Holy Week is upon us. For Catholics, it is a time to reflect on and strengthen one’s faith by attending recollections and participating actively in the Church’s Lenten activities.
In the Philippines, Visita Iglesia has been a tradition practiced by many faithful. On Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, families and friends gather to visit 7 up to 14 churches where they recite the Stations of the Cross. There was a time when people would only visit one church and finish all 14 stations. However, people nowadays do 2 stations per church.
Below is a list of popular churches in Manila where the faithful flock for the Visita Iglesia:
1. The Manila CathedralThe Manila Cathedral is located at Plaza de Roma in the heart of Intramuros, Manila. It was originally called the Church of Manila and was established in 1571. It has withstood several earthquakes, fires, and the Allied bombardment in 1945 during the Battle of Manila, before the end of the World War II.
2. San Agustin ChurchThe San Agustin Church is an Augustinian church also located inside Intramuros. This was the third church built on this site. The first church, built in 1571 and made up of bamboo and nipa, was destroyed in a fire. The second structure, which was made of wood, was also destroyed in a fire in 1583. The third church was constructed using hewn adobe stones.
Like the Manila Cathedral, the San Agustin Church has undergone a series of renovations because of natural calamities and the war. In 1993, it was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines.
3. Binondo ChurchAlso known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the Binondo Church is located in Binondo, Manila, outside Intramuros. It was built by the Dominicals in 1596 primarily to serve the Chinese Catholics in the area.
It is dedicated to San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, who was of Filipino and Chinese ancestry. He died as a martyr, together with his companions, in Japan after being tortured by the Tokugawa Shogunate during its persecution of Japanese Christians in the 17th century.
4. Quiapo ChurchQuiapo Church or The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is home to the Black Nazarene, a statue of a dark-skinned kneeling Jesus, garbed in a dark red velvet robe as he is carrying the cross. He is looking up, with eyes raised to the heavens.
Contrary to popular belief, the Feast of the Black Nazarene actually falls on Good Friday, one of the two times the statue is brought out for public veneration. January 9th commemorates the Traslacion, or the time the statue was transferred from Intramuros to its present home.
5. Santa Ana ChurchSanta Ana Church, also known as Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish, is another church worth visiting this Holy Week. The original church was built by the Franciscans in 1578. The current church was constructed in 1725.
The church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Abandoned (Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados) and was declared a Historic Building in 1936 by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (then Philippine Historical Research and Markers Committee) for being the first Franciscan mission established outside Manila.
6. San Sebastian Church
Photo courtesy of Architect Emilia Salde
Aside from its impressive architecture, San Sebastian Church is also known for its beautiful stained glass windows, which were manufactured by the Heinrich Oidtmann Company in Germany.
7. Malate Church
Malate Church or Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church is located in Malate, Manila. It was first built by the Augustinians in 1588 and was dedicated to Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (“Our Lady of Remedies”), the patroness of childbirth.
Malate Church was built in the Baroque style. It is popular for being one of only two churches with a twisted column and a retablo type facade. The other one is the Franciscan church in Daraga called Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church.