The church was started by the Augustinian Fr. Antonio Estavillo in 1694. It was completed in 1710 and rededicated in 1896, just three years before the expulsion of Spanish rule in the country. The style of the church has been dubbed ??Earthquake Baroque? by Alicia Coseteng, one of the early authorities on colonial church architecture. Because the buttresses extend out considerably from the exterior walls, the entire visual experience becomes three-dimensional, unlike most of the churches in the country where the inherent beauty of the church is limited only at the facade.
The buttresses are a visual spectacle. One can easily imagine them as giant sentinels poised to protect the church from adversaries. The rhythmic flow of massive form cascading down from the pinnacles to the ground, emphasized by spiral relieves visible on each side of the buttresses, alludes to a Baroque character. Yet, the dark receding plaster and exposed coral stone wall, complete with foliage overgrowth, creates a momentary feeling of being in some exotic Javanese temple.
The materials used for the walls were a mixture of coral stone and bricks. Large coral stones were used at the lower level of the walls, while bricks, smaller and more manageable to transport, were used at the upper levels.
The facade of the church, even as it is beginning to lean towards the front, still manages to be as equally impressive as the buttresses. Viewed from the side, the giant buttresses look like huge volutes making the facade appear as a massive pediment rising from the ground. The facade is divided vertically by square pilasters that extend from the ground and all the way to the top of the pediment. The Gothic affinity of the church is suggested by the vertical movement of the pilasters and the finials that cap them at the top of the pediment. The facade is also divided horizontally by stringed cornices that extend all the way to the edges. The cornices extend to the sides of the church and wrap each buttresses around, adding attention and articulation to the massive side supports. At the apex is a niche, while the otherwise stark plaster finish is embellished with crenallations, niches, rosettes, and the Augustinian coat-of-arms.
The facade is complemented with a belltower located at its right hand side. Belltowers are a very important element in the overall composition of colonial churches, both for its function and aesthetics. For practical purposes, belltowers were used as a communication device to the townspeople. In the case of the Paoay belltower, it also played, ironically, an explicit role in the lives of the Filipinos during the war.
Northern Luzon - Day 3 (PM) : St. Augustine Church (Paoay, Ilocos Norte)