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San Joaquin Church: A National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines

San Joaquin Church in Iloilo: Philippine’s National Cultural Gem

After visiting the Campo Santo de San Joaquin, our next stop was at the San Joaquin Church to appreciate the beauty of this towering edifice and learn how to cook Bandi – a popular local delicacy from the town of San Joaquin. The only church in the country with a war-theme façade is San Joaquin Church and recognized as the Peanut Brittle Capital in the Philippines, so these activities are a must when in Iloilo.

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San Joaquin Church Iloilo Province

History of San Joaquin Church

The Roman Catholic Church featuring a pediment with military bas-relief, San Joaquin Church was built from 1859 to 1869 when the Spaniards had a conflict with Morocco, where the battlefield took place in Tétouan, Morocco, and the church was in ruins during World War II.

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San Joaquin Church pediment with military bas-relief

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Church of San Joaquin bas relief depicting a military battle scene

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The Church of San Joaquin Iloilo facade

In 1890, the San Joaquin Church was recognized as a National Historic Site and went renovations. And despite losing their structural integrity, the walls and altar were reinforced using cement and were acknowledged in 2001 by the National Museum of the Philippines as a National Cultural Treasure (NCT).

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Drone Shot of San Joaquin Church facade

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Drone photo of San Joaquin Church Iloilo

Last January 19, 2019, the San Joaquin church celebrated its 150th founding anniversary when Fray Tomas Santaren was in charge. Based on the story, Santaren was responsible for the military bas-relief when he learned the news of Spanish triumph against the Moroccans. So he instructed the Mexican and Chinese stonemason to carve the bas-relief in commemoration of his father, who was part of the Spanish cavalry.

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Isle leading to the altar – The Church of San Joaquin Iloilo

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San Joaquin Iloilo Main Altar

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Bell Tower – San Joaquin Church

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The Church of San Joaquin Iloilo Bell tower

Aside from its iconic military pediment, San Joaquin Church features a bell tower, retablos sculpted in limestones, and an Augustinian seal above the doorway. It also has statues of Jesus Christ, Nuestra Señora de las Angustias, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Peter Regaldo.

What is Bandi?

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Bandi from San Joaquin Iloilo

Now let’s talk about San Joaquin’s local delicacy, Bandi or Peanut Brittle, a popular snack or treat for kids and adults, consisting of peanuts mixed with caramelized sugar, using a recipe passed from generations. It is also available from small to king-size and in bandi balls. The town made the largest bandi in 2005, measuring 14.5x 9.7 meters, and celebrating their delicacy as Balyluhay Festival or called Adlaw Kang Bandi.

How to make Bandi?

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How to make Bandi

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Freshly cooked Bandi

And if you don’t have the time to visit San Joaquin, Iloilo yet, you can make your Bandi at home by following the steps below.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of local peanuts
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup of water

Note: Prepare a plastic cover or banana leaf for wrapping.

Instructions

  • Heat the frying pan and mix the peanuts, sugar, and water.
  • Set the pan in medium heat and mix everything for around 15 minutes. Wait for the peanuts to cook evenly and the sugar to caramelize.
  • While cooking the ingredients, get a plastic cover or banana leaf and spread over oil on one side.
  • Take the frying pan off the heat. Then, pour the mixtures on the plastic cover of banana leaf.
  • While the mixture is still wet, form them into round shapes depending on the size you prefer.
  • Lastly, let the mixture dry up for a couple of minutes until it hardens.

In summary, San Joaquin is a beautiful and historical town you can explore in Iloilo, offering exemplar structures and rich culture. So if you’re looking for a long getaway, San Joaquin is the place to go. You can also try making your own Bandi if you miss this lovely town.

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