Mistakenly identified by a number as part of Vigan City, Bantay is a municipality situated northeast of Vigan, with landmarks quite a walking distance from the city center.

The Bantay Parish, serving as the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, the Queen of Ilocandia, and the Bell Tower are two of the oldest structures in the province of Ilocos Sur. 

Ten years ago, I was with a group of friends from the Ayala Young Leaders Foundation when I visited the said structures.  It was rather rugged-looking and unpaved.  The said structures have not embraced commercialism yet.  The path towards the Bantay Bell Tower was dusty amidst the sweltering heat.  But today is totally different.

I have visited the landmarks of Bantay, Ilocos Sur, twice for this recent familiarization tour.  The first, being part of a day itinerary, it was a breeze to step on the three sights – the church, bell tower and the garden.  The second was more of loitering with friends, as part of our extended stay in the city.


The pathway towards the Bell Tower is now concrete and there is a gate that separates the said structure from the church.  A totally different scene from what my memory serves me a decade ago. 

The clouds were gloomy in this recent visit and fitting for the cinematographic scene of Panday, the late Fernando Poe Jr.’s movie.  This is what every Filipino’s knowledge of the Bantay Bell Tower is composed of, a location shoot for the movie Panday.  But more than an important part in the heroic life of a fictional tinsmith, the Bell Tower has seen the atrocities and uprisings of the Filipino people.  As the Bell Tower stands on a hill, it has served as a watchtower as well for invading enemy forces during the two World Wars.

On our second visit, we were so excited to watch the sunset at the Bell Tower and take photos of the vicinity in a bird’s eye view.  We loiter around, eat at a nearby restaurant and went back to the gate of the Bell Tower around 5PM.  “Closed na po kami.”  (We are already closed) The caretaker so declared.  We can no longer go back the following day and so mission aborted and unaccomplished.  The Bell Tower closes at 5 in the afternoon.


Truth be told, the Bantay Church belfry is more popular than the church itself named as the Saint Augustine Parish Church.  It is one of the oldest churches in the Ilocos Region. 

We were greeted by doves on the church façade adding aesthetics to the grandeur of the church.  Bricks and mud are the raw materials that make up this Spanish-inspired architecture.

There are benches available fronting the church which serves as a place to take refuge from the heat of the sun and to do people-watching as well, though may seem inappropriate as it is a place for worship.

Within the vicinity of the church lies a garden and a small chapel, named Chapel by the Ruins.  The chapel is open-air with surrounding saints and a set of gardens, but definitely does not appear ruined.

Like any other municipality in the country, a church apart from being the center of religion and at times commerce, can also be a tourist destination.  And the Bantay Church and the Bell Tower is definitely not an exception to such.

And so we ended our second visit to the church and decided to search for a place where we can sit and drink for the night.


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