Before I move on to another region, I need to take time to make sure I have covered the majority of Region I. This very important landmark is one of the significant entry I have missed out.
I'm sure I will still add more as this project moves forward, especially with Metro Manila, but this is a work in progress, suggestions and comments are deeply appreciated.
|68. The Asunta Parish Church (Sta Maria Church)
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The Sta. Maria Church in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segivia in the Province of Ilocos Sur is the most magnificiently located of all the churches in Ilocandia. Perched strategically on top of a hill, it provides a panoramic view from which one can enjoy and survey the most delightful sight for miles whether looking at the blue China sea or into the verdant paddy fields of the valley, the surrounding seven hills, the coastal plains of the town, and Cordillera mountain ranges. It is approached by three broad stairways – one from the eastern side where lies a now abandoned cemetery with a quaint chapel, another from the southwest side at the back of the church and the main stairway with 83 steps from the northwest side.
The church façade itself is not too impressive, being blocked from view by the convent. It has three openings and one blind niche. But its rose-tinted stonework is worth a second look. So are the Moorish floral an foliate designs around the recesses. The recessed arched entrance is flanked by a pair of rectangular pier framed by heavy circular buttresses that end up in urn-like finials. The svelte octagonal bell tower nearby seems a stark contrast to the church’s simple and massive structure. The church measures 75.15 m. long (90 varas) and 14.19 m. wide (17 varas). The bells arrived in 1811.
The parish was established in 25 April 1765 with the first baptismal record signed in 1767. it served as a station of the Augustinian missionaries in 1822 on their way to evangelize Abra. The first parish priest was Fray Jose Cuadrado, OSA. The original Ermita of the small village once known simply as Purok was in the sitio of Bulbulala in Barangay Maynganay Norte. It started as visita of Narvacan. As the community grew, a twin chapel was built at the center of the town in the present Poblacion. This if the rarity in Philippine colonial architecture. The southern chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the northern chapel was dedicated to Senor Sto. Kristo. These chapels were located just at the foot of the hill where the present church was built which replicated both in the bigger scale. The construction of the church begun in 1810 apparently in the obeisance to the wishes of the Blessed Virgin Mary whose image, dating back to 1769, would periodically be found there at the foot of a large guava tree growing right at the spot where the main altar now stands. This God fearing community deemed it wise to follow the heavenly hint and transferred the church on top of the hill where it now dominates the surrounding countryside like fortress with brick buttresses and thick ramparts. The fortification and cemetery was the work of Fray Lorenzo Rodriguez, OSA, in 1863. Fray Benigno Fernandez, OSA, built the convent in 1880. on this shrine, the Virgin Mary serves as a perennial beacon and guide to her children in the Ilocos where she is known not only as Apo Asunta or Asuncion but also as Apo Caridad, Apo Esperanza, Apo Carmen, Apo Rosario and La Immaculada Concepcion.
The statue of Apo Baket is made of wood in ornate sculptural style with ivory face and hands. It is 112 centimeters tall. Her hands are extended wide and her head is looking upward portraying her assumption into heaven. Her blue cape is decorated with silver floral designs and her white dress is embroidered with gold thread motif. She stands on a pedestal of cloud surrounded by angels’ heads. This image with her bejeweled dress was kept in an elaborate carved wooden chest believed to have used for cargo in galleon ship. Her feast day is August 15.The entire church site was designated as a National Historical Landmark in 26 September 1982 and included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List in 11 December 1993 together with three other churches as a classical example of Philippine earthquake baroque architecture and this Ilocano town’s contribution to global art and culture.