Albay Churches to Visit for Seasonal Pilgrimages

Churches of Albay, Philippines - Part One

 

 

Albay Churches – Tiwi to Legazpi

Part One of Albay Churches to Visit for Seasonal Pilgrimages – Tiwi to Legazpi

About Christmas in the Philippines Simbang Gabi

The Philippines has the longest liturgical Christmas season in the world starting on 16th December and ending with the Feast of the Holy Child or the Santo Nino in mid January. And come to think of it, if we speak of the commercial sense, Christmas in the Philippines starts with the “Ber” months on the 1st September and in reality never ends!

Filipinos (who can wake up very very early) will head to the churches to attend the Simbang Gabi mass at 03:00. Simbáng Gabi (Filipino for “Night Mass”) is a devotional nine-day series of Masses practiced by Roman Catholics and Aglipayans in the Philippines in anticipation of Christmas and to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Simbang Gabi originated in the early days of Spanish rule over the Philippines as a practical compromise for farmers, who began work before sunrise to avoid the noonday heat out in the fields. It began in 1669. Priests began to say Mass in the early mornings instead of the evening novenas more common in the rest of the Hispanic world. This cherished Christmas custom eventually became a distinct feature of Philippine culture and became a symbol of sharing.

After Mass, Filipinos buy and eat holiday delicacies sold in the churchyard for breakfast. Bibingka, (rice cakes cooked above and below) and puto bumbong (steamed purple rice pastries, seasoned with butter, grated coconut, and brown sugar) are popular, often paired with tsokolate (hot chocolate from local cacao) or salabát (ginger tea).

The Simbang Gabi is truly Filipino Catholic. Non Roman churches have also adopted the practice. The Methodists and United Churches have nine days of dawn services. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) also known as Aglipayan Church which has its origins in the Roman Catholic Church has preserved the tradition with their own Aglipayan Simbang Gabi.

Misa del Gallo (Spanish for “rooster’s mass”, also Misa de los Pastores, “shepherd’s mass;” ) is a name for the Mass celebrated around midnight of Christmas Eve and sometimes in the days immediately preceding Christmas.

If you happen to be in the Bicol Province of Albay, here are some suggestions for a Simbang Gabi of Albays Churches for you in a two part series. I have divided the Simbang Gabi tour into two easy parts, so you have a choice, to make travel between churches very easy. You could even complete one half at Christmas and the other at Easter for your Albay Visita Iglesia.

Simbang Gabi Albay Part One, will take you from Joroan to Tiwi, Malinao and down to Tabaco. From Tabaco you head out to Bacacay, Malilipot and Santo Domingo before entering Legazpi to complete this first half of Albays Simbang Gabi circuit.

Completing the Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo is on nearly everyone’s bucket list. Is it on Yours?

Read Part Two of Albay Churches to Visit for Seasonal Pilgrimages – Visita Iglesia Albay HERE

Joroan Church, Albay, Philippines

​Lady of Salvation Church, Joroan, Albay, Philippines

Our Lady of Salvation (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Salvación), Albay, Bicol is also known as Our Lady of Light, is a special title attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Co-Redemptrix of mankind.

The Marian devotion to the Lady of Salvation in Bicol is based on a wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin originally from the barangay of Joroan in Tiwi. The many miracles attributed to the image led to the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion Church being declared a holy pilgrimage site.

Much of the history about the statue of the Lady of Salvation and the Marian devotion centered on it rely heavily on the written accounts, based on existing traditions, of the first parish priest of Joroan, Fr. Lamberto S. Fulay (1919–1935), in his booklet “An Kasaysayan Kan Ladawan Ni Birhen de Salvacion sa Horoan, Tiwi, Albay.”

According to the written accounts of Fulay, a certain haciendero named Don Silverio Arcilla assigned a tenant called Mariano Dakuba in one of his vast estates in Joroan (formerly known as Kagnipa) in the 1770s.

Three images

While the tenant was clearing parts of the hacienda at a certain day, he chopped off a big Calpi tree. Although already severed in the base for a period of time, the leaves did not wilt and maintained its life and freshness.

