during World War II and natural calamities.

I hope that the local government will stretch more muscles in taking care of this genuine historical treasure. The church’s current state is supplicating for conservation efforts so it can still live not only for the early days but the future.

For more information about San Pablo Church and the province of Isabela, please click these sites: ivanhenares.com and visitmyphilippines.com.

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31 thoughts on “Rediscovering One Of The Country’s Historical Treasures

  1. I always dream of having a house built with materials like those of our historical churches, salamat sa mga pictures! (favorite ko sa mga simbahan natin ay red bricks & yung ginawa mula sa shells and egg yolks)

    btw, Sony, kilala naman ang mga simbahan sa inyo, long travel lang talaga, anyway may pancit Cabagan naman πŸ™‚

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  2. From top to bottom, this a beautiful nod to the San Pablo Church and the province of Isabela. I especially love your bottom black and white shot. So dramatic! Exquisite. I also love the bell tower and statues. Keep us posted on the restoration project. Thanks for sharing! Theadora (I’m now off to read more about the area!)

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  3. Sonnyboy, just a bit of a constructive comment:

    You used “infamous” to describe the church. Actually, the word has a very negative connotation, because it pertains to notoriety, which does not seem to be the case as regards the church. (“infamous” actually has a very different meaning from “not famous”.) I think the word you meant to use is “unknown”.

    Anyway, still a great article. I hope to return to Isabela in the future and visit this church. πŸ™‚

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    • Sir Chito, thank you very much for your “constructive comment”. Believe me, I really appreciate it. You need to know that I immediately edited this post right after reading your comment. Talking about the first thing I did this morning.

      You’re an angel with a kick. πŸ™‚

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    • Yan nalang yung “ok” kasi. Di ko na kasi nagutuhan yung renovation na ginawa sa loob. I don’t mean to assume pero mukhang yung pondong binigay na pang-renovate ay di ginamit sa restoration ng dating itsura nito. Instead, ni-renovate nalang ng basta basta.

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  4. One of the amazing memories I have of the Philippines is the Lent Season. So much faith. So much eagerness to celebrate the passion of Christ. Thanks for sharing a post that shares this beautiful part of the Filipino culture. Love the church images. God bless you and your family. Thanks….

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  5. What an AWESOME post, Sony. I’m glad I had the chance to learn about San Pablo Church, for the record I think it still looks very majestic and beautiful, even now. Great pictures. πŸ™‚

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  6. Looking at these pictures I can imagine the vibrant colors it must have had.
    This church is like nothing I have ever seen, and the age of it – I suppose there
    are others like it in the area? With intact interiors? I’de hate to think it is the only
    example of it’s kind in the world. So interesting to see beliefs and artifacts of a western
    religion so far east, I can see the Spanish influence – like in the old missions here,
    – but they were plain and yellow, I love old buildings. This is really unique. Excellent
    exploring. πŸ™‚

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