About a month back, Catholics around the world celebrated once more the passion and death of the Christ. This is in the season of Lent. And just as what my wife and myself did in Singapore back last year, we once more go on a Visita Iglesia. Again Visita Iglesia is a Catholic tradition of visiting 7 churches while praying. Along the way, the Way of the Cross is commemorated.
This year we did our visita iglesia on Good Friday as I’m working on night shift. And this year, my daughters, my wife’s sisters and nieces tagged along with us. We also have a vehicle to use and we are visiting churches from different towns in Laguna province.
We started our visita iglesia from the city of Calamba at around 9am. With the itinerary that I have set, we drove first to the furthest in our list. We recited 2 Stations of the Way of the Cross for each church we visited.
We drove 63 kilometers to the eastern side of Laguna Lake into the town of Pakil. There we made our first stop at the St. Peter of Alcantara Parish which happen to be the Diocesan Shrine and home to the Our Lady of Sorrows de Turumba.
The Pakil Church originally was built on bamboo for their Patron Saint Peter of Alcantara in 1676 until rebuilt into stone 1732 but burned in 1739 and fully finished in 1767. The bell tower was added in 1777 and in 1788 this has become the shrine of the Lady of Turumba. And through the years, this church has suffered destruction from fire and earthquakes but have been rebuilt.
For such an old church that has gone through disasters, it currently looks very well preserved. Also, the convent beside it allows visitors to pray and visit the Lady of Turumba.
Next, we drove to the adjacent town of Paete, a town famous for their industry of wood carvings. Here we visited the St. James the Apostle Church. The Paete Church was founded 1580 and its stone church and convent was later on built in 1646. But like the Church of Pakil this church has gone through destruction caused by earthquakes but was later on rebuilt.
Upon arrival in Paete Church, some guys in Moriones costumes are standing in front of the Church. Visitors take that opportunity to have some photos with them. The Moriones depicts or resembles the Roman centurions who inflicted suffering to the Christ during his passion.
The church itself is impression with its stone facade blackened due to weathering. But the interiors itself is well maintained with its beautiful altar.
Then we now proceeded to another adjacent town. We headed for Longos in the town of Kalayaan to find this beautiful old church. The St. John the Baptist Parish, built in 1669, has one of the most beautiful facades and a nice bell tower that we have visited during this trip. Though its facade looks very much preserved, it’s roof has been replaced with steel trusses and iron roofs. It’s altar is also appeared a bit modified. Apparently the roof has been destroyed by a major typhoon in 2006.
Unfortunately, this church has been neglected for quite some time and the Philippine Historical Committee has not put a historical marker yet on this church due to most of its records lost.
We then continued to another town about 10 minutes drive. We visited the town of Lumban, known for its industry of embroidery, making it the Capital of Embroidery in the Philippines. Here fine jusi (made of abaca and banana silk) and piña (pineapple leaf fiber) were embroidered by hand to make one the most famous traditional former shirts for Filipino men, the Barong Tagalog.
Here we dropped by the San Sebastian Parish or simply the Lumban Church which was established by the Franciscans in 1578 and built on wood and thatch. The stone church was built in 1600 after the original church was destroyed by fire. This church has also suffered from destruction in earthquakes throughout the years and this day the facade has obviously been reconstructed and the interiors as well.
Then as we are about to leave the church, a guy performing doing self-flagellation, basically whipping his bloodied back, kneels by the church door. This is a traditional act of mimicking the passion of the Christ as the centurions whip him on his way to the Cross. This is commonly performed by men where they cover their faces, walk along the streets while whipping their backs. In the province of Pampanga, some would even go and have themselves nailed to the cross.
Next we had a quick lunch in Jollibee and then proceeded to the town of Pagsanjan, famous for the scenic Pagsanjan Falls. Compared to the 4 other towns, this is busier town where the church stands on main intersection that leads the province of town of Lucban and to Paete.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish of Pagsanjan was founded in 1687 is home to the image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe, a gift from Mexico. Originally this church was built on bamboo and nipa, but was later on reconstructed in 1690 and improved in 1853 and in 1872 the transept was added.
Then went to our sixth church into the town of Magdalena to visit the St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church. This is another stone church that was built in 1829 and finished in 1855. In 1861, its bell tower was built while its convent was built in 1871.
This church has also played a part of history during the Philippine Revolution in 1898 when Emilio Jacinto, the brains of the Katipunan, the revolutionary society that fought against the Spanish colonial regime, sought refuge into this church during one of their battles.
And then finally, we head for the town of Sta. Cruz, the capital of the province of Laguna. Here we visited the Immaculate Conception Church in dedication to the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The church was originally constructed in 1608 by the Franciscans. During the liberation in 1945, the church was destroyed by fire.
By the time we have reached the Santa Cruz Church, it was already past 3PM and the mass for the passion of the Christ has began and the processions were about to start. And so we tried to rush and finish our recitation before the mass ends and the procession begins which will possibly get us caught in traffic.
It was quite a long day but it was nice to drive around and visit these very old churches while we commemorate the way of the cross. Anyway, the day after we visited two more churches in Batangas.