Early in the morning I left the city of Vigan and hitchhiked to the little town of Santa Maria, where the church is located.. It wasn’t too far from Vigan, but due to road construction it took about 4 hours to get there, getting a ride on minivans and motorbikes.. Eventually, a couple from Sta Maria picked me up.. They dropped me at the main stairway..
There weren’t many visitors.. Three Chinese men with photo and video cameras were filming some travel movie.. And a young kissing couple hiding behind the trees; they were too busy to notice anyone.. The Chinese film makers kindly welcomed me.. We exchanged few phrases and I left them alone to do their job..
The parish was established in April 25, 1765 with the first baptismal record signed in 1767.. It served as a station of the Augustinian missionaries in 1822 on their way to evangelize Abra.. The first parish priest was Fray Jose Cuadro.. The construction of the church began in 1810 apparently in obeisance to the wishes of the Blessed Virgin Mary whose image, dating back in 1769, would periodically be found there at the foot of a large guava tree growing right at the spot where the main altar now stands..
The facade may seem not too impressive, being blocked from view by the convento.. It has three openings and one blind niche.. But its rose-tinted stonework is worth a second look.. So are the Morish floral and foliate designs around the water recesses.. The recessed arched entrance is flanked by a pair of rectangular piers framed by heavy circular buttresses that ends up in urn-like finials.. The svelte octagonal bell tower nearby seems a stark contrast to the church’s simple and massive structure.. The bells arrived here in 1811..
The weather was very hot that day and after wandering for a while around the church I felt thirsty, so I went to look for some people to ask if they drinking water.. Soon I found a 40-years old lady.. She kindly asked me to follow her.. We went in through the door on the photo below.. I was expecting to see a storage rooms behind the door, but I was wrong.. We walked up the stairs and entered a fully furnished room..
“Is this is a living room? Anyone lives here?” I asked, looking around..
“Yes, sir, our family.. We live here,” she handed me the glass..
“How interesting.. You look after this church?”
Her son came in.. We talked a bit, shared some stories, then I left as I still had to hitchhike back to Vigan to meet with my Couchsurfing host.. When I was leaving, the Chinese film makers were still there.. And the kissing couple, too.. I got the first ride on a motorbike with a Hindu guy..
The entire church site served as a landmark during colonial times, the Katipunan Revolution and World War II.. In December 1993 , the Asunción de Santa Maria Church together with three other churches was included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list as a classical example of Philippine Baroque churches..
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