Visita Iglesia 2013

IT IS TRADITIONAL here in the Philippines for Catholics to visit at least seven (7) churches during the holy week. This tradition is known as the "Visita Iglesia".

It was Good Friday and in the tradition of the Visita Iglesia, we planned to visit at least (7) churches.

The summer heat however was almost unbearable. I really felt that going out in the sun would be dreadful as the sun's rays seem to penetrate the skin and can easily cause sunburn. Global warming seems to have totally made it excruciating to be out in the sun from 10 am to 3 pm.

I remembered the Knights of Rizal (Kabalyeros De Rizal) that guard the Rizal Monument in Luneta. They are really admirable. It is one patriotic sight to see those soldiers standing in front of the monument even at those times when the heat of the sun is at its peak. They have indeed shown dedication and zeal in the performance of their duty.

I have followed the tradition of visiting churches during the holy week. I have done this before during last year’s holy week celebration and I was able to do the ritual. I am not sure however If I was able to visit seven (7) churches. I can recall that during those time, my journey starts with the Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran and ends with the Miraculous Grotto of the Lady of Lourdes in San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan. I can remember that I only commuted or took public transportation in going to my destinations. I would take a bus from Baclaran and alternatively ride and walk to churches during the Visita Iglesia.

Holy week 2013 was not different except that sun’s heat is more difficult to bear. Nonetheless, traveling is much easier. Everyone has left Metro Manila and the road is wide and free. Traffic suddenly disappeared. EDSA is not a parking lot but only on Good Friday and Holy Thursday. I thought the Philippines is a poor country but why is it that there are so many cars on the road?

There are differences in going places using public transportation compared to a private vehicle. The latter is of course more convenient. But, commuting or taking a bus or a jeep is more challenging. It makes us part of society even more. But, I really hope that the government can further improve the flow of traffic for the convenience of all commuters and road users. Taking public transport under hot weather conditions is very inconvenient and difficult especially if you are stuck in the middle of a non-moving traffic inside a jeepney or a non-aircon bus.

(1) Santo Domingo Church

Our route in this year’s Visita Iglesia is from from Fairview in Quezon City to Quiapo, Manila. Our first stop was the Santo Domingo Church along Quezon Avenue. One thing that is very noticeable about this church is its size. It is a huge church with a majestic dome. It is said that this church is the tallest church in the Philippines. But despite the height of its dome, any bulb can be replaced or repaired by just climbing the ceiling.

When we arrived at this church, it is full of church-goers and devotees. During Good Friday everyone desires or is obligated to hear mass in the Philippines.

(2) UST Church

I am a Rizal fan. After graduating from high school, I have planned of studying in the University of Santo Tomas or in Ateneo as these are the two schools that were immortalized in his novels.

The UST Chapel or the “Santisimo Rosario Parish Church” is the center of Thomasian religious community and is also full of people during this Good Friday.

(3) San Sebastian Church

The San Sebastian Church or the “Basilica Minore de San Sebastian” is located in Quiapo near the famed Mendiola. This church is unique because of its iron and steel bars. At the very moment you entered this church, there is a very different kind of emotion where you felt transformed into another dimension. As I look up at the dome, I was fascinated by the structure. It is said that its steel frame and panels came from Belgium. This church is a national historical landmark being the only "neo-gothic steel church" in the Philippines.

As expected, this church is also full of people attending mass. People from all walks of life are here to attend mass on Good Friday. During the holy week, devotion to everything religious is at the strongest state.

(4) Malate Church

The usual route after visiting the San Sebastian Church is either to head to St. Jude Church inside the sacred grounds of Malacanang then Quiapo and Santa Cruz Church. But, the prevailing circumstances prevented us from passing our usual route. The way to St. Jude was blocked. Vehicles were prevented from passing through the road on the way to Malacanang. All those who would like to visit St. Jude have to walk a distance from San Beda College. However, just outside the San Sebastian Church there are “pedicab” drivers who are offering their services to take you to St. Jude for a minimal fee.

As it was Friday, a sea of devotees flock the black Nazarene at the Quiapo Church. There had been the usual procession that started at 3 am and due to a huge number of people in Quiapo, we decided to proceed to Malate Church.

The Malate Church is an old “baroque style” church facing the Rajah Sulayman Park. It is reminiscent of old churches with its facade made of very old stone. This church is dedicated to the “Patroness of Women in Child Birth”. It is near the Manila Bay and the Aristocrat Restaurant. As expected, the church is full of people and devotees. Summer and the sun's heat have not deterred them from attending the Good Friday Mass.

(5) Santuario De San Pedro Bautista

We then proceeded to the church located in San Fransciso Del Monte in Quezon City. If you are not familiar with this place finding this church may be difficult. But, just ask around Frisco and everyone there is familiar with this church’s location. This church has a wide parking area and the “Stations of the Cross” are within its compound. The statue of San Pedro Bautista is enshrined at the center of its baroque styled altar. In 2001, the church was declared an archdiocesan shrine in view of its historical importance. I was impressed by the church’s Mexican architectural style.

Houses surround this church. But, once inside the church, I have felt contentment and peace. I really do not know why this is the feeling I get each time I enter churches. There is always a feeling of peaceful existence.

(6) Parish of the Holy Sacrifice

This church is located inside the University of the Philippines Campus in Diliman, Quezon City. The design or the architecture of this church reminds me of the church in Greenbelt in Makati but without the lagoon. The Church’s structure was designed by a national artist and is recognized as a “national historical landmark” and a “cultural treasure”.

The church is circular in design that allows natural lighting and ventilation. Its interior is surrounded by paintings depicting the “Stations of the Cross” painted by famous artists Vicente Manansala and Ang Kiukok. It is here where we heard mass on Palm Sunday.

(7) St. Peter's Parish Church

This church known as the “Shrine of Leaders” is located along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. This church is beautiful and unique in the sense that all the names of the Popes are displayed in its walls. I think this church is a replica of the St. Peter’s Church in Italy.

This church inspired me to visit other famous churches. I would really like to see the St. Peter’s Church in Rome and the Sistine Chapel and marvel at the paintings of Michael Angelo.

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