Our Lady of Atocha in Alicia, Isabela

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“Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine: there is not a Spaniard of public importance for a thousand years who would not kneel to ask her help. Her gowns are made from the bridal gowns of queens; yet no shrine better demonstrates how little it matters where we rank in the world or what we do for a living. One of her supplicants asks her for victory for his armies, one for rain for his thirsty fields; Our Lady of Atocha answers all, impartially and lovingly. “( lifted from http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/our-lady-of-atocha.html)

The Our Lady of Atocha Church sits in the town of Alicia known for its Pagay festival, a first class municipality in the province of Isabela. It was completed in 1849 and has been declared by the Department of Tourism as one of the country’s religious tourist destinations.

As Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine, Our Lady of Atocha in Isabela looks every inch a Spanish church.

 

 

 

 

Masbate Hotels and Resorts

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As I keep returning to Masbate to attend the annual National Rodeo Finals, I find that more and more hotels have opened, and more are opening. In contrast with my first visit to Masbate in 1978 when the only hotel then was one near the pier, and is not anymore operational.

In 2013, I was happy to return with some room choices. And after many more visits, I am ready to share with fellow travelers the accommodations options on this beautiful island. As a Top Contributor on TripAdvisor, I find it strange that only the older, and rather decaying ones, are listed and reviewed. Last week, I caused the listing of a hotel that I thought should be there, so that fellow travelers can likewise share their experiences and prospective visitors will be better guided.

This blog is definitely the most comprehensive listing and review of Masbate hotels to date.

1. RANCHELLE BEACH RESORT AND HOTEL

I stayed at Ranchelle two weeks ago and was so impressed, making me conclude it is the best hotel within the city,  that I immediately wrote a TripAdvisor review, only to find out it was not yet listed. Probably because I am a tripadvisor  Top Contributor, they eventually included Ranchelle in their listing, publishing my review.

Nice clean room, crisp linen, 4 pillows, clean blanket, bottled water, white clean towels.

Nice clean room, crisp linen, 4 pillows, clean blanket, bottled water, white clean towels.

 

native picnic huts near or facing the beach

native picnic huts near or facing the beach

The only downside is that the place can get so busy with weekend outings of local families. I was out most of the day anyway, and the place was blissfully quiet at night.

Room Rates: De Luxe P1,800, Family P2,300, Premier P2,600, Suite P3,300. When I was there, they had a P400 promo discount on the rooms. Includes breakfast, free wifi, and free use of gym. Contact: 056 5780929/09487165915
FB page:Ranchelle Beach resort Kainan sa Tabing Dagat
Website: http://www.ranchelle.com.ph

 

2. LEGACY SUITES

This hotel surprised me when they accommodated my request for a reconfiguration of a family room when I was deciding on which hotel to stay in when I attended Rodeo 2015. The owners (whenever around, as they are in the USA a good part of the year) are very hands on and quite friendly. The location is a plus, having drinks at the front of the hotel while watching the ocean.

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My room, reconfigured to my wishes. Room 8.

My room, reconfigured to my wishes. Room 8. With verandas, albeit small, on both sides.

 

Nice to have drinks or coffee here, front of the hotel, facing the road and the ocean

Nice to have drinks or coffee here, front of the hotel, facing the road and the ocean

Address: Purok 8, Boulevard, Barangay Ibingay
Contact : (056) 582 0210, (056) 588 0423, 0917 600 9372

Rates: Single P1,350, Twin P1,600, Family 1,65o – P3,000

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/legacysuites.masbate

Website : http://www.legacysuites.net

 

3. NOVO HOTEL

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Novo Hotel is the only high-rise hotel in downtown Masbate, right smack at the city center. It is extremely popular because of its location and inexpensive pricing. Aircondtioned rooms go for P900 for 24 hours, and check out is dependent on the guest’s check in. The presidential suite goes for a mere P1,400, (but was racked up to P1,700 on the week of the city’s most popular event, the Rodeo festival. All room rates actually go up during this peak season). The bigger family room is just slightly more expensive.