A sculptor named Bagacumba was commissioned to have an image carved from the Calpi trunk. A total of three images were produced: Our Lady of Salvation, Our Lady of Solitude, and St. Anthony of Padua.

On August 25, 1776, the image of the Lady of Salvation was lent to Joroan with the condition that the residents construct a chapel at the center of the barrio. The people of Joroan donated money from their own pockets to construct a chapel that would become the Virgin’s home.

Joroan, according to Fulay, was a common target of Muslim marauders due to its proximity to the sea. In an event of an attack, the residents of the barrio would flock to the image of the Lady of Salvation and offer their prayers to the Blessed Virgin for protection.

Miraculous incidents

It is said that every time the Muslims attacked Joroan and attempted to burn their houses, the torch would not ignite. This phenomenon, according to tradition, is considered as the first of the many wonders attributed to the Blessed Virgin. A caretaker named Tiray who was captured by pirates was miraculously returned to Joroan.

A pilgrim from Catanduanes swore that a woman borrowed and lit a candle from him at night while he was on the shores of Joroan and that he found the candle unlit in the altar of the Virgin the following day. A group of Moro pirates attempting to raid Joroan reportedly retreated when it saw a thousand armed horde protecting the shorelines.

A boat of a group of devotees from Partido in Camarines Sur on its way to Joroan capsized when caught by a gale, but all passengers were saved and their clothes dry when they reached the shore.

A woman with a child appeared to a rancher in Tigaon named Gregorio Baduria and solicited two cows for the people of Joroan who were helping her build her house. When the cows were sent, he discovered that what was being built was the church for the Virgin.

Ardent devotees

The people of Tigbi, now Tiwi, were also ardent devotees of the Lady of Salvation. Oral accounts state that whenever the fiesta in Tiwi was approaching, he parish priest would personally get the image from Joroan. This practice is also called Traslacion.

The arrival of the image in Tiwi was a moment of great rejoicing, and a musical band would usually greet the image.

This practice was cut short, however, when a typhoon devastated Joroan in 1895. The chapel was completely destroyed but the image was miraculously still standing in its pedestal undamaged.

From the debris, the people of Joroan attempted to rebuild the edifice but their efforts were for naught as one typhoon after another wrought damages on the structure.

At the behest of the parish priest of Tiwi, Fr. Francisco Borondia, the image was brought to the Tiwi Parish Church until a proper chapel could be constructed in Joroan.

Religious Dispute

The Translacion, meanwhile, was reversed, and it was now the people of Joroan who would borrow the image during fiestas. The people of Joroan greatly resented the idea and their dispute with the residents of Tiwi over the image reached civil and religious authorities.

Since it was a case purely religious in nature, the civil court handed it over to the bishop of Caceres who authorized Fr. Tomas Bernales, then the parish priest of Tigbi, to come up with a settlement in 1918. An assembly intended to resolve the problem was called for in Joroan on May 26, 1918. After a thorough discussion, it was decided that Joroan was to be made parish and the residents asked to donate for the maintenance of the church and for the living expenses of the parish priest.

The people responded generously in the form of free labor, materials, money, and the donation of a 16-hectare parcel of land for the construction of the church.

On September 15, 1919, the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion Church in Joroan was finished. Fr. Lamberto Solano Fulay was the first parish priest. Soon after, or on November 20 that same year, the image of Our Lady of Salvation was returned to Joroan.

The loss of the image left the parishioners of Tiwi forlorn and dejected, and so the parish priest sought permission to make a replica of the image to allow the town to continue their ardent devotion to the Lady of Salvacion.

Heavenly Patroness

On December 8, 1975, Bishop Teotimo Pacis of the Diocese of Legazpi formally declared the Virgin Mary with the title of Our Lady of Salvation as the heavenly patroness of Albay.

In 1976, the Diocese formally celebrated the Bicentennial Jubilee of its patroness. Bishop Pacis blessed the shrine on August 21, 1976.

In August 25 of the that same year, as a culmination to the Bicentennial year, Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin of Manila crowned the Lady of Salvation while the shrine in Joroan was proclaimed as a Diocesan shrine.

