To Visit the Churches (Visita Iglesia)

One of the activities to commemorate the Passion of Christ in the country is Visita Iglesia or Church Visit. In the Philippines, it dates back to the Spanish colonization in which Catholics visit seven churches to pray and meditate.

The tradition has its roots to the early years of the establishment of the Church, when there were 7 great basilicas in Rome that Christians would visit for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. (

I remember my first attempt doing this religious activity when I went to Antipolo (sans the long walk). I was quite surprised of the big crowd gathered in the church’s courtyard. It was a mix of tradition, family gathering, bonding and travel.

In this solemn week, I decided to list down the churches I have kneeled and prayed at during my trips. Which among these were you able to visit?

Parish Church of Villa de Arevalo

Parish Church of Villa de Arevalo

Located in Arevalo in the province of Iloilo, it houses the 3rd oldest Sto. Nino  in the country. The white facade reminds me of an old house.  Creepy as it may seem, the photo of my friends in front of the church looked like a rendition of the American Gothic painting.

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon

Every time I visit Bohol, I always drop by in one of the oldest church in the country to give thanks for the safe travel. I think that this is close to my heart since I was a member of Children of Mary group when I way in grade school.

It has a museum that houses church paraphernalia as old as the Church — including a “music room” with large song books. As the photo shows, I will always be fascinated with this elevated seat that reminds one of a royal watching an opera.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bantayan Island

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bantayan Island

Aside from the white sand and secluded beaches in the island, this 5- hundred year old church located in the heart of the town is one of the island’s tourist draws.

Made of stones and corals, it is a cool refuge from the not so busy streets of the town proper. It also houses a simple museum that contains, among others, the order from the Vatican that the island is exempted from abstinence of meat during the Holy Week.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Church in Binondo

Minor Basilica of St.  Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lay of the Most Holy Rosary Parish  in Binondo

Located in the corner of Ongpin Street, it stands proud among the banks and fastfood restaurants.  It was build in the 1500s but was damaged over time with the bell tower as the only remaining original infrastructure.

I am always in awe with its altar in gold trimmings.

Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova or the Miagao Church

Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova or the Miagao Church

A trip to Iloilo is not complete without a visit in this famous landmark in this side of the province. I remember braving the rains of Typhoon Frank just to reach this church in Miagao.

According to,

“The artistic facade of the Miagao Church is decorated with a relief sculpture of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child amidst coconut, papaya and guava shrubs. Like any other foreign influences, the architecture of many colonial churches has undergone the process of indigenization. This process is carried out by incorporating the prevailing Hispano-American and Medieval Spanish architecture with local as well as Muslim and Chinese touches….Supporting the facade are the twin belfries, one towering two-storeys and the other three-storeys high. The church’s simple interior is nevertheless highlighted by a striking gold-plated retablo.”

The Church of Saint Anne in Molo, Iloilo

The Church of Saint Anne in Molo, Iloilo

Still in Iloilo stands the red roofed Molo Church. Known for its Gothic architecture  that looks like a castle, it is one of the tourist attractions of the province. The interiors is made outstanding with the 5 pairs of pillars and statues of 16 women saints lining up to welcome churchgoers.

The Church of St. Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte

The Church of St. Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte

The giant “wings” or buttress of the church makes this landmark north of the country a must see for devotees and tourists alike. The baroque style architecture is mesmerizing that one can imagine walking the church grounds during 1700s. If studied closely, the “towers” on the roof look like small temples reminiscent of temples from the other parts of Southeast Asia.

Basilica Minore of Sto. Nino del Cebu

Basilica Minore of Sto. Nino del Cebu

The most visited church during Sinulog festival and beyond. The Basilica houses the oldest religious image in the country — the Sto. Nino or the image of Child Jesus.

I have never seen the Basilica replete of people given its  popularity among devotees and Filipinos. For the many instances I have been there, I always line up to view and “kiss” the image while saying a little prayer.

The Basilica is also a tourist destination. Nearby are the Magellan’s Cross, the fort, Parola, Gorordo Museum and the oldest street in the country- Colon. It is like a devotion that once in Cebu, go to Sto. Nino.

The Church

The Church

Among the many churches I have been to, this is I called The Church akin to Jamie Sullivan’s church in the book/movie A Walk to Remember.

The church located in the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Immaculate Heart Convent is a small church located in San Jose, Tagaytay. It is non descript with its plain looking architecture among the tall pine trees in the compound. The interiors, on the other hand, has some sort of a divider to separate the nuns from the common churchgoers which really attracted me.

It has been my church of worship when I spent my summer before college . Over the years that I have attended workshops and trainings in Tagaytay, the simple facade made me fall in love with it that it made me decide that it will be the church where I will tie the knot.


Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza in Zamboanga City

Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza in Zamboanga City

Fort Pilar, as what locals call, is like home to me. Every time I am in my birthplace, I always visit the place to light a candle and say a little prayer. Then, a visit to the national museum at the side.