Presidential Suite

Presidential Suite

Telephone number +63 56 578 0687. Call to check if they have a room: this hotel does not accept reservations.

 

4. GREENVIEW HOTEL

I stayed at Greenview on my first rodeo in 2013. The top floor of the unit burned the other year, but the hotel has since been fully restored. Pretty nice hotel, nothing luxurious but good value.

The room at the structure before the main building is nice.

The room at the structure before the main building is nice.

Breakfast/coffee/drinks spot

Breakfast/coffee/drinks spot

Address: Nursery Street

Contact: (056) 33 6241, 0920 611 9650

Rates: My room was P1,500.

 

5. SAFE HOUSE

This is a new option, tucked away in Himomoro, within Masbate City. Best reference is Gagay Resort, right beside the new Safe House. Safe House at the moment only has two airconditioned rooms but accommodations for each room can go as many as 6 pax, with extra mattresses provided by the owner. Presently under construction is an events venue, plus two more rooms.

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Safe House has become a destination. It has the “I Love (heart) Masbate” sign with the very famous Buntod Reef on the background. Even the province’s Vice Governor went to safe House for that beautiful photo op.

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Another attraction is the steel railing where lovers can seal their love for each other with pad locks, inspired by how lovers seal their loves with pad locks on bridges in Paris.

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Contact: Cliffords 111, phone number 09287786888

Rate: P1,200 per day

 

6. BALAY VALENCIA

This is a preferred accommodation by sensible, budget-conscious travelers, including foreign backpackers and local executives who want local flavor in an old provincial home. No fuzz, just comfortable accommodations. Flowing coffee, mineral water, cheap wifi, free breakfast.

tucked along quiet Ibanez Street, at the city center

tucked along quiet Ibanez Street, at the city center

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feel at home

feel at home

Contact: (056) 333 6530

Contact: (056) 333 6530

7.  7-AR  RESORT

I instantly liked 7-AR when I saw this resort-hotel. Only, I was told by a friend that the rooms are small. And I personally like spacious rooms, so I have not stayed here yet. But I checked out the rooms two weeks ago and, while the rooms are not big, they I thought were good enough. The plus is the hotel’s location, and the beautiful swimming pool by the beach-side.

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Not big, but I thought this is comfortable

Not big, but I thought this is comfortable

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8. MG HOTEL

MG Hotel is described in old reviews as the best hotel in Masbate. Indeed, I was told that President PNoy stayed there when the plane carrying Secretary Robredo crashed, and the president and his cabinet trooped to Masbate. When i stayed there last, I noticed that the hotel was not well maintained, and I noted this poor maintenance in my review. Not really that bad, maybe it was just my room. But after seeing the other hotels, MG can not lay claim to being the best.

My third floor room

My third floor room

MG Restaurant, coffee shop

MG Restaurant, coffee shop

a kiddie pool?

a kiddie pool?

 

9. BAMBI HOTEL

Bambi Hotel used to be Sea Blick, then managed by MG Hotel. As a stand alone hotel, they now have their own coffee shop. Room rates include breakfast, hot and cold showers, cable TV, wifi, transfers to and from the airport or pier, and they have a stand by generator. A pleasant surprise is that they accept all major credit cards, in very sharp contrast with most Masbate hotels.

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10. RENDEZVOUS RESORT

Rendezvous is one of the earlier hotels in the city, and has been home to many famous personalities. However, with the opening of newer hotels, Rendevous has become a mid-range hotel. It was also a most visited destination when the wharf going to the famous Buntod Reef was still operational, but the wharf has gone down because of a recent typhoon. I chose to have lunch here on my last visit. The al fresco setting by the beach is always a nice lunch or dinner experience. A major plus is the amiable owner/manager of the resort hotel, an active community personality and a warm host.

