Visita Iglesia is a tradition as old as the Filipinos’ Catholic faith. It is a Holy Week practice of visiting and praying in at least seven churches to honor the the body and blood of Christ (a.k.a. the Blessed Sacrament). Over the years, it morphed into a form of pilgrimage and meditation as well as a form of seeking penance for sins. Superstition even has it that anyone who completes a Visita Iglesia will have his or her wishes granted. It is usually completed in one day, usually on a Maundy Thursday or until before Easter Sunday.
Visita Iglesia is a practice that has been passed on from one generation to another, too. Even in the age of social media “addiction,” the practice is still very much alive as it is often done with family and friends. And what better way to carry it out than visiting churches that are as old as this tradition.
Here are some old churches that you can include in your Visita Iglesia itinerary:
1. Santo Nino de Tondo Parish
Where: Tondo, Manila
Age: 446 years old
Santo Niño de Tondo Parish, simply called Tondo Church, was established back in 1572 by the Augustinian friars. It was one of the earliest churches built by the friars in Luzon and has since been housing an image of the Infant Jesus which originally came from Acapulco, Mexico. The church is characterized by minimal ornamentation with influences of neoclassical architectural style. Simple but classy! Today, Tondo Church is one of the most visited in the Philippines.
2. Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo Church)
Where: Binondo, Manila
Age: 422 years old
The Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz or the Binondo Church was founded by Dominican priests in 1596. It was built primarily to serve Chinese converts to Christianity. It’s patron saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, was born of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. He was trained in this church and became a missionary in Japan. He was martyred for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith. He went on to become the country’s first saint, canonized in 1987. Masses in this church are held in Filipino, Mandarin, Hokkien, and English.
3. Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral)
Where: Intramuros, Manila
Age: 447 years old
Situated inside the historic walled city of Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, a title for the country’s principal patroness Blessed Virgin Mary. It was also the first declared cathedral in the Philippines. The Manila Cathedral was built in 1571 and has survived damages from natural disasters. Prominent personalities such as notable 1986 People Power Revolution leader Cardinal Jaime Sin are also buried in this church. Its interiors are truly impressive, too, with stained glass windows made by prominent Filipino artist Galo Ocampo.
4. San Agustin Church
Where: Intramuros, Manila
Age: 447 years old
Just a few blocks away is the 447-year-old San Agustin Church. It was one of the Baroque churches designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. It was also named a National Historic Landmark in 1976. You can instantly sense a medieval atmosphere upon entrance to the church because of the majestic interior details reminiscent of the Spanish golden era.
5. Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church (Malate Church)
Where: Malate, Manila
Age: 427 years old
Another Baroque-style church in this list is the Malate Church built in 1591. A revered statue of Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Remedies, the patroness of childbirth, was brought from Spain in 1624 and remains at the altar today. Visitors can also clearly see Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Manila Bay from the church. It’s exterior boasts of an interesting mix of Mexican Baroque and Muslim designs. The facade’s design was often regarded as one of its most important features.
6. Santuario del Santo Cristo
Where: Blumentritt, San Juan
Age: 413 years old
Also known as the Church of San Juan Del Monte, the shrine was built from 1602-1604 by the Dominicans on land donated by a Spaniard. It was used as a shelter by Katipuneros during the 1898 Philippine revolution against the Spanish forces. There are eight saints cast in concrete found in each niche of the entrance. The two bells at the facade of the church came from Spain and were brought over in 1979.
7. Nuestra Senora de Gracia Church
Where: Guadalupe Viejo, Makati
Age: 417 years old
The Nuestra Senora de Gracia church was built in 1601 by Augustinians but was only completed in 1629 due to multiple calamities. It became the headquarters of the British and Japanese forces in 1762 and World War II, respectively. The adobe stones at the church were also taken down in the fifties to rebuild the Manila Cathedral.
Angela, a writer for MB Life, will (try her very best to) visit these churches before Easter Sunday.
Featured Image from Manila Bulletin