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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spiritual Adventure: Visita Iglesia




Taking a break from Travel and Leisure...

And journeying back to myself...to the deepest part of my spiritual sense, honouring the solemnity of the Holy Week season and remembering Jesus Christ's suffering and death on the cross.

Holy Week is the only period in a year that Christians are given a chance to commemorate solemnly the sacrifices, pain and suffering of Christ. It's not a whole year round event, it is just one week, so why not offer it to Jesus alone? 

Over the years, my belief and concept of observing the Holy Week did not change. I am still following the traditional practice of spending the days quietly at home or visiting the church. The most crucial days of the week -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday --- celebrate the four sacred events that constituted the life of a Christian faith --- The Lord's Last Supper Mass (Maundy Thursday), The Passion of Jesus Christ (Good Friday), The Easter Vigil and renewal of our Baptism (Black Saturday) and The celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus (Sunday). I can take a vacation any time of the year but not during Holy Week, I always considered it a very special and sacred week that must be spent only in the church and getting in touch with my faith devotedly.

Yesterday, Good Friday, I was able to complete the devotion of Visita Iglesia, one of the most enduring Roman Catholic traditions that can be traced back from the early times. It is a pious tradition where believers visit seven churches during Maundy Thursday or Good Friday to meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ and venerate the Crucifix.

The seven churches I visited represent historical significance of the Roman Catholic Church life in the Philippines. Most of these churches had survived calamities and disasters, including two World Wars and foreign invasions, that hammered the country in the past centuries. 


HERE ARE THE SEVEN HISTORICAL CHURCHES 

1. MINOR BASILICA OF THE BLACK NAZARENE, Quiapo, Manila


Also known as the Quiapo Church, this basilica is home to the most famous Black Nazarene where throngs of devotees flock every Friday to attend the mass and honour the miraculous image of the Lord. Various testimonies of answered prayers and miraculous healing had been associated to the image of the Black Nazarene making Quiapo Church one of the most frequently visited churches in Metro Manila.

A little reminder to the faithful, when you come to visit this church during Lent expect the crowd to be a little larger than expected so bring something that can make you comfortable, umbrella to protect you from the intense heat of the sun, a bottled water to keep you hydrated and a face towel.

How to get there: Locating Quiapo church is not a problem because it is just along the highway where all public utility vehicles pass, obviously you have to take a PUJ/PUB bound for Quiapo ^___^, there are FX vehicles also that pass along the busy street of Quiapo church.

2. SANTA CRUZ CHURCH, Sta.Cruz, Manila

Built in 1608 by the Jesuit missionaries to cater the Chinese Catholics in nearby Binondo area, the original structure of this church was destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt later and continued to be administered by the Jesuits until 1768. The church's titular patroness according to its history is Our Lady of Pillar. The present peach-colored European structure was erected in 1957. This Spanish-styled church is just in front of another famous landmark in Manila, Carriedo Fountain.

Peach-colored and Spanish-styled exterior of Santa Cruz church
Inside the Santa Cruz Church

How to get there: From Quiapo church just walk straight ahead, turn right upon reaching the Sta. Ana street, you will pass at the Feati University, continue to walk until you reach the Plaza Sta .Cruz fronting the old building that houses BPI, the church is just beside this plaza.

3. THE MANILA CATHEDRAL, Intramuros, Manila

Officially known as Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, this church is the official seat of the Archdiocese of Manila. It is located at the heart of the walled city of Intramuros. Originally built in 1571, the cathedral passed through many renovations due to the destruction of its structure from calamities. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception.
The Manila Cathedral is fronting Plaza de Roma in Intramuros
Details of the ceiling of Manila Cathedral

The cathedral is fronting the beautiful Plaza de Roma, just few walks away from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Its original structure was destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt in 1958 to its present form. The cathedral only reopened recently after two years of refurbishment. The interior has an gorgeous intricate design of modern architecture.

How to get there: Just go to Intramuros and ask trisikad drivers to take you to Manila Cathedral.

4. SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH, Intramuros, Manila

Located along General Luna street, four blocks away from the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin is considered the oldest stone church in the Philippines. It was first constructed in 1587 and finished sometimes in 1607. The church was founded by the Augustinian Friars and survived through many atrocities and calamities since the middle ages. The church houses the crypt of Spanish conquestador, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the founder of Manila who made Intramuros the official seat of government during Spanish colonization.

