It is actually named Saint James the Apostle Church. But you’d get by asking for directions to Betis Church. After all, every person in Pampanga has every reason to be proud of this historical and architectural treasure.






Huge, but it doesn’t look much from outside. And for a moment, I wasn’t sure if the 1- 1/2 hour drive from Manila is worth it. I’ve seen many photos of this 17th century church and its famed frescoes and murals but thought it could all be hype. That happens. So I braced myself not to expect much.






As we entered, we were pleasantly surprised to walk on wooden floors. Dubbed the “Sistine Chapel” of the Philippines, local artist Macario Ligon certainly didn’t disappoint. Biblical scenes and cherub paintings on the ceiling are guaranteed to give you a stiff neck while appreciating the majesty of this ceiling art. It confuses the senses whether to walk appreciating the native wood used for flooring, craning one’s neck so as not to miss the majestic “Sistine Chapel-ish” ceiling frescoes, or walking forward to get closer to the lovely and ornately-designed “retablo” of this church in Guagua, Pampanga.






Don’t miss standing in the nave and spending a few minutes there just to take it all in. Check out the baptistery on the right side, “guarded” by a statue of the Nazareno, before taking baby steps towards the altar.






The opulence strikes one with this pleasant sensation that a church as lovely as this has been spared from the disastrous lahar or mudflow from Mount Pinatubo. The neighboring town of Bacolor was not as lucky. By God’s grace, this church still stands in all its splendor so many more generations of Filipinos may appreciate this historical, cultural and architectural treasure.