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. (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Visita_Iglesia)

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 exploreiloilo.com,

“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.

A Peek at Dinagyang 2014

Opening Salvo is Ilonggos’ call to  the technical or dry run of the Dinagyang street dancing. I was lucky to have glimpsed this local tradition a week before the actual Dinagyang Festival which is scheduled on 24-26 January 2014 here in Iloilo.

It is the province’s version of the Ati-atihan Festval celebrated in nearby Aklan. It is a local term for merry making which got its full recognition back in 1977. Prior to that, it is knows as Iloilo’s Ati-atihan. According to dinagyangsailoilo.com,

“Iloilo Ati-Atihan dates back to the year 1967 when a replica of the image of Señor Santo Niño was first brought from Cebu by the San Jose Parish in Iloilo City. The image, accompanied by devotees from Cebu, was enthusiastically received at the Mandurriao Airport by the people of Iloilo.

In 1969, the Ati-Atihan contest became a part of the cultural aspect of the celebration with only four tribes participating. Since then, the celebration has progressed into a more colorful and pompous affair that includes the participation of more tribes and groups…”

One of the tribes practicing for the actual street dancing.

One of the tribes practicing for the actual street dancing.

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Of course, there were a lot of locals lining up the streets to see the practice. They were as excited as non residents like me trying to get a good “seat” at the hotel’s stairs. I actually didn’t end up at the stairs but near the drummers to see all the sways and swaggers the dancers were doing. I think my ear drums are no good after being near those real drums.

Youngest viewer

Youngest viewer

And this young man is as much as the participant and as well as the spectator.

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Himala sa Guimaras


Gimalas sa Guimaras
Originally uploaded by 2amigas.

We missed Guimaras – as our planned itinerary would have indicated that we would spend 1 night there on Saturday. It was so disheartening to see the island from a distance in Fort San Pedro, with big waves blocking off the beautiful scenery. Waaah! Maybe on our next trip then. Guimaras definitely doesn’t deserve just a one-night stand from me. An affair – maybe for 2 to 3 days – will be the best way to enjoy it.

I swear we’ll definitely go to Guimaras for the beaches, and the breathtaking views. Have to plan a sunnier time to do that.

Taking Iloilo by Storm

Literally.

What is it with our vacations and rain? First was Baguio..Puerto Galera..Boracay (where our flight was cancelled!)..Bantayan (swimming under the rain, anyone?)..and now, Iloilo.

Shirl and I arrived in Iloilo at 6 AM…a good 10 hours before Rhiza boarded the plane to join us. We were greeted by strong winds upon stepping out of the plane.

But that didn’t discourage us to pursue the #1 in To-Do List — to visit Miag-ao Church. After taking a nap at Century 21 Hotel Lobby (nice hotel, btw) and a much-needed 30 mins doze off session, we proceeded to Molo Church and Plaza to visit the Church and take our ride to Miag-ao from the said place.

Molo Church has a gothic renaissance architecture but reminds you of a castle with its red roof. You might want to imagine Sleeping Beauty inside instead of the saints on each pillar.

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St. Anne Parish (Molo Church)
We had an idea that it would take us time before reaching the Unesco Heritage site…but we didn’t expect that we will be travelling an hour, passing 3 towns while rain was pouring non-stop and the waves were hitting the shores like there was no tomorrow. It was a bit of sight to behold (or gasp) – on our left was the sea, on our right were the mountains.After so many stops, we finally reached our destination. It made as sigh .. the sight floored us. Of course, we saw more than a dozen churches in our lives but with Miag-ao’s facade, color and structure – it did demand attention. We were not able to go inside the Church so we just strolled its perimeter, including the churchyard and occasionally posed for a photo-op under the drizzle.
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Miag-ao Church up front.
With the threat of incoming heavy rain, we proceeded to Guimbal Church that we passed before reaching Miag-ao. Sandstone, old style and small. One won’t miss it since the church seems to welcome you upon reaching the town (more welcoming than the municipal hall and the humongous gym).
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Sandstoned Guimbal Church
And the rain didn’t bother to wait for us to reach the city. It poured nonstop upon reaching the town of Oton. We managed to reach the city without looking like basang sisiw.Time to meet Rhiza! After the greet and chika, we travelled to Arevalo to get a taste of Breakthrough. It was a toss between Tatoy’s and Breakthrough and somehow, we did choose the latter. We had sisig, prawns, oyster (talaba, bala haw), chopseuy and crablets for dinner. Takaw tingin! We were almost done and Carlo was nowhere to be seen. He managed to join us after a few minutes (which was fast considering we travelled almost an hour to reach Breakthrough) and after getting shocked at how cheap our bill was…we went videoke at Nuova.I let the real singers sing. I was the pampagulo. No wonder it rained so hard that night. We had a blast singing (and listening for me) love songs, heartbreaking songs and songs for the sawi. It was a night-out! And this is just day 1.Day 2 could have started very early since we planned to leave for Guimaras. But with the incessant rains and strong winds, we ended up in SM Delgado and Marymart. We visited Jaro Church and its belfry, glimpsed at Nelly Garden and look at old estatwas in Museo Iloilo. Had a steaming hot batchoy at Ted’s and off we went to San Pedro to see Guimaras from a distance(good thing we didn’t force ourselves to hop to the next pumpboat, the waves were not so friendly). We strolled along Calle Real and tried to relive pre-war Iloilo with the old structures standing along the JM Basa Street. And we proceeded to the 3rd oldest parish in Arevalo. Villa in the town is also the older capitol of the province. The Church reminds you of old American churches in a 1930s village… or probably think of “The Village” or American Gothic painting.
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Calle Real in downtown Iloilo
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Shirl and Rhiz in La Villa del Arevalo
We revisited Molo church by this time, we know the route by heart).We were able to go inside the church this time. Indeed, if one needs ideas for a name of a girl – there were plenty to choose from the lady saints lining the pillars of the Church.

We went pasalubong shopping at the must-visit Panaderia de Molo for its famous Kastila sounding delicacies such as galletas and bañadas. After we had our tastebuds filled with sweet everythings, we took some baby steps to Biscocho House for the must-buy butterscotch. Yum yum.

At that point, we did look like tourists carrying bags of pasalubongs. 🙂 With aching feet and bad weather, we had dinner – room service.

I, on the other hand, had a night cap that lasted til 3 in the morning.

Sunny and rainy…that was our third day. Time to pack and leave the city of biscocho and talaba. While we raced ourselves to the airport, we ended up waiting for a good 45 minutes before boarding. We must be the 1% delayed flight 🙂

It was literally a wet trip. And we enjoyed every minute of it. The rain might have dampened our spirits a bit but it didn’t stop us to stroll the streets.

Our next stop? Hmm, probably, I have to start refilling my piggy bank again.