Countless processions that I attended always end up in this religious landmark. First-time visitors are always brought here. Numerous candles have been lighted to give thanks or ask some favours.

Since this is a fort, it is an outdoor church with concrete pews. Early morning and late night churchgoers flock Fort Pilar (yes, we don’t call it a church) for their daily devotions.

After the siege, I don’t know what it looks now since I haven’t been home for more than a year. I do wish that the old birdhouses are still there, Pinang’s (women selling candles and prayer books) still trading their wares and the colourful popcorn and cotton candy makers still luring the kids.

Have a Holy Week, everyone.


Scribbles: Bantayan Island

Pimp my ride : Bantayan Island is located in the northernmost part of Cebu Province. From Manila, take an early flight or an overnight sea trip to Cebu City. Ask the cab drive to take you to the North Terminal for a land trip up north. A bus trip to Hagnaya is approximately 5 hours with a fastpaced peek of the countryside. Upon reaching Hagnaya, proceed to the pier (which is just a stone’s throw away) and purchase a ferry ticket to Sta. Fe. Another hour or two savoring the seaside on board the roro.

When you don’t have a free resort transport, don’t fret. Just flag down a tricycle or pedicab to take you to yor temp home in the island.

Around Bantayan, tricycles are available to take you any place in the island Or you can rent a motorcycle for a day.

Savor Flavor: There are numerous eat-all-you-can offerings in Sta. Fe. Just walk along the restaurant row and there are buffet specials left and right. Wherever you will be having your dinner buffet, always savor the grilled bamboo shells and scallops. These go best with a nice bottle of iced cold beer.

For the not so hungry pack, try out the grilled stuff infront of the bakery. It is a makeshift stall selling bbq-ed chicken and chorizo (pork sausage). The queu might be long but the juicy chorizo is worth the wait. It is best eaten with one’s hand plus a serving of puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves).

For the rest of the day meal, aka breakfast and lunch, order at least once- the danggitsilog. Danggitsilog is composed of fried dried boneless danggit, garlicky sinangag (fried rice) and uber fresh sunny side up. When you’ve tasted Bantayan’s egg, you will agree why the island is called the egg basket of the region.

Since the island also has a couple of local eateries, one can try out their tola (sour broth with local fish) and seaweed salad called lato. Dang, the two are actually play of words! And if one is too picky, head out to the wet market. Buy some seafood and let your resort or the nearby eatery cook it for you the way you like it (probably fried or grilled) with a minimal fee.

See Oh See: Bantayan is not limited to lounging around Kota Beach or enjoying the sun and sea in the sand bar. There are numerous activities one can enjoy…and they are not strenous!

1. A visit to Sts. Peter and Paul Church and its museum.Oldest church in the area with a museum that has a relatively extensive collection of Catholic religious items. Looking at the walls makes one imagine gargoyles guarding the premises,btw.

2. A half day tour in Sta. Fe and Ogtong Club to have swim in the Ogtong Cave. If one is lucky, you got fish as swimming buddy. If chlorinated water is your thing, a large pool is waiting near the tiny cave. One can also flex some muscles by kayaking in the calm water of the resort.

3. Jumpshot in Sugar Beach. It may not be sweet but definitely fine sand to rival Boracay’s and Panglao’s.

4. Kill time in Virgin Island. Crystal clear water. Secluded area. Lush garden. If swimming with starfish and nemo’s friends is your aim for the day, head out to the island to enjoy some quiet time.

5. Market Day. Haggle your way to score the best deal of dried daing or tocinong isda. Located in Sta. Fe town proper, it is the must go to place for a first time or frequent visitor.

Back to You : Bantayan

What I like about Bantayan Island is the barrio-tic and rustic feel the place offers aside from the clear blue waters and white sand. Of course, there is a slew of tourists from the mainland but visitors here are mostly Caucasians and the usual singkits and sakangs. It is amazing that the island has maintained the barrio charm amidst the imported visitors.

For the past 3 years, my bestfriend Shirly and I visited the place. The first time I saw a pic of Kota beach from a friend, I immediately fell in love with the view. With that in mind and some notes on how to get there, besty and I embarked on a journey that will start the annual visit to the island.

The following year, we brought along Rhiza. Like us, she loved everything the island offered, including the grilled Cebu chorizo on the side street and the Virgin Island.This time around, it’s newbie April getting introduced to the beauty of  the island.

Fast forward Day of the Trip.

Our travel started with a 2am tambay at the new NAIA terminal. Aside from the checking-in liquids brouhaha, we were able to board the plane at 4 am and left for Cebu at 430.

sleeping beauties

We had breakfast at McDo in Fuente Osmeña. Why at Fuente? We just want to be in the middle of uptown and downtown Cebu for our first meal in the province. Well, not really. It’s actually the only McDo place we are familiar with. We took the ordinary Ceres bus going to San Remigio. Welcome to the provincial bus trip! Two stops lang daw and the unavailability of a/c bus til 11am made us decide to jump in.

