One of the hallmarks of the 300 plus years of Spanish colonization of the Philippines is the introduction of the Roman Catholic religion and one of its most lasting physical evidences are the century old churches, basilicas and religious centers that lay scattered across the islands. These wonderful structures and architectures are amazing to behold especially if you consider that these beautiful buildings were built without the aid of heavy construction machineries!
You will see some of these remarkable old churches in the province of Laguna especially in the highland towns, a good example would be the small town of Liliw and its St John The Baptist Church.
Liliw is nestled at the foot of Mt Banahaw, this mountain is considered sacred in the Philippines. Climate is generally cool all throughout the year, even in the summer months rains in the afternoon are common. This town is famous for its Tsinelas Lane, cold springs and of course, the old brick church.
If you are bringing vehicles, worry not for there is a big parking lot within the church complex.
Liliw’s Centuries Old Catholic Church
The St John The Baptist Church of Liliw was built in 1605 but was badly damaged during the strong earthquake of 1880. It was rebuilt but in 1889, a fire caused partial damage to the structure. It was repaired and today, the church stands proudly on the elevated portion of the town, at the end of the main street.
The Catholic Church of Liliw – St John The Baptist
The church complex is gated; as you enter the premises you’ll be passing these white giant statues of saints. On both sides of the walkway are gazebos where locals and visitors can take a rest.
Red bricks cover the façade of the church with moss and small plants attaching themselves to the crevices, which added to the aged old feel of the complex. The bell tower on its side is typical of many Spanish era churches and parishes, the lamps (shown in pics way below) also gives it a more rustic look.
Curiously as I am typing this post, I zoomed in on one of the pics and I just noticed that on the top, directly under the giant cross, the glass holder looks like has a statue of a woman and a dog? If my eyes are not playing tricks on me and the image is that really of a woman saint and a dog, what then is this saint’s name?
I was really expecting the glass will be home to the image of St John as this church is named after him. Titus who is from Liliw said it could be San Roque wearing a rob since San Roque is always shown beside a dog but it looks like a woman in a v-neck dress to me. Upon seeing the enlarged pic, Titus also said it could indeed be Saint John wearing a sheepskin and the animal is a sheep not a dog?
If you can shed light on this, please do as I am really curious.
Who is this saint protected by the glass?
The St John The Baptist Church of Liliw Laguna is really a beautiful Spanish era church and a fine example of architecture during the colonial period. It has been preserve well and is being taken cared of by the parishioners and the whole community, it’s something the Liliwenos can be really proud of!
A Personal Sharing
It was a fine day when we visited Liliw Church last June, the church main door was closed but parishioners can still enter via the side door. It was dark when we got inside, the only light illuminating the place was from the stained glass windows high on the wall, sunlight wasn’t able to pass through the windows on the lower portion.
Part of the altar was also cast in shadows but you can still see it well if you have 20-20 vision, but for me who has eyesight problems, it was difficult to see beyond its gold outline. I could not make out who were the saints on the altar but the altar reminds me a bit of the Sto Nino Church of Cebu.
We also can’t take pictures at that time as using flash was needed due to the poor lighting condition but if we did, we will be disturbing the 3 parishioners who were silently praying that early morn, so we choose to wait.
It was so silent as we waited, yet the silence was comforting. Not all places of worships have this calming effect but I am glad St John The Baptist Church of Liliw is one of those you do not have to force calmness, maybe because the church is old? I don’t know but I do know that this church is conducive to praying and meditating.
When we were finally alone inside the church, we took the shoots that we wanted using flash.
Pews and Altar
@ The St John The Baptist Church Liliw
They also have a candle lighting area or what we call in Cebuano ‘dagkutanan’, the best area in a church for me is always the dagkutanan so I did not miss lighting a candle and to say a silent prayer of thanks.
After the dagkutanan, we exited the church. At the church’ steps, we paused as Titus recalled that he have not shown me his mom’s footprint yet.
There are these cemented footsteps that lead to the Shrine of the Virgin Mary at the right wing of the church. Hovering and squinting at fading names, hi finally located the one that belongs to his mom and we took a snap of it. 🙂
Foot steps and foot prints in Liliw Church
Titus comes from a religious family, the brother of his dad, his ninong, was a parish priest in Tanauan, Batangas when he was alive and his mom before she passed away also went to the church almost every afternoon. Currently, his aunt serves the church and goes there every day too.
Come to Liliw and see St John The Baptist Church!
If you find yourself in Liliw for whatever reason – to shop at the Tsinelas Lane, to enjoy its cold springs, to have a food trip, to have an R & R in a mountain town – whatever reasons it maybe, hope you’ll take time to visit the old church of Liliw.
Have a blessed day!
Laguna is blessed with several antique churches, and the Liliw Church is one of the most popular centuries-old churches to visit during Visita Iglesia.
Routes Option to Liliw
Liliw is nestled at the foot of Mt Banahaw. You can reach this highland town either through:
(1) Calamba – Los Banos – Bay – Pila – Victoria – Sta Cruz – Magdalena – Liliw
(2) Calamba – Los Banos – Bay – Calauan – Nagcarlan – Liliw (private vehicle)
(3) San Pablo – Rizal – Nagcarlan – Liliw
If it’s your first time, I suggest take the San Pablo route as it’s easier to commute and the climb up is more rewarding with the scenic views along the road.
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