Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza (Sibonga, Cebu)


A short drive northwards from Argao, where we stopped for a merienda of tortas and masa podrida, we stopped briefly at the unassuming looking edifice of the Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza church or basilica in Sibonga, Cebu. Once inside, the painted wooden roof left our mouths agape, it was stunning! Less than 140 years old, this smallish church is quite well- preserved indoors, though I noticed quite a bit of atrocious external “refurbishment” that takes away from whatever the original exterior must have looked like.


This site seems to have much better photos of the church and a bit of its history.


The murals and patterns painted on the wooden ceilings are gorgeous, in tones of beige, brown and highlights of sky blue.


It must have taken painters several years to complete the ceilings of this church…


And the painted tiles below are equally stunning and varied, a bit over the top, actually…


…and out in front is an avenue of fabulous acacia trees, perhaps 100+ years old, providing shade and an utterly stunning passage for vehicles and passengers just in front of the church. Wonderful. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area!


30 Responses

  1. Awesome…how they made that church leaves so much to the imagination…especially the painting…wonderful ceiling!! Would love to see it.

  2. a masterpiece! beautiful ceilings and a lot of inspiration to the painter to create such a wonderful piece of art…..

  3. Mr. MM… you probably got that pain in your neck from looking up at the beautiful ceiling in Sibonga…

  4. hi MM! nice that you’re back…that last picture you have here.. is soooooo makes me happy,everytime i see big trees along the road . i used to envy my classmates in college whogoes back to their provinces during vacation.

  5. i dont remember that church but i do remember those trees on the street. i remember driving by there. these old churches are truly philippine antiques. they are windows to our culture and should be preserved properly

  6. thanks for bringing attention to those cebu churches. the sibonga church is awesome – another good reason to visit the small towns of cebu and not to be confined to the city alone.

  7. The fresco ceiling painting is fabulous! Yes, totally agree with you must have taken the painters years to complete the ceiling painting with that intricate design and varying colors used. Not only the intricate work involved – the painters were working with their neck and eyes all the time I guess.

  8. if you’re awed by this church, you’ll like the old penafrancia shrine and the cathedral of naga in bikol. equally impressive and better preserved.

  9. Chrisz, actually, I did see that church in Naga last year, but since there was a mass on-going, I didn’t take any photos of the interior, I think I had one of the exterior, however…

  10. Took a mini tour of old churches last year and it boggles my mind why they would “upgrade” the exterior with cement and paint. It just doesn’t go with the old moss-covered adobe exterior. Some of them were quite atrocious .

  11. I had the chance to go to the Penafrancia in Naga, and WOW, it was an awesome beauty. I also remember a little old somewhere in Bulacan that my barkada and I accidentally had to take refuge because of heavy rain actually naligaw kami, we were then high school kids from Manila attending a local fiesta). Gosh, the interior was wonderfully painted, It took my breath away. Kung hindi lang ako minadali ng mga kasama ko, I would have stayed there, hihiga ako sa silya and just stare at the ceiling. Also the stained glass was magnificent.

  12. From the looks of the church outside, I wouldn’t have guessed that stunning ceiling murals adorn the church. Beautiful!

  13. 5 years ago, i go to sibonga every week and these things i took for granted…waaahhhh these pics are so nice. i dont know when i can go back to sibonga again!

  14. I love Cebu. I used to live there. Then I moved to Manila. Dont get me wrong but I feel like the culture in Cebu is so bountiful. While here in Manila, you have to travel so far to see their heritage.

  15. hi there. You have been to sibonga church. How about the churches staring from boljoon to carcar?..The architecture and design have similarities..and about the ceiling,the painter in sibonga ihas also painted parts of argao church’s ceiling ang the other half was painted by the painter in dalaguete’s church…try visiting these churches some other time..And talking about well preserved ones, go to boljoon…

  16. luke, if you bothered to do a simple check of the archives, you would see that I have visited several of those other sites you mentioned…

  17. My wife is from that town, and I have been in there quite a few times. I love the old Spanish style churches, and find it must easier to make a spiritual connection in there than I do in alot of the more modern American churches. Alot of the newer ones seem like they should be bingo parlors rather than a place to connect with God.

  18. hi everyone..tnx for visiting my hometown…our church is quite stunning and awesome,,the folks there are friendly and accommodating too..if u have time..take another visit there..sad to based in davao now..coz i work here…ciao everyone..

  19. hi thanks sa pag post sa church dha sa sibonga… i was studying there in snhs that was 1995 i was graduated highschool.. i mis that place.. thanks a lot..

  20. Hi marketmanila,

    Thanks for linking me.

    Anyway, the church is actually a transition between stone and concrete.

    When the church was about to be finished, concrete was introduced thus the builders made use of it since it was cheaper and easier to work with.

    This is the reason why the facade of the church looks quite contemporary at the topmost part.

  21. My wife is from about a klick north on the road, and, as an Irish Catholic, this Church made me feel the majesty that a church should make us feel. The Old Churches make me feel all “squishy” inside; the newer ones make me want to nap.

  22. i have visited the church from carcar to oslob and compare them..the best is from sibonga, you can see the expertise and can feel the passion of the paintings, you should see them



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