HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 46 no. 1 - 4 (2000)

A Guillotine in the Convento: Notes and Questions on Historic Ilocos Norte Churches

Regalado Trota Jose Jr.

Discipline: History



The historic churches of Ilocos Norte are among the province’s most visited tourist spots and most recognizable symbols. One of them, Paoay, has been inscribed in the World Heritage List. Legend and oral tradition have spiced up popular perceptions of these monuments: witness the “sinking bell tower” of Laoag, the “escape tunnel” of Bacarra, the “Indian” or “Javanese” builders of Paoay, or the “guillotine room” of Sarrat. Some of these have been enshrined in tourist signposts. Prejudice, public credulity and lack of scientific research have added to the sensationalism.


This paper does not necessarily seek to prove or disprove such oral traditions. It will, however, cite sources and perspectives not yet within the popular mind. The disappearance of an appreciation of the Spanish language will be cited as a major hindrance to the proper study of these churches. Other heretofore unrecognized church-related monuments will also be presented.