Aklan: Visita Iglesia at Philippines’ Oldest Province

Little did I know that Aklan, originally known as Minuro it Akean, is considered as the oldest province in the country and believed to have been established as early as 1213 by settlers from Borneo. As per province’s website, their written history takes back to the middle of the 13th century when ten Bornean datus, together with their families, fled the oppressive rule of the Bornean king, Sultan Makatunaw. Barter of Panay was made between Atis (the black-skinned, pygmy aborigines of Panay Island) and Bornean datus in exchange of seeking new home. Hence, the Atis moved to hinterlands and a celebration was made. Thus, from then on, that has withstood the tests of centuries came to be known as the Ati-Atihan Festival. One of the “sakups” (districts) of Panay Island is Aklan (what was then Aklan and Capiz combined) under Datu Bangkaya. With other “sakups” of Irong-Irong (now Iloilo) and Hantik (now Antique), they united for mutual protection against enemy attacks into one confederation called “Confederation of Madyaas” under the overlordship of Datu Sumakwel who was the oldest and wisest of the ten Bornean datus. 

After frolicking the water of Boracay, I went back to main island of Panay to visit the mother church of Aklan located at province’s capital, Kalibo.

Ati-Atihan festival Photos displayed at the lobby of Kalibo Municipal Hall

The Ati-Atihan Festival was originally a pagan festival from the Ati tribe practicing Animism, and their worshiping their anito god. Spanish missionaries gradually added a Christian meaning by incorporating Santo Niño (image of Holy Child Jesus). Today, the Ati-Atihan is celebrated as a religious festival and considered “The Mother of All Philippine Festivals”. Nowadays, other towns in Aklan with Ati-Atihan Festival aside from Kalibo are: Ibajay, Malinao, Makato, Batan, Altavas, and Boracay in Malay.


Coat of Arms of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalibo
Dioecesis Kalibensis (Latin)
Diyosesis it Kalibo (Akeanon)


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalibo is a diocese that constitutes the entire province of Aklan in the Philippines. Erected in 1976, the diocese has experienced no jurisdictional changes, and is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Capiz.

Cathedral Parish of St. John the Baptist, Kalibo

The Kalibo Cathedral was originally built in 1581 and stands as the oldest edifice of worship in the province. Renovated in 1993 through the spiritual and monetary help of the Aklanons, the church’s renovation designs are one of the last works of the renowned national artist Leandro V. Locsin. I can’t find any old photos of the cathedral but I thought it has another belfry at the other end, making it symmetrical at front.
Enormous bells displayed at the patio
Entrance to the Shrine of Holy Child Jesus of Kalibo
Holy Child Jesus of Kalibo

Parish of St. John Nepomucene, Tangalan

St. John Nepomocene Church is considered as one of the oldest church of the province and the design of limestones are as much alike with the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo. This 113 year-old church can be found at Tangalan, Aklan, Philippines. The people of this municipality built this church during the Spanish regime. Men, women and children were forced to carry limestones from Afga, Tangalan (one of the barangays of Tangalan) to Poblacion in order for the church is built. 
Main aisle of Tangalan church
The Risen Christ at the Crucifix of Main Altar
Choir Loft behind the facade
Mary’s garden at the side

Parish of the Holy Child, Makato

Domicile of the Santo Niño and Ati-atihan Festival renowed throughout the province and a week ahead of Kalibo, Makato has been celebrating the “Mother of all Philippine Festivals” in admiration of the Holy Child. Established in the thirteenth century, the town’s name had been acquired by accident. Thinking that the Spaniards came to ask the route along the river, the native answered “Makato” which meant “that way”. The Spaniards recorded the name Makato on the year Eighteen Hundred (1800) thinking it was the name of the town.
Simple modern altar of Makato church
Main aisla facing the entrance

Parish of St. Joseph the Worker, Numancia

At a busy intersection few kilometers away from Akean river lies the town of Numancia. This town is bounded on the east by Kalibo, the north by the Sibuyan Sea, the west by Makato, and the south by Lezo. The church has modern-looking facade, and located at the town center.
Peeping at Numancia’s church revealed the same Risen Christ on Crucifix like Tangalan’s
Church’s parish office beside

Parish of St. Joseph the Worker, Malinao

Further south of Numancia lies the 4th class municipality of Malinao. A typical quiet town but has a planned Spanish layout where town center has important buildings within. One of these is the Makato church. Though under renovation, you can see that it is a notable landmark revered by townsfolk and preserved for generations to come.
Renovation works inside Malinao church

Parish of St. Isidore the Farmer, Lezo

Going north of Malinao lies the Municipality of Lezo, is a 5th class municipality in the province of Aklan, Philippines. I took some rest sitting in a bench before walking towards the church. You can see it from a distance as the main road of Lezo leads to it, just like any Spanish-period planned towns. As I took a closer look, it amazed me as it was like Tangalan’s facade. Rustic yet beautiful. As per research online, it was built in 1910 made from bricks created from clay soil of the town. Hence, Lezo is know for pottery industry. I can’t find any historical markers but it deserves one. With other landmarks such as the town hall and other monuments, it retained an old feel. Luckily, I was able to enter before it was closed.
Main aisle
The main altar with an old retablo
Choir loft
Our Lady of the Rosary decorated by caretakers before closing the church. Probably they’re preparing for a procession.

Central Aklan Route: Kalibo-Tangalan-Makato-Numancia-Malinao-Lezo

It was such a fulfillment to visit and pray at these heritage churches of Aklan. There’s more than to see in this Panay province aside from its natural wonders.

Saeamat nga abu!

Have a blessed visita iglesia everyone!


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