With the holy week now entering the Easter Triduum (Late Maundy Thurday to Early Easter Sunday), many Filipinos follow the tradition of Visita Iglesia which I also grew up with. And in the past years, I have being doing a blog/video documentation of my journeys going to the 14 churches (traditionally 7 or 8 to some but I opt to go with 14 for the stations of the cross and the abundance of churches in the city).
In 2013, I went on the Visita Iglesia journey with my fellow SCAns (Student Catholic Action) which was a yearly tradition of the organization. Touring around the city of Manila staring at PLM in Intramuros and first visiting the churches inside the walled city.
Now let me take you on what we went to the whole day with these churches, most of them are old and historical.
San Agustin Church
Considered as the oldest stone church in the Philippines, the UNESCO world heritage site is also home to a museum featuring religious and historical artifacts that were survivors of the world war which destroyed the city. Today, it is a popular wedding venue and tourist attraction.
The seat of the Archdiocese of Manila, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Manila has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and when we went there, doors were close but there is still a number of faithful praying outside its doors. The Cathedral has been recently opened.
Located in the middle of Binondo the world's oldest Chinatown, the church is also known to be Minor Basicilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz the first Filipino saint. Also undergoing renovation and improvements but still open to the public. The interiors are filled with large murals and the altar is designed with the facade of Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican.
Santo Niño De Tondo Parish
The site of the famous Sto. Niño celebration on January, the celebration is the biggest in Luzon. Though it would be smaller to the previous churches, it has the ambiance of a solemn large cathedral. The Sto. Niño is the most loved patron of the people of Tondo.
Immaculate Concepcion Parish
Located in Tayuman st., the parish was the temporary location for the Manila Cathedral while they were rebuilding. And even after the construction has adapted the title of Immaculate Concepcion. It is now a complex with a parish school and the Missionaries of Charity center located across the street makes it a place of charity and values formation.
Espiritu Santo Parish
Located near the former San Lazaro race track and now SM San Lazaro, the parish may look simple from the outside but has a beautiful and artistic decorations and art that gives the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit whom the parish was named.
Santa Cruz Church
One of the biggest churches in Manila, Sta Cruz Church has undergone renovation recently and now has a new facade which I think would get mixed reactions from historians and conversationalists, but for me it is OK, just as long the original pieces are still in place are left untouched.
Known as the home of the Black Nazarene which conducts the "traslacion" every January and Good Friday that draws millions of devotees. I would also join in the yearly procession but never would go to the extremes.
The only steel church in Asia which withstood the war and centuries. Rumored to have been designed by Gustave Effiel, the church still stands strong despite some parts of corrosion which the church officials are now making restoration and structural reinforcements. This is also under the Order of the Agustinian Recollects.
National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels Parish
Though this is a simple church, it is beside the Malacañan Palace and is the national shrine of the Archangels and the district was named after San Miguel. It also has a garden complex and a statue of St. Michael defeating a dragon demon. Though the years, there has been few changes with the church but remains a popular venue for visita iglesia plus a great place for a food stop over.
National Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus
Popular with students and board takers, the National Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus has become a place for the weekly novena which has become popular for granted petitions. It is also beside the Malacañan Complex and is a Filipino-Chinese church that has grew in size and Thursday crowd is like a little Quiapo on Fridays.
Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat San Beda
Not usually open to the public, the abbey was made for Benedictine monks and students of San Beda College. The abbey is decorated with beautiful paintings that makes the ambiance more solemn and prayerful. The other occasions that the abbey is open to the public is the celebration of Sto Niño de San Beda in January.
Saint Anthony Shrine
Used to be a small shine beside Our Lady of Loreto Parish, home for Franciscan brothers, it grew into a bigger one with the growing number of parishioners. Now both churches celebrate mass with almost the same time.
Our Lady of Loreto Parish
The last stop of our visita iglesia, beside Saint Anthony Shrine and both were called the "twin churches of bustillios" is the parish that also governs the southern district of Sampaloc. They just celebrated its 400th year in 2013 which was a suprise to me knowing that it has that modern look.
After going kilometers of walking in the city of Manila, Visita Iglesia has been very tiring physically, but enriches spirituality and friendship. I would probably suggest a new rout next year for more new churches and a whole new adventure.