Every year during the months of August until September, devotees from all over the Bicol Region visit the shrine of the Lady of Salvation in Joroan. The last Saturday of August is traditionally reserved as a special day of veneration wherein pilgrims would walk in a procession for nine kilometers from the St. Lawrence Church of Tiwi to the Diocesan Shrine in Joroan.

Our Lady of Salvation in Joroan is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

Tiwi Church, Albay, Philippines simbang gabi

Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr,​ Tiwi, Albay, Philippines

The original Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr was founded in 1776 and built on volcanic blocks along the shore lines of Tiwi in a sitio called Baybay.

Simultaneous with the sprucing up of the new town was the construction of a number of fortifications to ward off pirates.

In 1845, however, Tiwi was mercilessly attacked by marauders. They burned the place including the church and the forts. Ruins of that church still remain in barangay Baybay; no remnant of the fortifications could anymore be seen.

Anticipating more piratical raids, the people of Tiwi moved some distance inland and set up their population center there.

Pilgrim Church

They constructed another Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr which would last to these days. This current structure is also made out of volcanic stone blocks. It was constructed observing the Laws of the Indies, principally, on an elevation and facing the bay.

Tiwi Church has undergone several major repairs and renovations. These have disturbed the original architecture of the church: its facade, walls, floors, and interiors.

Aside from piratical attacks, Tiwi also suffered from calamities such as typhoons, earthquakes, and the devastating cholera epidemics of 1808, 1849, and 1857.

The church of St. Lawrence, Tiwi, Albay is frequented by pilgrims and the faithful from all over the Bicol Region believing that St. Lawrence dispenses the favours prayed for.

The Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr,​ Tiwi is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

Malinao Church, Albay, Philippines

​St Joachim and Anne Church, Malinao, Albay, Philippines

Of the many Philippine edifices built for worship during Spanish colonial times, the Church of Saints Joachim and Anne holds the distinction of being one of the oldest in the country.

Malinao Church, Albay was built using volcanic stone blocks. Its ceilings, doors, and pulpit were made of hardwood.

Ayala Museum Archives records trace the structure’s construction way back to 1660. Its size easily identified it, then, as the biggest in the Province of Albay.

In 1616, Malinao was declared as a missionary outreach village of Albay. It became an independent visita in 1619 under the care of the Franciscan friars. This lasted until 1696 when it was turned over to the secular clergy.

When Malinao became a parish, it was placed under the patronage of St. Anne. Much later, St. Joachim also became its patron. Thus, the parish is now known to be that of Saints Joachim and Anne.

Church Renovations

The church’s walls and buttresses, as they still stand today, are made of volcanic stone blocks. Its ceilings, doors, and furniture are of hardwood.

Nipa shingles were originally used for the roof but they were no match to the typhoons that often visited Albay. They were replaced with corrugated galvanized iron sheets.

The past decades have seen huge alterations, renovations, and repairs in the church.

The original facade, which used to show its volcanic stone blocks, had been plastered with cement, its stone masonry repeatedly painted over. Its pediment had been painted with an image of St. Anne riding a cow. It is said to be a reminder of how St. Anne one night saved the town from a pirate attack. Its floor at the retablo area had also been renovated and replaced with glazed tiles.

A convent has been added to the rear of the present church. It used to have a spacious convent made of volcanic rocks. It was still standing until the late 1960s until a series of typhoons destroyed it. The ruins of that structure, mostly walls, still stand a few meters southward of the present church.

Tabaco Church, Albay, Philippines

St. John the Baptist Church, Tabaco, Albay, Philippines

It took an engineer and soldier priest to design and build a Tabaco Church able to withstand the elements in the late 1800s.

The churches that came before the one built by Fr. Fermin Llorente in 1864 did not survive a super typhoon, a strong earthquake, and Mayon Volcano’s 1814 eruption.

The construction of this current Church of San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist the Precursor), completed in 1879, was credited to Fr. Llorente.

He had it built beside the town’s watch tower that is now the church belfry. This explains the rocaille elements on the bell tower that are of an earlier time than the church.

The interior layout of Tabaco Church, Albay is unusual, which compartments that can’t be easily explained. The stones on the walls also bear masons’ marks rarely seen elsewhere in the country.

The National Museum has declared this church built by the secular clergy as a National Cultural Treasure.

