We only had a chance to tour Batanes for about 48-hours. It was a compressed tour and though it was a visual feast of greenery and hills, we couldn’t help but notice the number of religious sites in the itinerary that was arranged by our hotel. You don’t even have to be at all religious to recognize the church or chapel in every village. These buildings provide a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of Christianity in the Ivatan soil and how faith withstood storms in a province that is frequently in connection with typhoons.
Despite having a number of churches to visit, there are few that are stand out in terms of history and structure. These are the must-visit religious sights in Batanes.
1. San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel
It’s a part of the South Batan tour located in one of the smallest barangays in all of Batanes called Brgy. Imnajbu, Uyugan. The facade is made up of wall rock and has a beautiful santan flower garden path. It has arched casement windows which are ideal for the Batanes climate. This is where the evangelization of Batanes started – the birth place of Christianity. This is where the first baptism was celebrated as well as the first mass in the province which was led by Fr. Mateo Gonzales who landed in Imnajbu in 1682 A.D.
2. Santo Domingo Cathedral
A church built in 17th century and was originally made up of cogon grass and wood. It was rebuilt in stone a couple of years later. In the middle of year 2000, Batanes was rocked by an intensity 4 earthquake which is the reason why the choir loft on the second level of the church is now non-existent. The Golden yellow aglow of the church gives its surrounding a sunset feel even during gloomy weather days.
3. San Carlos Borromeo Church
This 17th century old church is located in the small town of Mahatao in Batanes. It is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo who became an Archbishop of Milan back in the 15th century. The saint was a descendant of one of the wealthiest family in Lombardy. Like the Santo Domingo Chapel, it was originally made of light materials and was rebuilt into a stone church after a decade. The baroque-style church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of The Philippines in 2001.
The church has its own library-like room with hundreds of books with empty pages. The books are numbered and you can write a dedication on some random pages if you wished to in exchange of donations.
4. Mt. Carmel Chapel
Also known as Tukon Chapel, was built in 2007 and publicly opened in 2008. It is located in Tukon. The stone wall facade of the church resembles a typical Ivatan house. The ceiling is decorated with western-inspired frescoes of saints and angels painted by artists of Fundacion Pacita.
The famous wedding church is known for its seascapes as it showcases a stunning view of the West Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
5. San Jose De Obrero Church
The church is gloriously fenced with pine-like trees endemic in Batanes called Arius. These trees are being used as Christmas Trees during yuletide season. Ivatans also make wines out of its berries. San Jose de Obrero Church , also known as the Ivana Church, is facing the port of Ivana and is a stone-throw away from the Honesty Store. It was established in the 17th century by the Dominicans.
6. San Vicente Ferrer Church
Located in the southernmost municipality of Batanes Island – Sabtang. The church is also known as Sabtang Church. It was first built as a chapel in 17th century and was then rebuilt in 1844 under the supervision of Father Antonio Vicente. It has been declared as a national landmark in 2008.
7. Sta. Rosa de Lima Chapel
A chapel found in the small village of Chavayan also in Sabtang, Sta. Rosa de Lima Chapel is the only cogon-thatched church in Batanes. These religious architectures up north were traditionally roofed with cogon grass before it embraced modernity.
8. St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel
Sitting right next to an abandoned old beaterio, a priest’s house, in the small village of Savidug. It was named after Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar who is considered as one of Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers.