Of the many historical landmarks that exemplify the rich heritage of Ilocos Norte, St. William Cathedral is one of the province proudest landmarks that denote the role it played in history. St. William’s Cathedral is an early 17th century Philippine church that is located in Laoag City. Dedicated to San Guillermo or St. William the Hermit, the city’s patron saint, the cathedral has a distinctive elaborate façade in the Italian Renaissance style. It has a bell tower less than a hundred meters away which is known as the Sinking Bell Tower.
The Church of St. William has a unique 2-storey white-and-cream façade in a very opulent style. The design of the cathedral is predominantly the earthquake baroque style but it is also rich in Italian Renaissance details. In front, there are 4 pairs of coupled columns that are topped by crowns. The church’s windows are made of capiz and have wrought-iron grills. Near the top is a deeply recessed niche in which is displayed the image of San Guillermo. Another image of the patron saint may be seen by the church’s entrance.
The cathedral’s earthquake baroque bell tower is located about 85 meters away. It is named Bantay Bell Tower but is often called the Sinking Bell Tower because it has been sinking under its own weight due to seismic activity through the centuries. Evidence of this is its enormous door, which is already half-buried so that it is necessary to stoop to enter it.
An Astounding Facade
St. William's structure is pyramidal with uneven engaged columns. Its design is diverse with overlapping elements and discontinuity between lines and patterns. The main entrance is bordered by connected columns which are “applied tight against the wall, without pediments”. Above it are pseudo-Corinthian capitals with rossettes and acanthus flower designs. It is also embellished with the primitive form of urn-like finials. In the architrave are five sets of minicolumns with Doric capitals. The choir loft level are of similar design to the lower level.
The wooden door is engraved with Greek words “Alpha” and “Omega”. The twin engaged columns are likened to giant candles. These columns contain statued niches and recessed portals which are alternately placed.
The Olden Times
The church is also known for remaining in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church during the Philippine Independent Church’s rampant domination of the province. During the establishment of the Philippine Independent Church by Gregorio Aglipay in 1902, St. William’s Cathedral was the only church in all of Ilocos Norte that was not taken over by the Aglipayan order. Fr. Roman Ver, assistant priest at the cathedral, was the only priest to resist the schism that had spread throughout the province during this period. He is said to have refused entrance to parish priest Fr. Jose Evangelista upon his return from Manila, where he had just been appointed as a bishop in the Philippine Independent Church.
The church was badly damaged by an earthquake towards the end of the 20th century. However, it was completely reconstructed. In 2005, Msgr. Jacinto A. Jose, parish priest of St. William’s as well as the 3rd bishop of the Diocese of Urdaneta, undertook the controversial move to renovate the centuries-old roof of the cathedral. The renovation project was completed a year later.
Venture to Laoag, Ilocos Norte!
From Manila, you can go to Ilocos Norte by riding a bus bound for Laoag. There are buses that will take you directly to Laoag City like Partas, GV Florida Transport, Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit and Fariñas Transit. There is also a direct flight from Manila to Laoag via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. From the airport, there are available jeepneys that bring the passengers to the city proper.
Accommodations in Laoag are also available. There are lots of inns and hotels throughout the town offering comfortable rooms and cottages at a reasonable price.
• Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel - Brgy. 37 Calayab, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Pamulinawen Hotel - National Highway, Brgy. 22, 2901 San Nicholas, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Plaza Del Norte Hotel and Convention Center- 15 Suba, Paoay, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Grand Octagon Resort - Airport Ave., Brgy.50, Butong, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines
• Java Hotel - 55B Salet Gen. Segundo Avenue, Laoag City, Laoag (Ilocos Norte), Ilocos Region, Philippines