It is one of the most famous churches in the Philippines because it is filled with symbols and markings of the Masons. Etched upon the walls of the church are initials believed to be the names of the Masons who created the blocks.

An interesting feature is the carving on the belfry wall of a person who looks like a Datu, beside the likeness of the King of Spain. According to local legend in Albay, this sculpture might symbolize the Spaniards’ high regard toward the local pre-Hispanic government.

Visita

It was the Franciscan friars who began missionary work in Tabaco, then a visita of Cagsawa which at the time was still part of the township of Camalig, in 1587. As a visita, Tabaco did not have a regular priest but was just visited by the regular minister of Camalig who was also charged with administering the place.

In 1604, Cagsawa parish priest Fray Alonso de Jadraque, OFM, was appointed administrator of Tabaco.

Two years after, Tabaco became an independent town and parish. Its first parish priest, Fray Pedro Alcaraso, OFM, ordered the building of a church made of wood and light materials and placed it under the patronage of St. John the Baptist the Precursor, who is also the patron saint of Camalig.

This explains why Camalig and Tabaco City have the same patron saint.

Existing records identified the succession of priests who followed Fray Alcaraso up to 1625. Except say that Dutch marauders burned the church that Fray Alcaraso built, the records were silent on what happened in the parish from 1626 to 1635.

Became a Regular Parish

In the mid-1600s, Tabaco was placed under the Franciscan Province of St. Gregory. It became a regular parish in 1664 and its administration was turned over to the secular clergy. By this time, the San Juan Bautista Church in Tabaco was fairly big but the place was constantly under threat from marauding pirates.

Fearful of attacks, the people who were mostly settled in the coastal areas decided to relocate to what are now the barangays of San Carlos and San Vicente. In these places, the foundations of the first town center were laid down in 1703.

But at about 1723, the people had a change of heart and resettled in what is now barangay Cormidal, which is nearer the sea and to their source of livelihood. They then built another church and completed it in 1731. Peace reigned in Tabaco for quite a time.

Devastation, however, visited the town in 1742, in the form of a super typhoon locally called “bagyong ogis.” In 1811, a very strong earthquake destroyed parts of Tabaco. Barely three years after, Mayon erupted and wiped out properties and sources of livelihood in 1814. The church in Cormidal was not spared.

Rebuilding of the Church

The people eventually recovered and rebuilt the town amid much loss.

In 1864, work on a new church started under the supervision of Fr. Llorente who also built a cimborio.

When it was done, it had an altar made of hardwood, two side altars, a pulpit, and choir loft. Frescoes that depict Biblical scenes and angels decorate the church ceiling.

The San Juan Bautista Church in Tabaco, Albay was again battered by typhoons, especially in the 1950s and the 1970s. Many times the church was unroofed, and the paintings on the ceiling were irretrievably lost.

Through the years, the church interiors underwent repairs and renovations, its antique features lost forever.

The Church of San Juan Bautista Church in Tabaco is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

Bacacay Church, Albay, Philippines
Bacacay Old and New Bell Towers, Albay, Philippines

St. Rose de Lima Church, Bacacay, Albay, Philippines

Bacacay’s first St. Rose de Lima Church had meter thick walls of volcanic rocks and high windows that served as observation lodges for possible pirate attacks. It was built by the Franciscans in 1660.

The ruins of this Albay church lie a few meters away from the current Bacacay Church. The ruins consist of walls made of volcanic stone blocks. These structures are already hemmed in by residences in their eastern and northern flanks.

The current building is also made of volcanic stone blocks with walls a little over a meter in thickness. Its altar and roof have been renovated, but the walls, floor, and some rooms like the baptistry remain in their ancient state.

The basic structure and the massive belfry, believed built in the 1800s, have been well preserved to this day. However, the altar retablo and interior portions have been renovated. The colorful stained glass windows are a marvel to behold when the mellowing rays of the setting sun strike the panes.

Bacacay started out in 1649 as an outreach village of Tabaco. In 1660, it was made a parish under the patronage of St. Rose de Lima. It was on this same year that the Franciscan missionaries built a stone church that now lay in ruins.

