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Bolinao Pangasinan: St. James The Great Parish Fortress Church Historical Documentary

BOLINAO'S PRIDE: St James the Great Parish Virtual Tour - Let us take a glimpse at the historic and colorful past of one of the oldest churches in the country- St.James the Great Parish!

LGU Bolinao in partnership with Sangguniang Bayan ng Bolinao in cooperation with St. James the Great Parish Church- Bolinao proudly presents- BOLINAO: St. James the Great Parish Short Documentary and Virtual Tour directed by Hon. Richard C. Celeste, MD

To God be the Glory! - Saint James the Great Parish - Bolinao Sangguniang Bayan ng Bolinao - Bolinao Tourism

#BolinaoWeRiseAsOne #BabaliKoKawananenKo

St. James the Great Fortress Church

In modern times, people would recognize Bolinao as a permanent display featured at Legoland in Malaysia, notable for the St. James the Great Fortress Church in the center of town. This iconic church was built out of black coral stones in 1609 and, from its name, was once a fortress built against American, English and Japanese pirates. It is the only religious structure in the Philippines that bears the Holy Seal of Papacy in Vatican, the Seal of the Governor General and the Seal of Queen Isabela of Spain. Its bell tower, standing at 75 feet, is also known to be one of the tallest in the country.


00:00 Introduction

00:27 The Philippines

01:59 Credits

03:56 Chapter 1 - The Timeline - History of Bolinao Church

17:29 Chapter 2 - The Patron Saint

19:20 St. James The Greater, The Lesser, The Just

20:59 St. James - History of the name "Santiago" 

23:55 The Beheading of St. James 

25:16 Camino de Santiago - The Way of St. James

28:20 The Tomb of St. James

32:31 Chapter 3 - The Architecture - St. James The Great Church Bolinao

36:30 Notable Coat of Arms in St. James The Great Church

39:02 The Campanario & other church features

48:55  Reduccion or Spanish Reducciones

49:52  Laws of the Indies 

52:35 Legacy of Spanish Colonialism  

53:03 St. James The Great Parish Church - Bolinao

The Saint James the Great Parish Church is a Spanish colonial church located at Brgy. Germinal in Bolinao, Pangasinan, Philippines. The church was made out of black coral stones. The church underwent series of natural and man-made calamities, such as the 1788 earthquake, 1819 fire incident, and Typhoon Emong in 2009.

The Local Government Unit of Bolinao headed by Hon. Alfonso F. Celeste, MD thru its Municipal Tourism Office in partnership with the Sangguniang Bayan headed by Hon. Richard C. Celeste proudly presents a cinematic video digitally produced for virtual tour  that will allow people to explore the depth and expanse of the rich culture and heritage of Bolinao. Featured pilgrimage site is the iconic and historical St. James the Great Parish Church. Through this initiative, viewers will have the opportunity to enjoy beautiful locations and sites digitally and enjoy travelling from the comfort of their own house.

The first religious friars in Bolinao were the Augustinians who stayed in the town from 1585 to 1587. The Dominicans took charge from 1588 to 1599. In 1600, the Augustinians returned and stayed until 1607. The missionary work left by the Augustinians were taken over by the Augustinian Recollects who administered the town from 1609 to 1679, up to 1712 when the Dominicans took over again. When the Recollects returned in 1609, they transferred the town to the mainland because of the troubles inflicted by the piratical raids. The Recollect fathers returned in 1749 and took charge until 1784. Since then, several priests administered the parish.

The church tower of Bolinao used to be the tallest in Pangasinan until an earthquake destroyed half of the tower in 1788. The church convent was accidentally burned in 1819.

The first priest was ordained in Bolinao Church in 1974. In 1985, it became a parish of the Diocese of Alaminos, previously being under the Diocese of Lingayen.

On May 7, 2009, the church was heavily devastated by Typhoon Emong and has since then been undergoing repairs and renovations.

Architectural features

Saint James the Great Parish is in High Renaissance style. One feature of the church is its trefoil arch main door. The overall design of the facade is plain and simple with the super-positioned columns alternating with window openings and tall blind arches conspicuously dominating the ends of the walls.

St. James the Great Parish

Bolinao, Pangasinan, was canonically erected in the year 1609 when the Augustinian Friars took over this mission territory which was earlier entrusted by the Spanish Colonial Government to the Dominican Friars in the year 1594 and left the place in the year 1607 due to the vastness of their mission territories and the scarcity of their missionary members.

The Church tower of Bolinao measuring seventy-five (75) feet was then the tallest in the whole Pangasinan if not in the entire Northern Luzon. However, an earthquake in 1788 toppled about half of it. Then in 1819, the Church Convent was also accidentally burned.


Historians have no exact record on the date Bolinao was created.  It was presumed that the town was created by virtue of a Royal Decree of Spain.  Records show that it was the year 1575 when Spanish Captain Pedro Lombi founded the first settlement with more or less 100 settlers.  The Municipal Council of Bolinao, by virtue of its Resolution No. 104 dated September 19, 1988 adopted July 25, 1575 as the Foundation Day of Bolinao in honor of the Patron Saint of the town, St. James the Great.

Bolinao was made a part of the Province of Pangasinan upon the enactment of Public Act No. 1004 dated November 30, 1903 of the Philippine Commission.

There are three (3) versions where the name Bolinao came from.  The name of the town could have been derived from the “Pamulinawen” tree which grew in abundance along the beaches.  The second story claims that the name of the municipality came from the fish species “monamon” commonly called “Bolinao” by the Tagalogs, Bicolanos and Visayans.  The third one is associated with the couple Bolido and Anao.  The combination of their names created the name Bolinao, which is the name of the town.



LAND AREA:    19,722 hectares

POPULATION:    82,084


CLASSIFICATION:    1st class

PAROCHIAL FIESTA:    July 25 (adopted as Bolinao Foundation Day)

FESTIVAL:    Mangunguna Festival (April 24)

Farming, fishing as a major supplier of  bangus to Navotas
and Malbon small-scale and cottage industries, salt making,
rope making, shellcraft, bagoong making, buri mat  weaving,
dried fish making, charcoal making, bamboo and woodcrafts

Enchanted Cave
Bolinao Museum
Cape Bolinao Lighthouse
UPMSI (Marine Laboratory) Pacific Farms, Inc.
Bolinao Falls
Tara Falls
Balingasay River Patar Beach
St. Claire Monastery
St. James the Fortress Parish (1609)


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