Heritage Series: Tabaco Church, Albay’s beautiful enigma

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Discover the history of the beautiful Tabaco Church in Albay, Bicol.

Tabaco Church in the Municipality of Tabaco in Albay stands breathtaking in its beautiful and enigmatic simplicity. The Tabaco Church, also known as the Saint John the Baptist Parish Church, was one of our stopovers during our tour in Bicol in 2014.

Façade of Tabaco Church
Tabaco Church

Heritage Series: Tabaco Church, Albay’s beautiful enigma

    The town of Tabaco

    Tabaco, as a small town, was established by the Franciscan friars in the late 1500s, with St. John the Baptist as patron saint. It gained independence from the old town of Cagsaua in the early 1600s during the term of the parish priest Father Pedro de Alcareso. 

    The plaza in front of Tabaco Church
    At the plaza

    Bicol Region, which is typified by a volcanic topography because of Mayon Volcano is rich in dark volcanic soil and stones from which the Tabaco Church is constructed.

    Tabaco Church

    Like many churches in the Philippines, Tabaco Church is located in the city center. It was not grand if you would compare it, say, to the heritage churches of Bohol. However, this fact does not diminish Tabaco Church’s allure. 

    Inside Tabaco Church
    Inside Tabaco Church

    In truth, the simplicity of its façade would draw any visitor closer. I would even consider one of the Bicol Region’s many cherished landmarks. As a testament to Tabaco Church’s significance, it was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines, one of the only two such sites in the Bicol Region.

    Bell tower of Tabaco Church
    The belfry

    Another characteristic of Tabaco Church that is easily noticeable, and perhaps puzzling, is that its belfry is disconnected from the main church. This architectural style is common among churches in the Ilocos Region. 

    Candles at Tabaco Church
    Candle offerings

    The reason behind this construction style was to spare the main church during the collapse of a massive belfry during earthquakes which are fairly common in the Philippines. This bell tower, meanwhile, is intricately designed with rococo patterns, in absolute contrast to the simplicity of the main church.

    On the stones of the church, one may see mason’s marks inscribed during the construction of the building upon closer inspection. Historians revealed that these marks are a rarity among buildings in the country.

    Christ the King statue at the plaza in front of Tabaco Church
    Christ the King statue

    Another mind-boggling feature of the Tabaco Church is the compartments on its floor, which remains a mystery even among heritage experts.

    In front of the Tabaco Church is a spacious plaza; in the middle of which is, a monument of Christ the King surrounded by angels that act as sentinels.


    The Tabaco Church is one of the most unforgettable sights when we went to Albay. It looks beautiful, especially the belltower with its details. I'd definitely recommend a stopover at Tabaco Church for all travelers who plan to go to Albay in Bicol.

    Tabaco Church history

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