A few of my friends who are locals here in Manila decided to invite me today to a short road trip with them to Pampanga, a province north of Metro Manila. They were going to a small town called Betis which is just a short drive away.
We planned to see the Betis Church (long name, The St. James the Apostle Parish Church) which is considered a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It was built during 1660 and finished in 1607, but it has been destroyed several times over the years due to fires so it had to be rebuilt and restored multiple times.
It was actually really beautiful despite it being in a small town the middle of nowhere. The Spanish colonial architecture and the murals on the ceiling were stunning! The murals are also very beautiful, having been inspired by church art back in Europe. I haven’t seen a church this beautiful in the Philippines since seeing the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte a few years ago.
The exterior is quite beautiful as well, although it really is starting to show its age. It look quite dirty and old already, so I really hope a (good) restoration will be done on it soon.
I also love the wooden engravings on the door of the church. It’s a traditional and local kind of art called dukit, which is currently trying to be preserved by modern-day artisans of the town. The engravings look so beautiful and unique, and it seems like such a tedious process, engraving those tiny details in a single block of wood.
Do I think the church is worth going to? Yes, but only if you have extra time in Manila, as well as somebody to take you there, otherwise you’d be wasting a lot of time due to the long drive; and honestly there’s not much to see in the town itself anyways.
I really do hope this beautiful church will stand the test of time, and will be restored properly to avoid it going to ruin in the future.