7 Churches for your Visita Iglesia in Isabela

During the Spanish rule in the Philippines, the celebration of Holy Week became an integral part of the Filipino culture. Since then, this day has been observed by Filipinos as a significant religious festival. 


Visiting seven churches is a common practice among Filipinos during this time period. Visita Iglesia, which means "to visit churches," is the Spanish term for this. The 14 Stations of the Cross are often symbolized by pilgrims visiting 14 different places of worship in the area that is why you might have seen some devotees who prefer to complete the visitation of 14 churches instead of only seven, which is the more common tradition. 


This coming Holy Week, if you ever reside in the Cagayan Valley area or between Isabela and Cagayan provinces, you may use this as a reference and guide for your Visita Iglesia itineraries. You can even use this if you want to have an out of town with your family this Holy Week and visit seven churches in Isabela. 


St. Matthias Parish Church or Tumauini Church - the Spanish colonial era church (Tumauini) 

There is little doubt that Tumauini's Church of Saint Matthias is the most popular tourist attraction on Isabela's mainland. Its bell tower, which is shaped like a four-layer cake, is what gives it such a striking appearance. Even though it's a bit off the beaten path as it is a little far off the national highway, this chapel should be a regular destination for tourists. In addition, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List includes it, it's a national cultural asset, and it's a national historical landmark. As part of a Cagayan Valley pilgrimage, this should be included in your itinerary this coming Holy Week. 


In Isabela, St. Matthias Church is under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ilagan and is considered as the best-preserved church complex in Isabela. It is renowned for its brick, Baroque-style construction, making it one of the country's most beautiful brick structures. 


In 1751, Tumauini separated from Cabagan and formed its own parish. In 1707, the Dominican Fr. Francisco Nunez built it out of nipa and other light materials, dedicating it to St. Matthias, the patron saint of alcoholics. 


The St. Matthias Parish Church is located at Maharlika Highway Tumauini, Isabela, 3325. 


San Pablo de Cabagan Church (San Pablo) 

San Pablo Church, with its elegant Spanish-era architecture, is a tribute to the history of the province of Isabela, despite the battles from World War II and deterrence from the weather. 

The oldest church in the province, San Pablo Church, dates back to 1624. It has the largest bell tower in the Cagayan Valley, with six levels of adobe including the round pinnacle. The oldest settlement in Isabela, San Pablo, was established by Padre de Sto. Tomas, 210 years before Isabela was proclaimed a province. 


There are semicircular arches at the church's main entrance and statue niches flanking it, all of which formerly had icons of Saint Paul, Saint Vincent Ferrer, and Saint Isidore but have since been destroyed by vandals. 


In the 1950s, a smaller church was erected among the remains, a third of the previous size. Outside this small church, the rest of it is all just a garden. San Pablo is the patron saint of the missions, writers, and publishers. 


San Pablo de Cabagan Church is located in San Pablo, Isabela. 


St. Paul the Apostle Parish Church (Cabagan) 

Cabagan's patron saint is the same as that of San Pablo, despite the fact that Cabagan is a much smaller community. The Cabagan Park is flanked by a masonry church of the 21st century. 


It was in 1877 that the Spaniards decided to relocate the town of Cabagan to this current location, which is barely three kilometers from its old location. A new town was established in 1888 on the site of the old abandoned Cabagan, and the two towns were given the names Cabagan Viejo and Cabagan Nuevo, respectively Cabagan Nuevo was renamed Cabagan during the American occupation, while Cabagan Viejo was renamed San Pablo during the same time period. St. Paul is the patron saint of both cities. 


St. Paul the Apostle Parish Church is located at Pan-Philippine Highway, Cabagan, 3328, Isabela. 


National Shrine of Our Lady of the Visitation of Guibang (Guibang) 

In Isabela, there are several noteworthy churches that can be found across the province, including the Shrine of Our Lady of Visitation, a popular pilgrimage site for people from all over the province and beyond. 


