As part of our visita iglesia trip to Ilocos in 2017, we made a short stop to the beautiful city of Vigan. Vigan is the capital city of the province of Ilocos Sur. It is host to the most preserved Hispanic-era historic town in the country and this is best experienced in Calle Crisologo.
Just a little bit of history. The Philippines was conquered by Spain. In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi returned to the islands to colonize it after Ferdinand Magellan’s discovered it in 1521. He then named the islands after Spain’s King Philip II. And for 333 years, Spain ruled most of its islands until 1898 when it was ceded to the US along with Guam and Puerto Rico.
For these 3 cruel centuries, Spain has left beautiful structures that are of European architecture. Walled cities like Intramuros of Manila and fortresses like that Fort San Pedro of Cebu were built to protect key cities. Huge stone churches were built in every center of towns. Many houses in town centers were built on adobe rock foundation with wood, straw, and coral stones.
During the long weekend of Holy Week 2017, we’ve set our plans for a 4-day trip to visit the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. We have planned to do a visita iglesia to its beautiful churches. And while we are at it, we have included in our itinerary trips to the city of Vigan, the famous sites around Paoay, Laoag City, and to the town of Pagudpud.
It has been almost two decades, I think, since I last visited this proud region. Ilocos is famous for being the hometown of Philippines‘ former strongman Ferdinand Marcos and tobacco, its main produce. And so I was very excited to make this trip. In the 90’s, my family frequented Ilocos to visit family friends and this time I’m able to chart our own paths to see more of the province.
For this trip, I’ve booked ourselves a 15-seater van from my cousin’s friend. We started our trip in the early morning of Maundy Thursday. Our ride first picked up my wife’s family from Canlubang in Calamba, Laguna at 12 midnight before picking us up in Bonifacio Global City within Metro Manila around 1AM in the morning.
For the past few years, our family have been doing the visita iglesia as our annual family tradition every Holy Week. We have visited churches in the provinces around Metro Manila, like in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon. We also started the tradition while we were still living in Singapore. And this 2017 we have decided to go up to the northwestern part of Luzon. We drove north for around 12 hours to proud provinces of Ilocandia to visit its century old churches.
Ilocandia basically is group of provinces at the northern part of Luzon where the Ilocanos abound. For this visita iglesia, we are visiting the twin provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. On a side trip we have also visited some famous spot in these provinces like in the cities of Vigan, Laoag, Paoay, and Pagudpud.
Like in our past visita iglesias, we it during Good Fridays. We started around 8am from the city of Candon in Ilocos Sur. In every church that we visit, we read a set of prayers for the visita and for the way of the cross. Again, this Catholic tradition commemorates the passion and Christ’s way to Mount Calvary to be crucified.
The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines. This the full name of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). UST is among the oldest universities in the Philippines. It is also the oldest Catholic university in Asia. Established in April 1611, it was founded and managed by the Dominican priests. And today, it is one of the top universities and most respected educational institution in the country.
Well, I’m a proud to say that I one of its alumni who graduated from its College of Commerce in early 2000.
UST is currently located in a squarish 21.5 hectare lot in locality of Sampaloc in Manila. It is bounded by España Boulevard, named after the Philippines’ former colonizer, Spain. In exchange, Madrid named its own as Avenida de Filipinas where the replica of the Rizal monument stands. But originally, the university was located within the walls of the Intramuros. It was only in the 1927 when the Dominican priests decided to move to a bigger location outside the wall. The Intramuros campus remained operational until it was destroyed by the World War II.
Well traditionally Visita Iglesia is done by visiting seven churches while reciting the stations of the Cross. But this year, after our visita iglesia in Laguna, the day after we thought of visiting another church. Well eventually we ended up into visiting two churches in the province of Batangas. Both churches has miracles related or associated to it.
The first one, we visited the San Pio de Pietrelcina Shrine in the town of Sto. Tomas. Well, this is my second time to visit this church. This parish is relatively new yet this has become quite famous lately due the regular healing mass being done here every 23rd of the month. Also this also made famous the the healing masses performed by Father Fernando Suarez, a famous healing priest.
This parish started from a small chapel located on the same grounds and this was dedicated to St. Pio de Pietrelcina, a priest who experienced a phenomenon called stigmata, wherein he showed wounds and marks that Jesus Christ has suffered form His crucifixion.
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.
Like what I’ve posted last week about my trip to Bicol, here I’m going to share about my very first trip on board an airplane. This was a trip back in June of 1999 to my father’s home province in the Visayas region on the island of Leyte.
My father along with his siblings were all born in the small town of Tabontabon in the province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas before they moved to Manila when they were older. And since back in the 90’s, my father together with one of her sisters have been flying back to Tabontabon once every year during the town’s fiesta to check out the parcels of land left by my grandmother. And in June 1999, my father tagged me to join them along with my cousin to fly over Leyte with them.
This was my first time to fly on an airplane. We took a Cebu Pacific Air flight to Tacloban City, the only major airport on the island of Leyte. Back then, Cebu Pacific was fairly new in the market where it only started it airline operations in 1996. There was even a joke then that when you fly on Cebu Pacific, you fly out from Cebu and arrive in the Pacific. The joke came out after some airplane crashes Cebu Pacific had in its early years along with the then Asian Spirit (renamed to Zest Air but now operated as AirAsia Zest under AirAsia) which got the joke of flying as an Asian and arriving as a Spirit.
After my short trip back to Manila a few weeks back, I was able to get some old pictures of my previous trips. I’ve brought these pictures back to Singapore and scan them to write up for those trips from way back. I was able to get old pictures from albums of my Hanoi and Ha Long Bay trip to update my old posts for both trips. I’m happy the digital era made me stop expensive photo printing and making those heavy albums. I also got another set of pictures from my trip in Leyte which I’ll write about later.
Anyway, this blog is about the trip I made back in 2002 with my colleagues to Bicolandia in the Bicol Peninsula on the southern end of the island of Luzon.
Bicol Peninsula is composed of four different provinces composed of the people called the Bicolanos. Bicol is best known in the Philippine for being the site of one of the most majestic natural wonders in the country, the Mayon Volcano in Legazpi City. Also since a few years ago for a place to swim with the whalesharks in Donsol and a place for the extreme sport of wakeboarding in Camarines Sur (CamSur).