It is a yearly traadition of our family to do Visita Iglesia every Good Friday. Visita Iglesia, which is literally translated from Spanish as Church Visit, is a Roman Catholic tradition dating back around 300 A.D., when the pious Catholics would visit seven Roman Basilicas. Traditionally, seven basilicas or churches are visited but since our family are such overachievers, we visit 14 churches every year.
It’s not like there’s a scarcity of churches, anyway. Being predominantly Catholic for more than 400 years, the Philippines has a rather large supply of churches, chapels, and other religious sites.
For the past 22 years (I think), our family has basically visited the same churches every year. Give or take a year or two when we deviated from the usual, depending on the time and route that we took. Let me share to you the churches that we visited this year.
St. John the Baptist Parish Church
This used to be our parish church before a rezoning happened about 10 years back. Having studied in a Catholic school for 12 years, I have logged in time for community and church services in this Church – our school requires us to participate in our parish activities.
This church is huge; it’s built on a hill and made primarily out of large blocks of stone. The parish itself was founded in 1579 by Franciscans and built its church along the banks of Laguna de Bay. It was only in 1591 when it was transferred to its present location – as the first stone church outside of Metro Manila. After being destroyed and rebuilt several times due to natural calamities and war, it was expanded to accommodate the growing population of its followers. I got that from the plaque outside the church, by the way.
I also remember that every couple of years, the inside gets revamped. We visit this church every year. No misses.
Where it is: J. Sumulong, Brgy. San Isidro, Taytay, Rizal
How we got there: We took a jeep to Tikling, then a tricycle to the Church
Sto. Rosario de Pasig Church
Unfortuntely, due to some time constraints, I wasn’t able to take a photo of this church. It’s the only one without a photo, I promise. Anyway, the Sto. Rosario de Pasig Church was established as a parish in the 1960s. It is about half the size of St. John the Baptist Church (or less, come to think of it).
This is also one of the churches we don’t miss out on every year.
Where it is: Ortigas Avenue Extension, Pasig City
How we got there: From St. John the Baptist, we took a jeep to Ortigas Avenue Extension, then rode an FX to Sto. Rosario Church
St. Pio of Pietrelcina Chapel
This is the first time we visited the St. Pio Chapel, primarily because we were curious because we heard so much about it. It used to be a makeshift chapel, basically a small room in one building, but because of the growing devotion to St. Pio, more and more people started to visit, and they moved to a larger place. The chapel was built with the Our Lady of Grace church in Italy in mind, as they wanted to create a resemblance to the church where St. Pio stayed and celebrated mass.
There were a lot of people there. And the management of the chapel had this great idea of giving out crosses for people who would want to do the full Stations of the Cross. However, since we were there just for the 3rd station (we do one station per church, hence, the 14 churches), we went straight in without trying out the crosses.
Where it is: E. Rodriguez Ave. (C5), Bagumbayan, Quezon City
How we got there: From Sto. Rosario, we rode the jeep to Cubao, got off at Petron gas station
Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace
Also called Our Lady of EDSA but more popularly known as EDSA Shrine, this is probably one of the most popular churches in the country. If not the most popular. It has a huge structure of the mother Mary that is probably bigger than the church it sits on top of, surface area-wise. It was where the People Power revolution happened, the (relatively) peaceful revolution that ousted a dictator.
Its Stations of the Cross are found on the roof of the church, which you can reach either by using the normal stairs or by using the large stairs with PWD ramps found up front.
Where it is: EDSA corner Ortigas Ave., Quezon City
How we got there: From St.Pio, we took a cab. If you want to go the long way, you can cross the highway, ride a jeep going anywhere along Ortigas Ave, get off at Ortigas Ave and ride the bus going to Quiapo. Get off at Robinsons mall at the corner of EDSA and Ortigas Ave.
St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church
Found along Shaw Boulevard, St Francis of Assisi Parish Church is a small-ish church (from the outside anyway. i read somewhere you can fit about 300-500 people in there) established around the 1950’s. It is located beside Lourdes School of Mandaluyong and constructed by the Capuchin Order.
Where it is: Shaw Blvd., corner St. Francis St., Mandaluyong City
How we got there: From EDSA Shrine, we walked to ADB Avenue where we got on a FX that passed by St. Francis
National Shrine of the Sacred Heart
One of the favorites of my parents, there never was a year that we missed out this church. Located at Sacred Heart St. in San Antonio Village, it is a bit hidden and you may need to walk a bit to get there. It is also a bit small, though it has a rather large courtyard. The interior is beautiful, with its clean off-white walls and stained glass windows.
Where it is: Sacred Heart St., San Antonio Village, Makati City
How we got there: We took a cab from St. Francis. As easy as that. Cab route was EDSA, Buendia, Jupiter St., straight to Metropolitan Ave. then take a left at Sacred Heart St.
St. John Bosco Parish Church
A couple of minutes ride away from Sacred Heart is the church that was one of the runners-up for my sister’s wedding (and will be the church for my cousin’s wedding). The St. John Bosco Parish is run by the Salesians and is committed to caring for the youth and the poor. Just walking in the compound, you can see the many different ways that they do that – bakery and store as livelihood program, a calendar of numerous youth activities, and even a center for counseling for many different things.
Where it is: Arnaiz Ave., Makati City
How we got there: From Sacred Heart, we walked along Sacred Heart St. going to Chino Roces Ave. where we rode a jeep going to EDSA MRT. We got off at the corner of Chino Roces and Arnaiz Ave., walked along Arnaiz Ave. toward Makati business district.