The trip was uneventful. After passing several cities and small town,s the three of us fell asleep and just woke up when we were approaching the long and winding road on the way to Bogo City.

We were at the San Remigio port (most northern part of Cebu province)by 10am just in time for the 1030 ferry to Sta. Fe, Bantayan. What’s great about the ferry ride was the free tickets. What’s not so great about it was the hour and a half trip. i dunno what happened to the 30-minute trip with fast craft.

Sta. Fe pier

Our new home for three days is the German-owned Marlin’s. We’ve stayed in Kota for the last trips and we made a good decision of trying out Marlin’s. Main reasons? No water shortage and new rooms.


First order of the day was lunch.

There was a carinderia near Mama Tita’s bakery. We grabbed a seat and had humba and hipon okoy and 35 pesos steamed little crabs arranged as a necklace. The food was delish!

Let the real vacation begin!

Daughters of the Beach

That is Shiryl, my besty, and me all over the different beaches around the country. In between beach trips, we are also accompanied by our fellow beach lovers like Rhiza (in Bantayan, Puerto Galera), April (in Bantayan), Glen (in Camara, Capones and Anawangin), Agnes (in Puerto Galera), Mike and JD (in Zambales) and my cousins Che and Tere (Panglao, Virgin Island and Balicasag).

There are also interesting people we meet along the way like Owen and Patrik in Coron, Tatski in Bohol, Benjie the pedicab driver in Sta. Fe,  Tita in Boracay, the couple +1 in every island we dropped by in Busuanga, Myra and Med in Puerto Galera, and those names I forgot.  Hope to bump them again one day.

And hope to meet a lot more in our next beaching.

Beaching in Bantayan

I can’t get enough of the Bantayan Island experience. The very early morning flight to Cebu, the rush to the Cebu North Terminal and almost -“naloko ng taxi” in Mactan airport to the eternal Air Supply album being played in the bus while seated in a extension seats (read: monoblock stools in the aisle)…to the first sight of Bantayan and the sighs you get to hear from first time visitors (Shirl and I, included).

Shirl and I were bloated, sleepy and a bit cranky an hour after we boarded the bus to Hagnaya in San Remigio. We were seated in the extension seats which I realize upon my butt cheeks touched that monoblock stool that the trip ain’t very good.

Save for the ocassional cries of the kid in front of me, the Inday who sang with Air Supply, the lolo who seemed senglot, the urge to ask manong driver “are we there yet?!” and the uneasiness of sitting in a stool for 3 hours – the trip went smoothly.

Upon reaching Hagnaya, we trooped to Fast Craft which leaves at a later time but travels faster (reminiscent of TAR, maybe?)…so we had an early lunch of grilled hotdog, barbeque and puso.

The island from the Fastcraft was a sight to behold. White beaches on our left…and on our right. When we set foot on the pier, all we could muster was “Wow!”

We rode a pedicab to Kota Beach which is a few minutes from the pier. Take note, di napagod si Bernie sa kapapadyak. The scene while traversing the narrow road reminds one of home. Rustic with the fiesta feel. Well, it will be the island’s 425th anniversary on the 25th. FYI.

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One can’t get enough of the awe of the view in this side of the beach. For the next three days, we soaked up the sun, frolicked in the beach, took lots of fotos, talked with the locals and everything in between.

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Was the almost 7-hr air-land-sea trip worth it? Every single nanosecond of it.

P.S. These are some of the things to do in Bantayan Island:

1. Ride the pedicab.
2. Read under the coconut trees.
3. Lounge…Lounge…Lounge…
4. Drink that 30 peso-buko.
5. Dangitsilog!
6. Buy bibingka from the little store on your way to Ogtong Cave.
7. Walk on the sandbar at Kota Beach.
8. Beach resort hopping.
9. Kayak at Sta. Fe Beach Club.
10. While at Sta. Fe, admire the view on top their TREE HOUSE.
11. Visit the Ogtong Cave and swim with the fish.
12. Do some swimming laps at the beach club’s pool.
13. Eat at Sta. Fe’s ultimate tambayan – the only barbeque stand in town!
14. Visit Bantayan town proper.
15. Say a little prayer at the Sts. Peter and Paul Church – the oldest in the island.
16. Walk through history at the town’s musem.
17. Listen to the amazing mixed dialect of the locals.
18. Walk around the main street of Sta. Fe at night.
19. Lie in one of the benches facing the beach and listen to the waves.
20. Walk around the sandbar and GATHER shells.
21. Eat mangoes with your hands.
22. Feel the sand.
23. Ride with the waves.
24. Watch the skimboarders doing their thing.
25. Wake up early and watch the sunrise.