Text and Photos by: Bombette G. Marin
THE amazing historic attractions of southern Iloilo intrigue many who visit the area.
And if you are dreaming of visiting one of those picture perfect towns filled with old-world charm, serene scenic beauty, or perhaps both, the town of Miagao has it all.
Explore the entire historic circuit around and do not forget to bring your camera as the different attractions around each bend all make for excellent photo opportunities.
Miagao, a town 40.5 kilometers away or an hour and 15-minute ride from Iloilo City is full of historical sites. This coastal town, once a subject of frequent Muslim raids in the 17th century has a sprawling bed of ruins that includes remains of the earliest watchtowers and bridges. But since there are so many, how do you know which are the more popular and are worth your visit?
If you want to see many of the town’s historical structures, start at Taytay Boni in Barangay Guibongan, a kilometer away from the town proper. The small narrow bridge, now in ruins, is made of yellow coral stone blocks each measuring 12 inches long, six inches wide and three inches thick.
It was constructed in 1854 to connect the town proper to its neighboring barangays. Measuring approximately 43.81 meters long and 6.71 meters wide with walls six meters high and a meter thick, it was named after Boni Neular, the construction foreman and major carpenter. It was still used after World War II but was damaged in the 1948 Lady Kaykay earthquake that resulted in the destruction of its middle part and the crumbling of its walls.
When you get to the town proper, a must-see is the magnificent St. Thomas of Villanova Parish Church. It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Church in the entire Visayas and Mindanao. Already the third structure, the first two structures were a chapel built in 1741 in Sitio Ubos beside Tumagbok River and another built in 1747 were both burned by the Muslim pirates, the latter during a battle in Miagao.
Thirty years later in 1786, the present church was constructed and finished in 1797 in Tacas. Made of huge stone blocks quarried in Sitio Tubog in San Joaquin and in the mountains of Igbaras, it boasts of its native façade, a unique explosion of botanical motif with coconut, banana, papaya and a guava tree.
Its centerpiece is San Cristobal in rolled pants carrying the child Jesus. Below it is a niche where the statue of St. Thomas of Villanova stands. The church was strong that it withstood the earthquake in December of 1855 and the powerful “Lady Kaykay” in 1948. On February 16, 1963, a historical marker by the National Historical Institute was placed at the church and was declared a National Shrine through Presidential Decree No. 260, dated August 1, 1973. In 1993 it was included in the World Heritage List.
Baybay Norte, located 4.3 kilometer from the town hall, is known for its ruined Spanish fortress converted into a Barangay Multi-Purpose Hall in 1994. The KOTA made of coral rocks and limestone was believed to have been constructed in 1760 on a higher ground away from the coastline. The site served as the town’s first line of defense against Muslim pirates. It was in May of 1754 when Moros, riding 21 caracoas (pirate fleets) raided the area.
Another point of historical interest in the area is the ruins of a capilla of the Roman Catholic Cemetery made of limestone and red bricks.
A few meters outside the town center is Barangay Bulho where the beautiful Sulu Garden is located. It is a famous attraction where Fine cuisine, Arts, Crafts and Sciences blend perfectly to its scenic garden of Philippine and Japanese landscapes. It is the best place in Miagao to experience dining with venues for art shows and games, offering unique enjoyment like fish ponds, fish foot spa, the must-see miniature architectures, aquaponics, butterfly breeding, collection of paintings, vintage handcrafted chess board, model boats, and bamboo crafts.
Sitting hidden on a creek in the shadow of trees is another historic structure known as the Britanico Bridge that still has a haunting Spanish flavor and a mystical feeling. The roman-arched stone bridgewas believed to have been built in 1873.
Five kilometers west from the town is Barangay Damilisan is a farm lot where the ruined Baluarte, BALUARTE DE DAMILISAN, the site of a strong piratical raid took place in the late 17th century.
Miagao, with its rich and colorful history is one of the best places to base your heritage tour. This picturesque, storybook town with such tranquil surroundings is a particularly charming place to visit. Visiting the town, you might just feel as if you have been instantly transported to its glorious past. It can be a departure hub for short historic tours to neighboring towns in this side of the province.
It is bounded by the town of Igbaras in the northeast, by Guimbal in the east, by San Joaquin in the west and by the municipality of Sibalom in the province of Antique in the northwest. It has a land area of 13, 286 hectares that is politically subdivided into 119 barangays; 22 from the coastal area and 97 from landlocked areas.
Miagao, a First Class Municipality It is bounded by the town of Igbaras in the northeast, by Guimbal in the east, by San Joaquin in the west and by the municipality of Sibalom in the province of Antique in the northwest.
It has a land area of 13, 286 hectares that is politically subdivided into 119 barangays; 22 from the coastal area and 97 from landlocked areas. It is populated by 67, 565 (2015 Census on Population) Miagaowanons.
Market day is every Saturday. It annually celebrates its Religious Fiesta every 22nd of September in honor of St. Thomas of Villanova.
To get to Miagao, one can take a jeepney at the Don Benito Q. Acap Sr. Southern Iloilo Perimeter Boundary Terminal in Barangay Mohon, Oton, Iloilo or at the Iloilo Terminal Market in Barangay Rizal Pala-Pala I, Iloilo City.
Know more about Miagao on the 15thTumandok celebration, September 18-22, 2019 at the fountain area of Robinsons Iloilo main mall.
For more information, please contact OIC Municipal Tourism Officer Anthony Selorio at 09391737407.