The province of Cagayan nestles at the northeastern tip of Luzon, occupying the lower basin of the Cagayan River. Cagayan is blessed with beautiful destinations making the province as one of the most visited provinces in the region. But aside from the adventure-filled and pristine beaches the province can offer, Cagayan also plays a significant role in the history of Christianity in the country.
Cagayan is the first home of the city and diocese of Nueva Segovia before being transferred to Vigan – the center of Catholicism in Northern Luzon covering the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batanes, Mountain Province, and five northern towns of Tarlac.
Because of this, Cagayan has lots of century-old churches and ruins which have now become religious and heritage tourism sites in the province.
Ermita de San Jacinto
St. Hyacinth Church or the Stone chapel of San Jacinto is the oldest brick structure and the first parochial building built by the Dominican fathers in the city of Tuguegarao. The church was established in 1604 which was also used as headquarters of American soldiers during the Philippine-American War. This small yet charismatic historical church is located at Mabini St., Tuguegarao City across St. Paul University of the Philippines.
St. Peter Cathedral
Located at the heart of the city of Tuguegarao, St. Peter Cathedral is an 18th century Baroque church built by Dominican friars as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. The church is considered as one of the largest churches in Cagayan Valley which houses the relic of St. Peter and Pope John Paul at the center of the altar. The church also showcases a mesmerizing, floral ceiling which according to the priest represents the beauty of heaven.
Our Lady of Chartres Chapel
Our Lady of Chartres Chapel is a replica of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Chartres in France. It is located at the center of St. Paul University of the Philippines serving as their University Chapel. On December 2011, the relic of St. Teresa se Avila was enthroned in the chapel. Not like the other churches in Cagayan, OLCC has modern architectural features. It has a minimalist look and colorful stained glasses on the windows.
San Jacinto de Polonia Church
San Jacinto de Polonia Church in Calamaniugan, Cagayan is the home of the oldest church bells in the country. Three catholic bells are housed in a 3-storey belfry clad in red bricks, one of them is the Santa Maria Bell or Bell of Antiquity – the oldest catholic Bell in Southeast Asia. According to a parish staff, the bell was a gift from Pangasinan. Few steps from the church, you can find the ruins of the Old San Jacinto de Polonia Church situated at the Cagayan River Bank and the Spanish Horno (Brick Kiln) where bricks used to make churches are made.
St. Dominic De Guzman Church
The church is located at Lal-lo, Cagayan, the former city of Nueva Segovia and the seat of the diocese of Segovia. The Municipality of Lal-lo formerly City of Nueva Segovia is the former capital of Cagayan and the 4th city in the Philippines after Cebu, Manila, and Naga, but lost its cityhood when the diocese of Nueva Segovia was transferred to Vigan. One noticeable feature about this church is it does not face the road and the municipal proper; instead it faces the Cagayan River which according to locals was strategic for transportation and commerce. Across the Church and off the banks of the Cagayan River is the Evangelization Cross, a wooden crucifix planted by Dominican missionaries over 300 years ago.
Also located at Lal-lo is the ruin of Tocolona one of the parishes of Nueva Segovia under the supervision of Dominican friars headed by Bishop Miguel de Benavides, the first Bishop of Nueva Segovia and the founder of University of Santo Tomas.
Cagayan is really blessed with colorful history and these churches are the living proof of Cagayan’s rich heritage. This is another reason to visit Cagayan, to travel while learning the stories of the past.