Northwest Orientation

St. Rose de Lima Church, Albay has not been spared the ravages of time. Although it survived the persistent and devastating pirate attacks and World War II fighting, it was heavily damaged by super typhoon “Trix” in 1952.

In 1987, another super typhoon, “Sisang,” destroyed the roof and broke its glass windows.

Despite the renovations, the church’s frontispiece, walls, and floors have been preserved. The church compound is bounded by a perimeter fence of low lying volcanic stone blocks, visibly Hispanic and still in its original structure.

The church’s orientation is peculiar as it faces northwest instead of the bay, contrary to the stipulations of the Laws of the Indies.

Bacacay Trivia

Bacacay holds the rare distinction of producing the highest number of living priests in the entire country. The Most Rev. Lucilo B. Quiambao, D.D., auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi and himself a native of Bacacay, places the latest count at 85.

The Church of St. Rose de Lima Church in Bacacay is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

 

Malilipot Church, Albay, Philippines

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish Church, Malilipot, Albay

Of all the Spanish period churches in Albay, if not the Philippines, work on the Malilipot Church probably took the longest.

While the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was built beginning in 1789, it was completed only after 88 years or in 1877.

As it stands today, the structure is made of volcanic stone blocks glued together by an adhesive concoction popularly used during the period: a mixture of lime made out of seashells, honey, and egg.

Its facade exhibits a symmetrical arrangement—a bell tower at each side of the pediment. At both sides of the church’s main portal are three columns that clearly depict Hispanic influence on church architecture. These three columns have been made an icon in the Albay Architectural Heritage Project Logo.

The Bautisterio still has its relatively old baptismal font, and the grills are of vintage 18th century metalwork. The massive walls are made of hardwood held in place by butterfly hinges and are a showcase of the excellent quality of the workmanship of olden artisans.

Donated Bell from Tabaco

It is commonly believed that the Spaniards first set foot on what is now Malilipot in December of 1600, three years after Tabaco was declared a missionary outreach village of Cagsawa. There’s no better proof of Malilipot’s close affinity with Tabaco than the church bell that the latter donated to the former.

The new church did not have its own bells so that the parish of St. John the Baptist of Tabaco gave one of its own. That bell bears the inscription “St. John, Patron of Tabaco.”

Some 189 years since Spanish missionaries came upon Malilipot, it became a separate parish with Our Lady of Mount Carmel as patroness.

The people of Malilipot immediately set forth to construct their own church as soon as their place became a parish. Work on the edifice was undertaken with the supervision of its first parish priest, Fray Simeon Vasquez, OFM.

The church building designer observed the stipulations of the Laws of the Indies. It stands on an elevated spot and faces the bay.

Twin Belfries

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is one of only two in the Province of Albay that feature twin bell towers, the other being Sto. Domingo Church in the nearby town of Sto. Domingo.

Like all other Albay towns, Malilipot was not spared by the recurring violent pirate incursions. Brave as the natives were, being deprived of bearing arms to defend themselves often made them seek shelter in the mountain ranges bordering Mayon Volcano.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Malilipot is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

 

Sto. Domingo Church, Albay, Philippines

​St. Dominic Guzman Church, Sto. Domingo, Albay

Built to last and withstand typhoons and earthquakes, the St. Dominic Guzman Church in Sto. Domingo was fashioned from massive volcanic stones and took 10 years to finish.

This sea-facing church was constructed faithfully observing the provisions of Ordenanzas de 1573 or the Laws of the Indies, which laid down the blueprint for Spain’s rule in its colonies.

The Sto. Domingo Church is one of two structures in Albay with twin belfries that give its facade a distinctive symmetry.

Sto. Domingo’s first church was built in 1785, 36 years after the town was established, and used wood and basag (bamboo split). It was here that a statue of St. Dominic Guzman, the town’s patron saint whose feast day is observed every August 4, was first placed. This church was set up near the town’s coastlines.

When it burned down in 1882, the Spanish priests constructed this current church with volcanic stone blocks, chiseled balustrades, and the distinctive twin domes.

Well-preserved church

From its coastline location, the new church was moved inland and set up on higher grounds, where it now stands across the town park that features a statue of Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Revolution, and the remains of Potenciano Gregorio, the Sto. Domingo native who composed the song that is readily associated with Bikol and Bikolanos, “Sarong Banggi.”

