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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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.