San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the Philippines, and one of the remaining Baroque structured churches in the country, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
 San Agustin church is an architectural wonder! 
The elegant details of the church's interior feature an art technique where
realistic imagery is being used to create an optical illusion that depicts 
objects exist in three dimensions

San Agustin Church is the only church along Intramuros that was not destroyed during World War II, it also survived foreign invasions, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Due to its many centuries of survival, unique Baroque structure, elegant interior architectural design and historic existence, the church was declared by UNESCO in 1993 as a World Heritage Site under the collective category of Baroque Churches in the Philippines.

San Agustin church is probably the most popular wedding destinations in the country due to its grandeur and reflection of Filipinos' cultural heritage. It is one of the favourite locations also of pre-nuptial and post-wedding photo shoots among couples who have poetic touches. Its interior is artistically designed in full details of opulence complete with chandeliers and gold-plated linings, reminiscent to most churches in England. It features Trompe l'oell, an art technique painting that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion depicting objects that exist in three dimensions.

How to get there: From the entrance gate of Intramuros, ride a trisikad and tell the driver to bring you to San Agustin church in General Luna street. It is just beside Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines building and four blocks away from the Manila Cathedral.

5. OUR LADY OF REMEDIES, Malate, Manila

Another Baroque structured church in the country that survived since the pre-war era is Our Lady of Remedies commonly known as Malate Church. It houses the original statue of Nuestra Senora de Remedios which was brought from Spain in 1624. Its existence dated back from the early 16th century when the Agustinian Friars built this historic church.

Malate Church has an important historical value during the British invasion. It was in this church that British forces took refuge while preparing their defense strategies against Americans.

Malate Church features a Baroque structure on its exterior but the church's interior
is built under modern touches especially the details of the ceiling.

The church was destroyed several times during war, typhoon and earthquake calamities, it was rebuilt years later but retained the original exterior baroque design. It is located in front of the Rajah Sulayman Park along Manila Bay

How to get there: Look for a PUJ that has a sign board of Ermita and Malate. It is just few miles away from the Ermita church.

6. MINORE BASILICA DE SAN SEBASTIAN, CM Recto, Manila

If there's one Catholic church in Metro Manila that really caught my attention due to its very European exterior design it's San Sebastian Church. Located along Hidalgo Street and CM Recto, this basilica is just a walking distance from Quiapo church.

The elegant exterior of San Sebastian Church, painted in icy mint green with 
fabulous architectural details reminiscent to churches in England.
San Sebastian is probably the only church in Asia that is built from Steel.
According to its marker, the structural metal used in the construction was manufactured in Belgium and was brought in the Philippines and erected by Belgian Engineers.
Entrance area of San Sebastian church with its two imposing towers
like the Westminster Abbey in England
Inside San Sebastian Church

Originally built in the late part of the 19th century by Recollect Friars, San Sebastian church, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, earned the reputation of being the only church in Asia that is built from steel and claimed to be the only prefabricated steel church in the world. t was destroyed by earthquake many times and undergone massive refurbishment down the centuries. In 1973, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared this church a National Historical Landmark.

The exterior structure of the church is painted in icy mint green which is very cool to the eyes. It has two pointed towers and extended clusters of buildings, the design is reminiscent to churches in England and other European countries. Aside from its beautiful exterior, San Sebastian church has a very spacious quadrangle and breezy, relaxing environment.

How to get there: San Sebastian Church is just a walking distance from Quiapo Church. Just cross the street (in front of Quiapo church) and enter a narrow road leading to Hidalgo street, you will pass a bridge, just walk straight ahead and beyond that point, you will see the imposing towers of San Sebastian Church.

7. REDEMPTORIST CHURCH, Baclaran, Paranaque City


Our last stop. Baclaran church, now officially known as The National Shrine of Mother of Perpetual Help. The church was established by the Redemptorist priests in early 1900, it was them who introduced the devotion of Novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help. Over the years, the testimonies of miracles and answered prayers from devotees emerged,  making the church extraordinarily famous, giving birth to the adage " the Baclaran Phenomenon".

Baclaran church was personally visited by Blessed John Paul II in 1981 when he made a stop over in Manila en-route to Australia, the late great Pope, who was a Marian devotee, was reportedly amazed upon entering the church and saw thousands of people, he thought it was a feast day. Every Wednesday, this church is pack with devotees.

This was our last stop where we wrapped up the 13th and 14th Station of the Cross.Unfortunately, we were not able to kiss the crucifix because the line leading to the altar was ultra long so we just lighted candles on the right wing of the church.

There you go, the seven historical churches you might consider visiting in the coming days or the next Holy Week season, it's worth the sacrifice and suffering. The architectural wonder and historic background of each of these churches will make the journey very fulfilling and self-gratifying.

READ THE DETAILS OF THE STORY OF THIS JOURNEY IN MY PERSONAL BLOG, CLICK HERE

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