Inside the church can still be found iron gates dated 1889. These enclose the baptistry at which threshold are preserved the church’s original floors of tiled volcanic rocks.

The structure is relatively well preserved. But the old roof was blown away by typhoon Trix in 1952 and already replaced. Part of the stone block fence remains, but a big portion had been tampered with.

Noteworthy are the rose windows in the bell towers located just below the church bells.

St. Dominic Guzman in Sto. Domingo is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

St Raphael Church, Legazpi, Albay, Philippines

​St. Raphael the Archangel Church, Legazpi

Most churches in Albay face the bay as stipulated in the Laws of the Indies or the Ordinanzas de 1573. Examples are the churches of Tiwi, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo, Daraga, and Albay Cathedral.

Not so this St. Raphael the Archangel Church, even if it is located near the shorelines of Legazpi City.

Instead, the structure’s main entrance opens into the banks of the now reclaimed Tibu River. The church building’s orientation could be attributed to the flourishing trade and social activities near the river, which used to run along one of the City’s main thoroughfares, Quezon Avenue.

Safety and ease of access were probably also considered when the church was built. The edifice, together with the town plaza, was built far enough to avoid the marshland, poisonous creatures from the swamp, and smell of the river water and air, but near enough to facilitate ingress and egress as boats and rafts were common modes of transport.

St. Raphael the Archangel Church withstood natural calamities, piratical attacks, and the incursions of Dutch naval forces, which were as cruel as the marauders from Mindanao, but did not escape World War II which left it pulverized and all parish records destroyed.

St. Raphael the Archangel in Legazpi is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

Address: Peñaranda St, Legazpi Port District, Legazpi City, Albay

St Gregorio Cathedral, Albay, Philippines

St. Gregory the Great Cathedral, Old Albay, Albay

Not many churches in the Philippines can claim to have been visited by a pope, and the St. Gregory the Great Cathedral in the Old Albay District is the first and only church throughout Bikol to hold such distinction.

His Holiness Pope John II visited Legazpi City on February 21, 1981. The Pope celebrated mass in a salakot-shaped cabana in front of the Cathedral, facing a sea of humanity that filled Peñaranda Park and the streets that surround it.

Memorabilia from the historic visit are kept in the Diocesan Museum within the Cathedral compound, home to the Diocese of Legazpi.

Other churches in Albay may be more imposing; however, few are as strategically located. St. Gregory the Great Cathedral’s main and north-side gates empty into the City’s main road, Rizal Street; the Cathedral compound occupies a whole block of prime urban space.

Tourist Attraction

Known as one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines, the Cathedral is a top tourist attraction and one of the most prominent landmarks in the Old Albay District of Legazpi. Located nearby are Peñaranda Park, Legazpi City Hall, and Albay Provincial Capitol.

It is also known locally as the Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno and Albay Cathedral. It is the Episcopal Seat of the Diocese of Legazpi; one of the massive churches found within Legazpi City where one can have a good view of Mt. Mayon Volcano on a clear day.

This church initially shared history with that of the St. Raphael the Archangel Parish located in the port district of Legazpi then known as Sawangan, changed later to Banwang-daan, and now as Barangay Sabang.

The First Church

It was in Sawangan, which used to be an outreach village of Cagsawa, that the first wooden church under the patronage of St. Gregory the Great was established by Fray Francisco de Sta. Ana, OFM. Before Fr. Sta. Ana, Spanish religious missionaries ministered to the settlement in the 1580s.

Fr. Sta. Ana became the first priest of Sawangan, which was made a parish independent from Cagsawa when it became populous and progressive. He called his parish “La mission de San Gregorio de Magno.”

A bigger and more imposing church replaced the chapel during the tenure of Fray Martin del Espiritu, OFM, in 1636 and Sawangan continued to thrive despite the Moro raids in the 1700s, the super typhoon of 1742, the fearsome earthquake of 1811, and many other calamities.

When the February 1, 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano leveled the town and killed a big number of inhabitants, the survivors led by then parish priest Fray Pedro Licup, OFM, evacuated to Macalaya, now Barangay Taysan.

