St. Anne Parish Church in Molo, Iloilo

I landed in Iloilo at about 5:45 AM, straight from working 1 and a half shift to cover for my being out and away on a Friday, sleep hasn't bothered me yet for more than 24 hours. Still, I was feeling non-lethargic as if I've chugged down a liter of Red Bull energy drink. I took a shuttle ride from the airport which took me down to SM City in Iloilo.

Too early to meet up yet with my couchsurfing host Joanne, who was still at work that time. I decided to drop by a few churches in Iloilo which I've penciled out as places of interest for myself to visit during the 2011 Dinagyang Festival.

The first church I visited was the Molo Church or the St. Anne Parish Church. It was a short 10 minute ride from SM City where I took a jeep to Leganes then got off at the intersection to hop into another jeepney going to Oton - (Villa Mohon). The church is seen from the road so its easy to spot it and from Molo Church you can take a jeepney going to Miag-ao and San Joaquin which will have you passing through other old churches like the ones in the towns of Guimbal and Tigbauan.

I don't really go to mass regularly, you can drag me to a club almost similarly to dragging me to attend a mass, which is zero chance. It's not happening. However, regardless of my religious indifference and inactivity in practicing my faith - I have this deepened interest in visiting places of worships whenever I could. Thailand and other countries in Asia has been on my list namely because of its temples and the mosque in the Middle East are also included in my "someday list".

The Philippines, being a former Spanish colony wherein they converted us to Christianity, has many churches scattered all over that serves as a trail of their religious transformation of Filipinos. A large number of old churches was erected in Northern Luzon from Isabela circling to Aparri, Ilocos, La Union, Pangasinan, Pampanga and unto Laguna, Bulacan, Batangas and Rizal. From there the trail, continues in the southern part like Bicol, Panay Island, Negros, Bohol and Cebu. Following these trail of old churches - one can have a definite idea of the places where the Spanish became successful in their quest for religious transformation. One can say, they haven't had much luck in Mindanao.

 It was primarily because of the resistance of the Muslims there, which proved to be a huge barrier in their over-all conquest of the Philippines. These resistance came in the form of the "Muslim marauders" or the "Moro" which the word "Molo" came from, when Chinese settlers referring to the "Moro" who used to attack the coasts of Panay to gather slaves, had a hard time pronouncing the word, thus the "Molo" version of the word was coined.

The "Molo" church was not different from other churches in the Philippines that was built during the Spanish period. It has gone through Muslim raids, earthquakes, fires and other beatings from time. Built in 1866 it now features 16 statues of female saints such as Saint Clara, Julianna, Rosa de Lima, Teresita, Cecilia, Marta and Margarita.

A fact that earned the church a moniker of being the "feminist church in the Philippines". It was made of coral stones and features a Gothic themed architecture making it among the few Gothic churches outside of Manila. Its two towers are pointed with dome shaped altar and ceiling that is adorned with huge wall paintings.  The church took its name from St. Anne, the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ and was declared as a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1992.

The church is located near a small plaza where I took a brief rest and stared at old people exercising. A few steps from the plaza I settled on a small carinderia and ordered myself, guess what? a bowl of "Pancit Molo". I felt tired for the first time, being a long day and all even though its still early in the morning. But, I have yet to start my trip and the idea that I just started and I have a long way to go with more places and churches waiting for me to see, made me unwary of my body's hunger for a prolonged and timely sleep.

"There is no sleep for the curious traveler" I told myself. After sipping through the last drop of my Molo soup I stood up and took one last look at the church - bid farewell and off I go to my next pit stop.