The first thing that struck my fancy during my visit to Iloilo City was the old brick tower that juts out of the rooftop jumble of the metro. I marked it on my map as we passed by and said to myself that this is where I would begin exploring.
After we met with my aunt, I immediately took out my camera, slung my backpack and walked my way through the streets of Iloilo. It was a blistering fifteen-minute noontime walk to the tower and I was surprised to find, upon arriving, that it was actually the belfry of the Jaro Cathedral which sits right across the street.
Formally named as the Parish of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Jaro Cathedral is the seat for the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jaro.
The church was built in 1874 under Archbishop Mariano Cuartero, was damaged by an earthquake in 1948, and was reconstructed in 1956.
According to the historical marker on its wall, this was where Graciano Lopez Jaena of the La Solaridad fame was baptized. It’s a no-brainer then why the park right across the church was named after the Filipino hero.
Jaro Cathedral dons a Romanesque revival style of architecture as evident on its round arches, semi-circular arches on windows, and belt courses on its wall. The towers that were added on both sides of the church however look quite out of place with the main facade of the structure. I wish they could have just copied the old material used to retain that old church look.
Directly above the Jaro Cathedral’s entrance is its attraction, the statue of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria (Lady of the Candles). The 400-year old statue is said to be miraculous and is growing as years go by.
It is the only statue in the country to be crowned by a Pope, and by none other than John Paul II in his first visit to the Philippines.
Every February, one of the biggest festivals in Iloilo, the Feast of Our Lady of Candles is celebrated in reverence to the icon.
Inside Jaro Cathedral, a procession of male saints line the hall, in contrast to Molo Church where only female saints are exhibited. I was however, unable to enter the church’s nave, as access was then limited to the vestibule where a massive and very impressive painting of Moses’ exodus through the Red Sea greets visitors as they enter.
I’m actually unsure why the main part of Jaro Cathedral was barred off and I couldn’t find anyone to ask about it. As my time in Iloilo was quite limited, I made do with what was available then. So I took my photos, made my notes and finally took off and boarded a jeep to downtown to check out another church in the area, Iloilo City’s San Jose Church.