For someone going to or leaving the Ilocos Sur capital of Vigan, one that will certainly not be missed is this old yet captivating structure, obviously noticeable from the main road before entering the heritage town, ready to steal ones attention, the old bell tower of the town of Bantay.
Bantay, a neighboring town of Vigan City to the east, is one of the oldest parishes in the region and in the country. Its icons are the brick red church of the Parish of St. Augustine, also known as the Shrine of Nuesta Señora De La Caridad (Our Lady of Charity) and its well-preserved Spanish era bell tower.
Bantay Church and its belfry are among the old structures of Ilocos without official recognitions from National Historical Institute of the Philippines, not even a marker to commemorate their importance, contribution and role to our history, information are also scarce. But it is known that the original church and belfry was built in 1590 but damaged during the World War II and only the original belfry that served as watchtower during the war survived. What stands now is a reconstructed structure of a church that was built in 1950.
The church’s facade features the statues of St. Augustine of Hippo and Our Lady of Charity, canonically crowned by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Most Reverend Egidio Vagnozzi on January 12, 1956.
The old bell tower, located on a hill around 100 meters from the church is made up of bricks. It is still in good condition with the original bells still hanging on top. The church allows visitors to climb the tower, where a good view of the surroundings can be seen – the Bantay Cemetery, the City of Vigan and the Cordillera mountain range from afar.
The feast day of the Parish of St. Augustine is celebrated every second Sunday of January in commemoration of the canonical coronation of the venerated image of Our Lady of Charity. The The best time to visit to have a picture perfect photos of the church and belfry is on the afternoon because the church is facing west.
How to get to Bantay
Vigan is the neighboring city of Bantay. It is 8 to 9 hours by land from Manila. Several bus lines serve the route including Partas (Contact No: 725-1740, 725-1256, 725-7303, 724-9820), Dominion Bus, Aniceto Bus and Viron Transit. Buses going to Laoag such as Florida Bus Line (Contact No: 731-4473, 781-5894), Baliwag (Contact No: 524-7111, 525-1067, 525-3064, 525-6769, 525-2338, 525-2294) and Fariñas (Contact No: 743-8582) also pass by Bantay and Vigan City. It is on the right side of the main highway before the Vigan City Arc.
Meanwhile, SeaAir flies from Manila to Vigan twice a week.