For a time, the province of Capiz, located on the northeastern island of Panay in Western Visayas, had a reputation for being a land of Aswangs (shape-shifting evil mythical creatures). This notion can be traced back to several historical events. One such event was the outbreak of dystonia disease that afflicted several residents in the province. Another was the use of the myth of Aswang to scare off Japanese soldiers during the war. These days, however, the province has chosen to spotlight its abundant seafood, earning it the moniker “Seafood Capital of the Philippines.”
During my recent visit to Capiz, I was fortunate to stay for a couple of nights, allowing for extensive exploration and experiences. Capiz boasts numerous heritage structures and surprisingly, a wealth of places of faith, worship, and contemplation – and no sightings of aswangs for me.
Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Cathedral
In the capital city of Roxas, there’s a beautiful plaza situated beside the Panay River. At its heart, along with the City Hall, provincial buildings, and the historic 1910-built Capiz Bridge, stands the magnificent Roxas Cathedral, also known as the Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Cathedral. This church and parish of Roxas City is one of the oldest in Panay island. The current church structure, which has undergone restorations and reconstruction, was originally built in 1827.
While Roxas City Plaza may bustle with activity, inside the church provides a solemn and comforting respite.
Ivisan Christ the Redeemer
Along the national highway between Roxas and Kalibo, there stands a 5-story replica of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. Built around 2010, this Christ the Redeemer is located in the hilly part of Malocloc Norte, Ivisan, Capiz. It’s hard to miss this statue, which seems to watch over passersby on the road, making it a popular stop among motorists.
Sapi-an Meditation Hills
Situated at Sitio Bangkal in Sapi-an, Capiz, the Meditation Hills offer a serene atmosphere conducive to meditation. This 5-hectare property, owned by the Villanueva family, inspired the construction of the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto atop these breezy hills.
Dumalag St. Martin of Tours
The St. Martin of Tours in Dumalag, Capiz, might appear plain from the outside, but its interiors are truly impressive. With a high ceiling and well-lit interiors, the church showcases intricate paintings, carvings, and architecture. The church also features an intriguing 5-story bell tower. Built between 1600 and 1720, this gem of a church offers visitors a glimpse into the town’s history.
Dinginan Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Demonstrating their devotion, Capiz hosts another monumental sculpture of Jesus Christ. In Dinginan’s mixed-use development, Pueblo de Panay stands a highly detailed 132-foot monument of Christ. The Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was completed in 2015 by a team led by sculptor John A. Alaban from Roxas City and foreman Jose Clarito.
Panay Sta. Monica Parish Church
One of the most notable churches in Panay Island is the Sta. Monica Church or Pan-ay Church. Declared a Natural Historical Landmark in 1997 and a National Cultural Treasure in 2001 by the National Museum, this church was originally built in 1774 and later rebuilt in 1884 after a typhoon decimated the previous structure. The current church, constructed in 1875, features 3-meter thick walls made of coral blocks, fortifying its foundation. It also houses the biggest bell in Asia, named Dakong Lingganay, which means “big bell.”
It’s surprising to discover so many places in Capiz that showcase the people’s deep devotion to their faith. Beyond being the Seafood Capital of the country, Capiz also stands as a pilgrimage destination and a haven for religious retreats.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.