San Pablo Church Ruins | Isabela

We've been sitting on the bus from Cubao for almost 10 hours and after a stop-over at the town of Tumauini to see the Church of San Mattias, we followed it up by stopping over the town of San Pablo in Isabela just before we reach the next town of Tuguegarao, Cagayan.

Church ruins in Isabela

We were so tired from the long trip and an idea to skip San Pablo crossed our mind for a minute and our brief indecisiveness caused confusion with the bus driver and the conductor when they asked us where we're getting off.

As the bus was rolling along San Pablo...

Bus Driver: "San kayo bababa"? ("Where are you getting off?")
Lauren: "Tuguegarao"
Conductor: "San baba nyo?" ("Where are you getting off?")
Me: "San Pablo "

The simple Q & A was repeated four times. Confused, the bus driver stopped driving before flooring the gas and then halting and then starting again until he had enough and kicked hard on the brake pedal and happily let us out of the bus. They weren't pissed about our moment of indecisiveness, they even told us that the Church ruins is really a sight to behold.

Lauren Denoga

And while we're walking towards the church ruins I also thought about maybe we should have gone straight to Tuguegarao so we could lay down for a while on the bed of a cheap inn and have a brief rest. However, all the doubting to have yet another stop-over in a small town was forgotten when we viewed the towering belfry and the facade of San Pablo de Cabigan Church Ruins from afar.

Inching towards the old church, me carrying a full hiking backpack, Lauren lugging around two bags and Sharlyn almost pulling her own pack - weary from the long bus travel, the three of us cheerfully agreed that our decision to stall our arrival in Tuguegarao by passing this town and that of Tumauini was the best choice.

San Pablo Church architecture

Most of the time we chase a schedule and condition our mind that we must be at this place at this given time on the dot and all, but what we don't know is we are just bringing upon ourselves the lost opportunity to see other places in between. It's like going from point A to D - BUT, you end up also visiting point B and C en route to point D. Traveling becomes better when you follow that kind of scheme. Its the lack of schedule that makes traveling awesome.

The San Pablo Church was built in 1624 making it the oldest in the province. It bore witness to local history where folks from Isabela and nearby Cagayan made long journeys to attend mass during the old days. The church was heavily damaged by Japanese bombings during World War II leaving the façade and the belfry in ruined state. Even so, the rococo inspired architecture and the brick looking limestone rocks remains a sight to behold and easy to appreciate.

My brother who is an architect will be more able to describe in writing the design of this church, but I could not put emphasis on the major design and architecture elements of the San Pablo Church, rather I'd let these few photographs speak for itself.

The San Pablo de Cabigan Church Ruins is located near the highway. Just get off at the San Pablo highway by telling the bus driver that you're going the way of the church and just walk for like 50-70 meters inside a residential subdivision where the church situates on grassy grounds.

And off we leave the town of San Pablo captivated by the ruins of a church that has stood witness to the history of the town and even the whole province of Isabela. Countless herds of the Catholic faithful have attended mass, christening, and even got married here — while scores had their final mass before getting laid to rest. It is forever a part of the heritage and culture of Isabela and I hope that future generation would take proper actions to safeguard heritage sites such as the San Pablo Church Ruins without ruining what was left of the place.

This church was featured in CNN when a crew by Dan Rivers went to the Philippines to chase and cover a typhoon. While on the way back they passed by the town of San Pablo from Tuguegarao and they decided to film a story about this beautiful church ruins.