On the national route, visitors going via the Maharlika Highway may visit the Shrine at Gamu dedicated to Our Lady, the Visitation of Guibang. Due to the influx of religious pilgrims from all over the country who come to pray for a variety of things each year, it has become as well-known as the Piat Basilica Minore during the month of July.  


When the Most Rev. Carmine Pocco, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, crowned and canonized the image of Our Lady of the Visitation on May 26, 1973, at Ilagan, Isabela.  

On the other hand, the petition of His Excellency, Most Rev. Miguel Purugganan, Bishop of Ilagan, for the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation of Guibang to be called a national shrine was approved by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at its 52nd Annual Bishop's Meeting held in Tagaytay City on January 24-26, 1986. 


The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Visitation of Guibang is located at Guibang, Gamu, Isabela. 


Parish of St. Joseph the Spouse (Naguilian) 

Naguilian, Isabela was formed on November 27, 1896, and the brief history of this town covers its foundation, growth, and progress from that day. 


Isabela's Naguilian sitio was formerly part of Gamu, Isabela. It is located at the heart of the Province of Isabela. Originally, the area was inhabited by the Gaddangs and the Kalingas, two indigenous people groups that you can still find in the area until now. 


Don Meliton Ramirez, a well-known settlers' leader, was instrumental in separating Gamu from the rest of the country by Royal Order on November 17, 1896. San Roque was once the name of the town. Don Divente Ramirez y Mondano, the first Gobernadorcillo and subsequently Capitan Municipal of Barrio San Roque, was appointed by the Gobierno Provincial with the support of the Gobierno Superior. "Naguilian," derived from the Ibanag term "Nagili," which means a location, became the name of the town of San Roque. 


St. Joseph the Spouse eventually became the patron saint of the town that paved the way to build a church dedicated to him. He is also the patron saint of attorneys and barristers, emigrants, travelers, and house hunters. 

The Parish of St. Joseph the Spouse is located at Brgy.Quezon, Naguilian, Isabela. 


Cathedral of St. Michael de Archangel (Gamu) 

Despite its contemporary appearance, the Cathedral's interiors have life-size murals on the wall and stained-glass windows, making it a stunning place for worship. 

The Cathedral of St. Michael de Archangel is located at Brgy. Upi, Gamu, Isabela Gamu, Isabela. 


St. Ferdinand Parish Church (Ilagan) 

In Circa 1617, Don Hernandez de Paz established Ilagan as an encomienda in his name for his son, Don Juan. Originally, the Dominican monks named the settlement San Miguel de Bolo, and on April 21, 1619, they established it as a mission for the order. Until Father Pedro Jimenez, O.P. in 1678, no one had written about the history of Ilagan or the surrounding towns of Naguilian and Baculud after the local insurrection in 1621. San Fernando de Ilagan was the official name during that time period. Dominican missionary status was established in March of that year, as well. 

Records indicate that Ilagan's church was built between 1696 and 1700. Belfry building began in 1777 under the direction of O.P. priest Father Pedro de San Pedro del Mar. After that, in 1783, Father Joaquin Sancho, O.P. completed the tower, as shown by the clay insert discovered at the very top, which bears his name. In 1866, a storm wreaked havoc on the church, causing extensive damage. It was demolished by the parish priest in the hopes of building a new church building.. There is no longer the original stone construction built in the Spanish period in the present-day structure of the church. Only the tower has been spared. 


St. Ferdinand Parish Church is located at Sta. Ana St, Ilagan, Isabela. 


Aside from observing purely religious practice on your visit to the various catholic churches in Isabela this important religious holiday, you might also want to try their local delicacies during your meals in the province such as their Pancit Cabagan, Binallay, Moriecos, and Dinengdeng. 

Do you know that you can now go to Isabela and visit these old colonial churches with a shorter travel time than before? Thanks to the Build Build Build Projects spearheaded by the DPWH such as the Pigalo Bridge in Isabela, Cabagan Bypass Road, Alicia-Angadanan-San Guillermo-Cauayan City-Naguilian Bypass, and the Roxas Bypass Road.