Where are we going, again?
I just woke up from an overnight bus ride from Manila to Isabela; the sun rising from the tree-lined horizon, filtering through the curtains of our bus window. My behind hurt from the long ride and still, I have no idea where we were going.
Some minutes later and we were hauling our backpacks down the bus. We crossed the empty highway and headed down a deserted street. Seriously, where are we going?!
|THE TIERED “WEDDING CAKE” BELFRY OF TUMAUINI CHURCH|
It was my first time in the province of Isabela and I don’t have an iota of a clue what the province holds. Well, I know they have a mean noodle dish eponymously named after one of its many towns, pancit Cabagan, but that’s about it.
Soon enough, after passing more than a few sleeping dogs and sari-sari stores starting to open, an enormous wedding cake rose into view.
Wait, it’s not a cake, it’s a bell tower! Welcome to Tumauini’s San Matias Church.
|UNPLASTERED BRICK WALLS OF TUMAUNI CHURCH|
Tumauini Church is Isabela’s pride and glory when it comes to Spanish colonial churches. It is hailed as one of the most unique churches during that era.
Designed in the Baroque style of architecture, it has made it to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List last 2006; listing it as an addition to the current four Baroque Churches list of the Philippines. The current ones are Manila’s San Agustin Church, Iloilo’s Miag-Ao Church, Paoay’s San Agustin Church and Ilocos Sur’s Santa Maria Church.
Besides that, it is also listed as a National Cultural Treasure and a National Historical Landmark.
|BRICK DETAILS OF ISABELA’S TUMAUINI CHURCH ~ PHOTO BY BLISSFULGURO|
Constructed from 1707 to 1805 by three succeeding Dominican priests, Tumauini Church is mostly made from bricks. Its designs are so intricate that artisans all the way from Pampanga were hired to carve the moldings for its clay inset.
|NUMBERED BRICK LAYOUT ~ PHOTO BY BLISSFULGURO|
And even with the passage of time, one can still see how painstaking the work was. If you look closely through its facade, you can clearly see that most of the bricks have numbers in them, indicating where each would be set as construction progresses.
|THE MAIN ALTAR OF TUMAUINI CHURCH|
Its brick assembly continuous all the way through the church’s interiors. And one can easily glean from the patina of its walls how old this church is.
|DARK AND MOODY INTERIORS|
And this church is old. It really shows, all the way from its tiles, to its walls, up to its ceiling. I have seen my share of Spanish-era churches in the country, and Tamauni Church probably has the moodiest interior I have laid eyes upon.
While taking photos of its interior, our reverie was interrupted by a funeral service. We paused and took a seat, observing the rites in full Ilocano dialect. I didn’t understand a single word, but it was quite a solemn affair.
|ISABELA’S PRIDE, TUMAUINI CHURCH|
Exiting through its arched door, I once again looked up and admired its cylindrical belfry, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. Its confectionary-like decors wrapping like garlands around its body, its white plaster finish contrasting wildly with its fiery brick decors. And indeed, no matter how I look at it, no matter what angle, it does look like a wedding cake.
Address: San Matias Parish, Barangay Annafunan,
GPS Coordinates Map: 17°16'31.4"N 121°48'25.6"E