San Ildefonso Parish
I will always remember San Ildefonso as the church that’s always, always noisy during Good Friday. Always. We usually get there around 10 or 11am and we catch groups of kids preparing for something. I’m just always not sure what they’re preparing for. Sometimes there’s a group preparing for the easter Vigil, sometimes for a proceion. Whatever the reason, it is always humming with activity.
Though, quite surprisingly, this year isn’t as lively as the previous years. Not sure if we were too early or the parish minimized their activities, or maybe the groups just became more efficient with their preparation and did away with cramming. In any case, it was a welcome departure from the normal and I actually got to see how the church looked like without all the people and flags waving.
Where it is: A. Arnaiz corner M. Reyes St., Pio del Pilar, Makati City
How we got there: We took a jeep from the corner of A. AArnaiz Ave. and Chino Roces Ave., which is about a 10 minute walk from St. John Bosco Parish.
Sta. Clara de Montefalco Parish Church
This is the church I was afraid of when I was a kid. Everytime we visit this church on Good Friday, we always get there in time to see those practicing self-flagellation as their penitence. It scared the shit out of me. I mean, I was around 5 or 6 years old and I see a courtyard full of shirtless men with their heads covered, just beating their own backs with some kind of leather strap (some with wood) – backs, may I just point out – that are already raw and bloody.
So, I think its justifiable that I only realized how beautiful the church is just recently, with its stained glass windows depicting the life of Jesus.
Where it is: 2360 P. Burgos, Pasay City
How we got there: From San Ildefonso, we took a jeep going to P. Burgos. The jeep will take a u-turn along Gil Puyat Ave. (twice) before turning right to P. Burgos.
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Church
I find this church a bit sad. True to its name, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish is dedicated to the sorrows of mother Mary. And I mean really dedicated. Their stained glass windows depict the many different sorrows of Mary, like the flight from Egypt, Jesus getting lost in the temple and everything that happened between the last supper and the resurrection.
Where it is: 2130 F.B. Harrison St., Pasay City
How we got there: From Sta. Clara, we took the jeep going toward the direction of Gil Puyat Ave., took a u-turn, crossed Taft Ave., took another u-turn along Gil Puyat Ave., the turned right at F.B. Harrison.
Our Lady of Remedies Church
More popularly known as Malate Church, this is a Baroque-style church facing the Manila Bay. I’ve always found it quite beautiful. It’s also old; one of the oldest churches in Manila built outside of Intramuros. It has survived military attacks, natural calamities (not quite one typhoon though as it had to be rebuilt around the 1860s), and a war.
Currently, the facade of the church is looking a bit shabby, but I’m happy to see that restoration is underway.
Where it is: 2000 M.H. Del Pilar, Malate, Manila
How we got there: From Our Lady of Sorrows, we took a jeep going toward Gil Puyat Ave. The jeep will traverse along Mabini, get off at San Andres st. Landmark is San Andres St. The church is on the left side.
Nuestra Senora de Guia
Popularly known as Ermita Church, the church honors Nuestra Senor de Guia, whose image was supposed to have been brought to the Philippines by Magellan’s ship and later sent by Cebu native chiefs to one of the Rajah’s of Manila. The image is venerated as the oldest Marian image in the Philippines.
Where it is: M.H. del Pilar corner A. Flores st., Ermita, Manila
How we got there: We took a jeep along Mabini st. from Malate church. Got off at Mabini st. corner Flores st., walked a bit toward M.H. del Pilar
Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion (Manila Cathedral)
The Manila Cathedral is found inside the walls of Intramuros, which is by far my most favorite place in the city of Manila. It is a very grand cathedral that is, unfortunately, closed for renovations since the start of this year. They still accommodated the flocks of devotees though, and prepared stations of the cross outside the church.
The current structure is the seventh one to be built, as the church kept getting destroyed by natural calamities, as well as being totally destroyed in the liberation of Manila in the 1940’s.
Where it is: General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila
How we got there: We took a cab from United Nations Avenue, a couple of minutes walk from Ermita Church. The cab traversed along Roxas Boulevard, passed the Jose Rizal monument, went straight to Bonifacio drive. Then took a right at Andres Soriano Jr. Ave (just of the rotonda), then right General Luna street.
San Agustin Church
Hands down, my most favorite church. San Agustin is the one of the oldest churches in Manila. It is actually the only structure that survived the liberation of Manila in the 1940’s. It needed repairs, of course, but compared to the rest of Intramuros (completely razed), repairs ain’t so bad.
What I love most about San Agustin Church is its very old-timey designs. From the pulpit to the painted ceiling, high walls to marble floors, San Austin Church really shows the richness of the culture of Catholicism.
Where it is: General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila
How we got there: From Manila Cathedral, we walked. The stretch of General Luna St. from the Cathedral to San Agustin Church is very festive during Good Friday.
And thus, ends our Visita Iglesia. We arrived at our first church around 8am, left the last church around 2pm.
1. For those not familiar with Catholic ways and traditions and are curious as to why the images of churches are covered with purple sheets and the tabernacles are open, these are signs of mourning. Good Friday is the day that Jesus was crucified and died and the whole church is stripped of decorations and embellishment as a sign of mourning.
2. If you’re planning to do your own Visita Iglesia, plan out your route first for efficiency’s sake.
3. Attire-wise, since you’d be visiting churches, please do wear modest clothes. And no, short shorts are not considered modest attire. Have a little respect for the church and the people who go there. I suggest jeans and shirt.
4. Also, if you’re planning to do it like we did, may I suggest wearing comfortable footwear. I love my Keds.
5. Wear sunscreen and bring drinking water. Good Friday in the Philippines is hot and humid. I’m sure you don’t want to court skin cancer or dehydration
6. As with anywhere: follow rules, respect people and culture, secure your belongings, and don’t litter