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Testimonials from past guests

Testimonials from past guests

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Address: Punta, Nursery, Masbate City

Contact : (056) 333 4751, 0905 327 2778

Rates: P800 – P1,500. Breakfast not included. Wifi in Restaurant.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rendezvousresortph

 

11. ST. ANTHONY HOTEL

I have been seeing this hotel on my past visits and so I decided to check this out two weeks ago. It is right smack at the city center, along Quezon Street, the city’s main road.  The entrance to the hotel is a narrow hallway from the road, beside a restaurant. The hotel signage is prominent, and can not be missed.

the mosy expensive room of the hotel has a good orthopedic bed and high quality beddings. P2,500.

the most expensive room of the hotel has a good orthopedic bed and high quality beddings. P2,500.

the typical aircon room

the typical aircon room

Rates:

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Contact St Anthony Hotel at (056) 333 2180, 0946 821 2580

12. GV HOTEL

I once stayed at GV Hotel so that, as a blogger, I can share hotel standards and services from the best hotel to the least. I rate GV the least, until I come across a lesser hotel. Strange that this hotel which is part of a chain does not even have a coffee shop, nor a store. I had to go out of the hotel to buy biscuits, bread, and drinks tto tide me over when I get hunger pangs at night. The hotel’s maintenance also needs improvement. I asked to be transfered to another room because of the stink in the room originally assigned to me. For travelers on a budget, GV can be an acceptable accommodation. as long as you know how to cope. And make sure you get a clean room.

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Address: Danao Street, Masbate City

Contact : (056) 333 6844

Rates: Fan Room P1,050, Standard AC P1,440, De Luxe P1,800, De Luxe family (4pax) P2,800. The hotel runs promo rates with 50% discount on some months.
Website: http://www.gvhotels.com.ph/masbate/masbate.hotel

 

13. BACH COTTAGES

When I visited, the signage was not even up yet. So if you go right now, you may not find it. The one in charge just mentioned that the name of the whole property will be Bach Cottages. In case you visit and not see the sign, look for the cluster of cottages beside the Magrovetum on the Boulevard, in between the mangroves and the activity hall of the Masons, before Rendezvous Resort.

country-style cottages

country-style cottages

not a hotel, and not run by skilled hotel housekeeping staff. Backpacker-type accommodations in a lovely setting

not a hotel, and not run by skilled hotel housekeeping staff. Backpacker-type accommodations in a lovely setting

Address: Robredo Boulevard, near mangroves (Mangrovetum)

Contact: Nathaniel Guadayo, phone 0915 5006330

Rates: P750 for 2 pax, aircon, P500 for non-aircon room

 

 

AROUND MASBATE CITY

 

14. BITUON BEACH RESORT

Bituon is 10 kms east of Masbate, in the town of Mobo. It is an extremely popular resort, with more than one kilometer of white sand beach. There are huts and tables for picnickers, as well as non-aircon and aircon cottages facing the beach. Yet there are cozy, well-appointed rooms that cater to the more discriminating. A popular TV personality who visited and taped for his travel show stayed at Bituon.

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their best rooms are cozy, with amenities like ref etc

their best rooms are cozy, with amenities like ref etc

 

Address: Bituon Beach Resort, Bagacay, Mobo, Masbate

Contact: (056)3332 2197, 0917 548 3938

Rates: From P800 (duplex, non aircon, single bed) to P3,500 (executive room, aircon, cable TV, Ref, bathtub, hot and cold shower, breakfast for 2

Website: http://www.bituonbeach.com

 

15. TICAO ISLAND RESORT

This accommodation is on another island. I went there by boat from masbate City, and thru a habal habal (backride) on a single motorbike. Ticao Island Resort is popular as a dive resort and clients mostly come by boat from Donsol, Sorsogon. I was the only Filipino when I checked in at Ticao Island Resort. It is  high-end : P7,000 cottage that can accommodate 2 pax,  full board. If you travel solo you still have to pay the full rate of the cottage. It is beautiful, though, and worth the price.

