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.
My family and myself have lived in Singapore for two years. During this time we have always skipped visiting the Universal Studios Singapore theme park located within the Resorts World Integrated Resort in Sentosa island.
But our time to leave Singapore has arrived. Well that is about 6 months ago. And so upon learning that we are to heading back to the Philippines, we decided that it was time for us to visit Universal Studios Singapore. We bought our tickets from a travel agency in Chinatown which is way cheaper than buying online or in their ticket booths.
Well actually it is also very timely as my aunt and 3 cousins where flying over to Singapore for a vacation during that time.
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.
Last Saturday, my family and I finally got the opportunity to check out one of the latest tourist attractions here in Singapore, the Gardens By The Bay. Well it has actually been open since October of 2011 but still it is a fairly new attraction. Gardens By The Bay is located just behind the Marina Bay Sands and it is somehow a flagship attraction highlighting Singapore as a garden city.
Well, technically we have been to the Gardens By The Bay for a couple or more times but we never ventured inside it but only by its entrance. Anyway, this time we did go in and we have free tickets to go inside its two conservatories. Again just like in our trips to the Singapore Flyer and the Jurong Bird Park, our tickets provided by my wife’s employer, OCBC. She once more won the ticket lottery in their office.
And so, last Saturday we all set off to go to the Gardens but we took a short stop in Orchard to have our lunch in Jollibee Singapore.
Going there, we took the MRT and exited at Bayfront MRT station located below the Marina Bay Sands. And from there we passed through the underpass leading to the Gardens. Too bad that underpass exit did not have any escalator, but at least there was an elevator available.