A New Township

Since they were lowlanders, the survivors were not comfortable in Macalaya, which was located on the shoulders of Mt. Bariw. Many decided to go back to the lowland, not in Sawangan but in Taytay, which is now Bagumbayan. There were those, however, who opted to return to Sawangan against the advice of authorities.

The settlement in Taytay became bigger and developed into a township despite the stringent government provisions on the establishment of new towns.

In 1839, the settlers started to erect a stone church designed by no less than the Gobernadorcillo Don Jose de Peñaranda, an architect, in consultation with Fray Jose Yagres, OFM. This structure would stand for a long time to become today’s Albay Cathedral, while the one in Sawangan turned into the St. Raphael the Archangel Church.

The Diocese of Legazpi was established on June 29, 1951 when Albay was designated as the Episcopal See and the parish church raised into a cathedral. The diocese’s first bishop was Msgr. Flaviano Ariola and the first pastor of the Cathedral parish was Msgr. Maximo Escandor.

For its nominal patron, the Diocese of Legazpi has Our Lady Mother of Salvation. Its secondary patron is St. Gregory the Great.

Renaissance Style

St. Gregory the Great Cathedral has a facade with a semicircular arched main entrance with portico, flanked by niches and coupled columns on pedestals supporting the triangular pediment. Its frontispiece is dominantly Renaissance in style.

The thick church walls are the original volcanic stone blocks. Its tall and wide arched windows used to be in stained glass but have long been replaced with smoked glass.

Although the cathedral has retained its original form, the interior and roofing have been renovated several times. Repairs have likewise been done on sections damaged by calamities and in World War II.

The church patio used to be surrounded by a perimeter fence made of volcanic stone blocks. This too has been renovated with added height and topped with iron grills.

In 2001, during the golden jubilee of the church, a gate with monolithic pillars and arch was constructed.

St. Gregory the Great Cathedral in Old Albay is of the best churches in Albay for Visita Iglesia, Holy Week, Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo?

St. Jude Thaddeus Filipino-Chinese Personal Parish, Legazpi

This Albay church is situated not far from the Ayala Mall along Lapu-Lapu St in Legazpi City.
On 28 November 1958, the 298 square-meter residential house along Lapu-Lapu Street was bought for Php 7,000.00 to cater to the spiritual needs of Legazpis chinese community, many of whom were expelled during the Cultural Revolution by the Maoists. The building was renovated in 1965 and the church inaugurated on 31st July 1966.

You may read more about its history HERE

St Jude Church, Legazpi, Albay, Philippines

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Essential Travel Guides

Albay Churches for
Visita Iglesia
Simbang Gabi
Albay
Bicol
Philippines

How to travel to Albay from Manila

Legazpi is the commercial centre of Albay and is where you should head to. From Legazpi you can reach all parts of Albay easily.

How to Get to Legazpi City

By Air
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have regular flights from Manila and Cebu to Legazpi City.

By Bus
Several bus lines connect Metro Manila to Legazpi City including Philtranco, Superlines, DLTB, Cagsawa Tours, Amihan, Isarog Line, St. Jude Transit.
Fares start at around P800 and travel time is approximately 9 to 10 hours.

Where to Stay in Legazpi City, Albay, Philippines

From Backpackers Hostels, to Homestays to Luxury Hotels, Legazpi has accommodation to suit everyone and every pocket.
Legazpi is the perfect place to stay for your Visita Iglesia and Simbang Gabi Pilgimages and to visit Albay Churches around the Province.

The Oriental Hotel Legazpi
Old Albay,
Legazpi
From 3,000 PHP

Check Latest Rates Here

Embarcadero Hotel
Embarcadero de Legazpi, Legazpi
From 1,000 PHP

Check Latest Rates Here

Mayon Backpackers Hostel
Old Albay,
Legazpi

From 350 PHP

Check Latest Rates Here

Legazpi Tourist Inn
Old Albay,
Legazpi

From 600 PHP

Check Latest Rates Here

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Albay Churches to Visit for Seasonal Pilgrimages Simbang Gabi, Visita Iglesia Albay
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Teofilo Garcia, Tabungaw Hat Maker, Abra, Philippines
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