 

 

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the very simple P7,000 a night cottage

the very simple P7,000 a night cottage

Address: Barangay Tacdungan, San Jacinto, Ticao Island, Province of Masbate

Contact Details: 0906 324 3116, 0906 324 3034

Website: http://www.ticao-island-resort.com

 

16, MAYONG PAYONG

This is not a hotel nor a resort. But when I went there I found out that the cottages can be rented for P200 overnight. There are no provisions. The floor is made of bamboo slats. My friends who stayed overnight brought thick blankets and jackets with them as the temperature up this hill can drop in the evenings. A couple sells coffee and other canned goods. Best to bring your provisions. Visitors are not guaranteed of accommodations, and you may want to be ready to pitch a tent. There is a toilet within the premises.

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Mayong Payong is on top of a hill in nearby Mobo. Visitors hire habal habal (back-ride on a single motorbike) from the turn off at the highway. Ask around how to get there.

 

17. COCO VIEW LAGOON

Coco View Lagoon is a picnic destination featuring a series of fresh water pools from a waterfall that flows into the property. sections have been created to manage the depths of the pool such that there are kiddie pools. Picnic huts are rented for P200- P400 depending on size. Overnight accommodations can also be arranged in air-conditioned rooms.

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overnight accommodations

overnight accommodations

Address; Umabay Interior, Mobo, Masbate

Contact : Darlene Torrecampo, phone 09084266077

Rates: P1,000 and P1,200 per room, aircon

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coco-View-Lagoon-Umabay-Mobo

 

18. BUNTOD REEF

Buntod Reef is a protected marine reserve. A marine sanctuary frequented by visitors during daytime. I have heard of friends who have stayed overnight. Check with the Tourism Office who can coordinate with the Marine sanctuary if you intend to camp overnight on this most beautiful Masbate white sand beach, actually a sand bar. If the authorities would not anymore allow overnight camping on the reef, just then try to visit for the day.

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19. CAMP ON AN ISLAND.

Masbate has many islands with pristine white sand beaches, many of them unknown to most locals. I went one such island then, actually with a long sand bar at low tide. The island is called Nabuktuk and is accessed from the pier of Mandaon. You might yet find your “old man and the sea” story.

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20. RANCH LIFE AT LA FORTALEZA

 

This is a most unique accommodation, and available only in San Juan, Mandaon, around Masbate. Stay overnight on a pitched tent on top of a hill within a working ranch. A package of only P600 per head per day includes a pitched tent, with toilet and shower facilities, horseback trail ride, trekking/hiking within the ranch, opportunity to observe cattle herding, opportunity to try ranch work like grooming and feeding horses, fence repair and replacement etc. Be a cowboy / cowgirl !

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see how cowboys herd cattle

see how cowboys herd cattle

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My friends and I pitched tents then, had bonfire at night, and watched the stars as we enjoyed our drinks.

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Ranch Life/Ranch Tour can be arranged thru  phone # 0906 2481108

 

HOW TO GO TO MASBATE

Philippine Airlines flies to Masbate daily.

Visitors can also take a bus from Cubao and  go straight to Masbate, via ro-ro in either Pilar or Pio Duran ports. Regular buses cost P1,000 one-way, inclusive of the ro-ro. Special Isarog buses with toilets and reclining seats also ply the route at P2,000n fare one way.

 

 

 

 

SUTUKIL IN MASBATE

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not a hole-in-the-wall

not a hole-in-the-wall

I first went to SUTUKIL in Masbate on my first rodeo visit. The place was recommended to me by a local, and so I went. I enjoyed the food immensely and so I brought in a big group two days later. After the sumptuous meal, our bill was only like P200 each, including tip.

SUTUKIL is in the rodeo capital of the Philippines, and a rodeo display greets diners

SUTUKIL is in the rodeo capital of the Philippines, and a rodeo display greets diners

I have since returned many times, and SUTUKIL has been a ritual. I must have lunch or dinner there every time I visit. The most wonderful thing is that their menu has not changed since then, and the price has been the same since 2013. In spite of the fact that the restaurant now looks very different from what was then like a hole in the wall.

The same menu board I first saw in 2013, and prices have not changed. This board has moved many times, as SUTUKIL was expanding little by little.

