Tigbauan Church – San Juan Sahagun Parish

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Tigbauan Church from Plaza

Tigbauan Church from Plaza

Tigbauan Church 1909

Tigbauan Church 1909

Tigbauan Church – San Juan Sahagun Parish: history architecture and photos. An ecomienda given to Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, Tigbauan became a visita of Oton on 3 March 1575. Although it had become an independent parish in 1578, no permanent priest was assigned to Tigbauan until 1580, when Fr. Luis de Montoya was assigned as prior. Originally under the advocacy of Our Lady of Grace it was later renamed Juan de Sahagun, after an Augustinian saint. In 1593, the parish was handed over to the secular clergy because the friar, Fr. Garcia de Quiroga, was appointed secretary of the province and had to leave the Visayas. The seculars held the parish until 1617 when they were assigned to Antique (Hamtic) in exchange for Tigbauan. Fr. Fernando Camporredondo may have built the Tigbauan church described in a report of 1848 as made of yellow limestone and which survived the earthquake of 13 July 1787 despite its considerable height. Fr. Fernando Martin is credited with building the present church, though Augustinian historian Pedro Galende, opines that he may have reconstructed a previous church, since the description of his work corresponds to the one previously mentioned. Only the church façcade, bell tower and a few pillars of the convento remain. The same earthquake that brought Oton to the ground damaged the interior in 1948, apparently. The interior is greatly renovated and has been decorated with mosaics in 1994.

Stone carving, Tigbauan Church

Heritage Features: The facade design is simple: a rectangle surmounted by a triangular pediment, the whole hemmed by thick pillars on either side. To the façcade’s right is the three-story bell tower composed of cubes decreasing in size and capped by a pyramidal roof. A lintel and post doorway and an arched window mark the first story while the second story has no apertures. The third story had arched windows. What gives the whole façade distinction is the low relief decorating the central portal. Here a retablo-like design fills the central section. Pilasters, similar to the Mexican estipite flank the entrance, between are low relieves of flowers and cords, all finding focus in the cherub head that decorates the capstone of the entrance. Running horizontally from pilaster to pilaster is a floral frieze at whose center is the seal of the Augustinian order. This band marks the division between the first and second stories. Above is a niche flanked by pilasters embellished with flowers and volutes. The church patron San Juan is depicted. Above the niche is a low relief of the Santo Niño inside a niche. The triangular pediment of the whole structure carries a low relief of flowers arranged inside a rectangular plaque.

The Panublion project was funded by the Spanish government through the Ateneo de Manila University and overseen by R. Javellana. Please visit the Panublion web site at:,


Lots more about the Spanish architectural heritage of Tigbauan at:


Sunday Services at Tigbauan Church

Sunday Services at Tigbauan Church

Tigbauan Church Entrance - Doorway

Tigbauan Church Entrance – Doorway

“Plateresque” Tigbauan Church Entrance

Many of the architectural descriptions of the Tigbauan church describe it as “Churrigueresque”. This exotic appellation sends just about everyone to their reference books to figure out what it means.

Churrigueresque refers to the florid, over-decorated style practiced by a family of sculptors and architects in 18th century Spain, the Churrigureas. The style had some currency in Spain and Spanish America. One architectural dictionary describes Churrigueresque as a lavish piling up of surface ornamentation, especially stone carvings. In Mexico, the Churrigueresque ended up incorporating indigenous themes.

The Tigbauan church does have some intricate and quite beautiful stone carving on its principal façcade, facing the plaza. Were the friars enthusiasts of the Churrigueresque style, possibly having glimpsed it in Spain or Mexico? There is another possibility. There is considerable evidence in the literature that the skilled building trades in the Visayas were dominated by Chinese craftsmen — they were almost certainly men at the time. Chinese architecture during the Ming and Qing dynasties exhibit fabulous stone carving, not dissimilar from that seen on the Tigbauan church façcade.

Since it’s likely that the work was done by Chinese stone masons and stone carvers, was it the friars who wanted add something stylish to their new church working in tandem with Chinese workers who may have been trained in Qing stonework which produced what we see today.

Are the themes and details of the Tigbauan stone carving more Churrigueresque or more Qing? A detailed study of the Tigbauan carvings, examples of Churrigueresque carving from Spain and Mexico with Qing themes might provide clues. The likely conclusion is that the Tigbauan stone carving is another fabulous multicultural amalgam of influences and skills which also produced the stone carving in Miagao and San Joaquin.


Pierced Heart, an Augustinian icon, Tigbauan Church

The pierced heart imagery is central to the Augustinian order and marks the Tigbauan church as likely built or rebuilt by the order. The significance of the pierced heart is derived from a statements Augustine makes in the Confessions such as: Book IX 3 “With the arrows of your charity you had pierced our hearts, and we bore your words within us like a sword penetrating us to the core”.Suddenly, Augustine’s anguish left him and he now found direction in humility, as though an arrow from God had transfixed his heart. “You have pierced our hearts with the arrow of your love, and our minds were pierced with the arrows of your words.” Conf 9,2. Indeed his heart seemed to burst into flame with love for God. “Your gift sets us afire and we are borne upward; we catch this flame and up we go. In our hearts we climb those upward paths, singing the songs of ascent. By your fire, your beneficent fire, we are inflamed.” Conf 13,9.


Tigbauan Church yard – a pretty and quiet place


Historical plaque placed by National Historical Institute


Chapel in Tigbauan Church courtyard. This small chapel in the churchyard has a feel of antiquity but according to a plaque it was constructed in 1997 and recently renovated.

Tigbauan Church Interior 1909

Tigbauan Church Interior 1909


Fires, earthquakes and WW II have taken a toll on the churches of Iloilo, including this one. Beyond the principal facade, not much appears to remain of the old Tigbauan church. Most of the church is concrete and the roof trusses are of steel. Still, the historical essence of the churches have been preserved; much original fabric remains, they stand in their historic locations along with the accompanying plazas, cemeteries, convents, parish halls and other historic elements of the Spanish town plans. The parishes and municipalities of Iloilo deserve great credit for their respect for the historical character of their communities.

Tigbauan Church Mosaic

While the historic interior of the church does not survive, the church interior is still of considerable interest. The walls are covered with religious themes executed in mosaic fragments, very beautifully done. According to a plaque the work was done under the direction of Rev. Fr. Eleuterio Rojo Carton and dedicated February 3, 1997. You may view a good account of the Tigbauan Church moasics at https://theunknownartblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/the-man-behind-the-mosaic-in-tigbauan-church/

Tigbauan church bell

Bell tower restoration campaign


Ossuary behind Tigbauan Church

The Montessori School is located in the quiet, green church yard

Comments (3) Write a comment

  1. Pingback: “The Man Behind the Mosaic in Tigbauan Church” – The Unknown Art

    • Thanks for creating and sharing this wonderful article on the Tigbauan Church mosaics.


  2. Pingback: Tigbauan Church – San Juan Sahagun Parish | Philippines or Bust

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