To escape the rain and damp of our town, we visited one of the closest municipalities, Agoo, La Union. The weather is good with dark clouds looming but thankfully it did not rain here in the mountains so we decided to get on a bus and head down to the lowlands.
Agoo got its name from pine-like trees locally called aroo or agoho that grows in abundance before the Spanish era. Some would also claim that it was named after a certain type of flying fish called chileopogon agoo.
It was once part of Pangasinan until the province of La Union came into existence. Agoo was considered as the major port historically to Chinese and Japanese traders and other foreign traders who came to the Lingayen Gulf. They have been trading for a long time such that a small Japanese settlement was established. In came the Spanish and closed it to foreign trade which made the Japanese leave. Only after 300 or so years would the Japanese came again but it was during the invasion of Lingayen Gulf.
During the Spanish regime, development took place and they started building churches, schools, public buildings, introducing religion and education. Today, Agoo is considered a first class municipality. This is an hour travel from our town which is why we decided to pay it a quick visit.
The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Charity is found in the town of Agoo, La Union. The original church has no trace of what the present day church looks now. It was made of nipa and bamboo in 1578. An earthquake destroyed in in 1892, reconstructed in 1893 but later demolished and replaced in 1975.
The construction of the new church began on September 8, 1975 and finished by 1978. On December 8, 1978, it was consecrated as a Marian Shrine. It was then elevated to Minor Basilica as signed by Pope John Paul II on July 15, 1982. Of the 12 minor basilicas here in the Philippines, Agoo Basilica ranked 6th.
The killer earthquake of 1990 that shook Luzon badly damaged the church and crashed the bell tower, the only remaining piece of the 1893 structure.
Mexican-Baroque architecture are the features of this basilica. There are two different kinds of bell towers flanking the facade of the church. The right one is a bell gable and the left is a hexagonal tower rising four levels. The bell gable tower was dedicated to Sebastiano Cardinal Baggio who consecrated the church as Marian Shrine in 1978. The base is wider and thicker and it narrows down as it goes higher.
Statues of saints are lined along the front yard of the church, standing guard in stark white.
At the main entrance, statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul stand guard on either side, almost covered by the bougainvillea plants. A rosette stained glass window can be seen on the church's facade.
The dull gray color of the outside structure is not as aesthetically built or sculpted to almost austere. It gives little to no precursor of how the interior looks like. Inside the church is a different visual sense. Colors of mahogany and gold can be seen throughout and is the dominating hue. The wooden pews almost matches the colors of the ceiling.
Chandeliers are distributed throughout the ceiling. Some of these are made of mahogany or carved from mahogany. The gold color of these chandeliers give contrast to the color of the ceiling.
Stained glass windows as well as statues, sculptures, moldings, arches and columns give more vibrancy, life and color to the church. The stained glass captured some of the life of Jesus from birth to crucifixion to resurrection. Sculptures lined the columns of the church. Shrines are also on display to the back and front of the church.
The church may not be as ornate and as decorated as the other churches but it still has it's own beauty. What's important is its purpose. It is built with almost sense of being reserved as compared to other churches because of its "simplicity."
There was no service ongoing when we visited so we were free to check out the church.
Buttress projects from the walls. This is to reinforce them. Philippines is frequented by disastrous earthquakes. Churches are built wider and not as high with strengthened walls. The roof and ceiling are made from light materials.
Merchandise are sold in one of the rear entrances of the church such as prayer beads and books, candles, rosaries, fans even accessories like bracelets and earrings. Donation boxes are also placed near the main entrance of the church.
There is also a garden to the right of the church. Some of the old church's foundations were placed there.
Agoo Basilica is located right at the heart of the town. It is easily accessible and it is along the national highway. You can stop by and take peek whenever you come from Manila going to the north. You don't need to be Catholic to visit churches such as this. It is for learning and religious purposes as well.