The same menu board I first saw in 2013, and prices have not changed. This board has moved many times, as SUTUKIL was expanding little by little.

 

Today, a concrete structure stands, with a spacious function hall at the second floor. I learned that rooms for travelers will soon be made available on the third floor. Indeed, business is good. Why? Because they have kept to the positioning : excellent food at very low prices.

 

When I visited a few weeks back, the second floor function room, airconditioned, was booked for an event by a the local  chapter of a worldwide civic group

When I visited a few weeks back, the second floor function room, airconditioned, was booked for an event by a the local chapter of a worldwide civic group

Three weeks ago, I was just there with 2 friends. We had so much food that 5 diners could still be full. But because SUTUKIL dishes are very good and inexpensive, we ended up ordering more than what we could normally eat. If 5 people had our meal, the bill will be a little over P150 each. And that is essentially how each one of us paid as our share 3 years ago.

the regular dining area at the ground floor

the regular dining area at the ground floor

 

SUTUKIL is short for Sugba, Tula, and Kilaw. Here is the Sugba.

SUTUKIL is short for Sugba, Tula, and Kilaw. Here is the Sugba.

 

. . . and the Tula and Kilaw. Plus my all-time favorite steamed or buttered scallops

. . . and the Tula and Kilaw. Plus my all-time favorite steamed or buttered scallops

Way to go, SUTUKIL Masbate.

Sutukil Masbate is in Barangay Kinamaligan. If you don’t have private transport, tricycles can bring you there.

(I endorse this good-value restaurant without any strings attached. We have always paid for the full amount of our orders, and never asked for any discounts,)

LAKWATSA

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Bar none, the best restaurant in Masbate. Nothing fanct, but the best food, and best value – – meaning iNEXPENSIVE. I went to this restaurant last year and came back with a group of 30 friends this year.Then it was just called Castle Kaunan, with SUTUKIL taking second billing.

Image Photo taken in 2013 when I visited this restaurant first. There was still no air-conditioned section.

Going ahead of the story, the verdict was that they were all happy I introduced them to this restaurant.And why not?  The place is no-fuzz, nothing fancy. Just good food. The menu was varied.

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Our order consisted of the delicious fish called “malasugue” done three ways. Sutukil means SUgba, TUla, and KILaw. Sugba is grilled malasugue, TUla is malasugue in broth, and KIlaw means making a part of the malasugue fish chopped raw and only done in vinegar and some spices. On top of the…

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Iloilo : Dinagyang

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The Dinagyang experience will make you want to return. And so I will be in Iloilo on January 22 to 25 for Dinagyang 2016.

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Iloilo is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, and is home to the most colorful festival honoring the child Jesus, known as the Sto. Nino.

Tribu Obreros Tribu Obreros

I went there last weekend to join the festivities and to capture the colors and the soul of the event wherein “tribes” from the different towns and cities in Iloilo participate. If one did not know, he will think that the warriors are real tribesmen, what with their bodies painted either black or very dark brown.

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Each contingent is well funded, and donations from the different businesses in their localities fund the elaborate costumes and props. Each of the participating tribes are  made up of more or less 500 participants, including the warriors and the ladies, the chieftains and the religious leaders, the musicians on their eardrums-assaulting drums, the propsmen, the barangay officials on parade, and the choreographers and costume designers.

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Masbate, Once Again

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My third Rodeo trip to Masbate. This is addicting. Masbate, I mean – – – not just the rodeo.

Event: Carambola

Event: Carambola

For starters, I have become a member of VROoM, the Volunteer Rodeo Officers of Masbate, the implementing arm of Rodeo Masbateno, Inc. VROoM men and women are on the ground, at the arena, running the events as jusges, timers, stockyard managers, tabulators, etc. I have been designated as timer for Rodeo 2015, a duty I failed to perform due to a doctor’s order for me to stay out of the sun for hours.

A cowboy must stay on top of the bull for 8 seconds to qualify. Very vew do. And all of them eventually fall off the bull.

