Barcelona Ruins Park, Saint Joseph Parish
While most travelers often skip staying at a hotel in Barcelona, Sorsogon, this town is still worth a stopover. After all, it’s home to one of the region’s oldest churches and some Spanish colonial-era ruins—a rarity in an area battered by typhoons and threatened by active volcanoes.
Originally part of Gubat and Bulusan, the town of Barcelona has an interesting history. It was elevated to a separate pueblo civil in 1886. As the name suggests, the town was named after the city of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. This was after the Spanish conquistadors who established the town were reminded of the Catalonian city, due to its distinct topography.
With its location near the sea, the town was a vital outpost against pirate attacks during the Spanish colonial period. Seeing its strategic location, the Japanese also took over the town in World War II, establishing a garrison in the Presidencia building.
Today, it’s a popular stop-over for travelers exploring Sorsogon province. With its century-old parish church and the ruins of the Presidencia building still standing, it’s a must-visit town for culture buffs.
The town of Barcelona is around an hour from Sorsogon City. Simply take the jeepney heading to Gubat; from Gubat, take the jeepney to Barcelona. Travel time is from 15 to 25 minutes.
You can also take a jeepney to Bulusan, if available. Or you can also hire a tricycle from Gubat town straight to Barcelona.
Since the town center is pretty small, it is best to explore it by foot.
The main tourist attraction in the town of Barcelona, Sorsogon is its century-old church. The Saint Joseph Parish Church was constructed in 1874 and is considered one of the oldest churches in the Bicol Region.
Built out of coral rock, it is the last of its kind in the area, as no cement was used in the original church. A mixture of lime, egg whites, and tuba (local coconut wine) was used to hold the stones together. While the interiors of the church have been changed, the façade and the bell tower still remain largely untouched. Since the church was facing the sea, the belfry also served another purpose: as a watchtower to spot incoming intruders.
Across the church are the ruins of several structures. One is the Presidencia building, which housed the gobernadorcillo during the Spanish colonial period and doubled as a fortress against invading pirates. According to some tales, this building also had an underground tunnel leading to the church. However, this passageway is said to have been closed to prevent thieves from accessing the church.
The other ruins were once a school for the Spanish elite. However, both these buildings fell into disrepair after a typhoon ripped the roofs off during the Japanese occupation. Today, these ruins are now part of the seafront park complex.
Since Barcelona is quite a small town, most activity revolves around the seaside park facing the church. Here, locals congregate to enjoy the lovely sea breeze (and the free Wi-Fi available at the plaza). There are also huts in the area where you can hang out with friends or family. And you can have your picture taken at the massive “Barcelona, Sorsogon” sign at the park.
If you want to explore more of Sorsogon’s heritage sites, you can head on to the neighboring town of Juban. That town is popular for its many Spanish colonial era houses.
Barcelona is one of the top producers of the pili nut in the province. Hence, don’t forget to sample this Bicolano delicacy before hopping on to the next destination.
Sadly, accommodation options are quite limited in the town of Barcelona. Travelers are advised to simply stay in neighboring Gubat, which has a number of beach resorts; or in Sorsogon City itself. You can also stay at Casa Feliz, a heritage house turned bed and breakfast, in nearby Juban.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. While the town center is not exactly big, walking around on heels isn’t exactly the best way to explore it, either.
Make sure to wear something more modest when visiting the church, meaning no ultra-short shorts. Otherwise, bring a wrap. It’s still a small provincial town, after all.
Visit the town on May 18 and 19. That’s the dates of their annual fiesta, which commemorates their patron saint, Saint Joseph the Worker. Expect lots of food as the entire municipality, composed of 25 barangays, join the festivities.
Practice LNT (leave no trace). This means that you can’t just pick up any old rock from the heritage sites in the town—all you’re allowed to take are pictures.