A cowboy must stay on top of the bull for 8 seconds to qualify. Very vew do. And all of them eventually fall off the bull.

 

And sometimes the bull gets to ride the cowboy

And sometimes the bull gets to ride the cowboy

 

action can start right on the streets, when  a cow decides to be "pasawy" on the cattle drive

action can start right on the streets, when a cow decides to be “pasawy” on the cattle drive

Secondly, every trip to Masbate is a discovery of some new place. And a return to familiar places that one would not want to miss when in town. Like the Buntod Marine Sanctuary and SUTUKIL, that restaurant I blogged about for having delicious food at unbelievably low prices.

the reef staff

the reef staff house

 

the reef is also a mangrove preserve

the reef is also a mangrove preserve

 

We also visited majaba, an island southwest of Masbate City, and never been visited by probably 99% of Masbatenos

We also visited majaba, an island southwest of Masbate City, and never been visited by probably 99% of Masbatenos

the Majaba island is sizeable, and boys use the paragos to transport stuff

the Majaba island is sizeable, and boys use the paragos to transport stuff

close to Majaba is Nabuktut, an island that is essentially a sandbar

close to Majaba is Nabuktut, an island that is essentially a sandbar

Bugui Point lighthouse revisited. In Aroroy, Masbate

Bugui Point lighthouse revisited. In Aroroy, Masbate

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The Masbatenos have become friends. I am invited to the brainstorm for Rodeo 2015. And as I write this, cowboys from Masbate are on the road, coming to my Tagaytay home to wish me happy birthday. And participate in a canao I planned for tomorrow.

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Masbate will make you want to visit, again and again.

San Sebastian Cathedral, Lipa City

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The San Sebastian Cathedral is the single most imposing structure in Lipa City if one does not count the huge malls within the city center. Our travel-photography group FUNtastic Philippines visited Lipa last Saturday and made the cathedral grounds our base for exploring this city.

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HISTORY OF THE CATHEDRAL

Villa de Lipa was once the most affluent town in the Philippines mainly due to its most famous produce, coffee. From the City of Lipa website, one reads that  Don Galo de los Reyes, then the  governadorcillo of Lipa, introduced coffee of the  Arabica species brought in from Mexico.

The church was first constructed with light materials and a series of constructions and deconstructions happened under he administration of the Augustinians until Fr. Benito Baras, who was Parish Priest of Lipa for from 1865 to 1894 finally completed the construction of this  parish church which would later become the cathedral, known to the locals as Katedral.

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From the webpage Batangas Hub (http://www.batangashub.com/4/category/san%20sebastian%20cathedral%20in%20lipa%20city/1.html), “Lipeños visit this place often without knowing that this church,The  San Sebastian Cathedral, is the product of the townsmen’s motivation to build astonishing huge churches to compete with other cities nearby for the seat of the archdiocese in 1910.On that same year, Lipa was chosen by Most Reverend Jospeh Petrelli, D.D, to be the Diocese covering the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon Marinduque and Mindoro and later made the seat of the Archdiocese. It was constructed simple and bare without the murals and paintings until the 19th century when the colorful and extravagant images were drawn on the walls and ceilings. San Sebastian Cathedral is raised from rough-hewn, rectangular stone and has a six-storey octagonal bell tower that rests on a rectangular base of the small dome on top. It also features a grand baroque designed pipe organ which is the only one in Batangas Province and one of only 59 units in the Philippines.”

Indeed, the Lipa Cathedral is easily one of the most beautiful places of worship in the country. Here are more photos I took on our visit.

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Paschal Mystery

Paschal Mystery

The Cathedral attracts devotees

The Cathedral attracts devotees

 

the left-side corridor

the left-side corridor

 

the church interiors featuring the magnificent altar

the church interiors featuring the magnificent altar

 

from the inside looking out

from the inside looking out

the dome

the dome

 

this cathedral is grand, befitting the seat of the Archdiocese of Lipa

this cathedral is grand, befitting the seat of the Archdiocese of Lipa