Even today, many Filipinos still observe the religious custom of Visita Iglesia, a Filipino tradition of visiting seven churches during Holy Thursday. Some say this tradition stemmed from the early Christian habit of visiting Rome’s seven great basilicas. Aside from doing it for religious reasons, other parents also view this tradition as a way to educate the family about Philippine history. Below are seven famous and historical Philippine Churches that might be worth visiting this Holy Week.
If your family is up to the tradition of Visita Iglesia this Lenten season, this guide will come in handy for you and your family.
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH. Established in 1607, this church is prominent and famous for being the oldest church in the Philippines. In 1976, the Philippine government recognized the church as a National Historical Landmark. Then in 1993, the church became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is located in Intramuros, a similarly historic place in Manila.
QUIAPO CHURCH. Who doesn’t know about Quiapo Church? This is probably the most famous church in the Philippines. Its official name is Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. The Black Nazarene is the most familiar Philippine statue of Jesus Christ, because of its supposedly miraculous qualities. Also, the Feast of the Black Nazarene is on January 9, one of the most widely-celebrated religious events in Philippine history.
Photo from: wikitravel.org
BARASOAIN CHURCH. Built in 1630 in Malolos City, Bulacan, this church served as location of the inauguration of the First Philippine Republic on January 23, 1899. It also earned the title of “Cradle of Democracy in the East.” In 1993, the government proclaimed it a National Shrine. Other significant events in the Philippines that happened in this church are the drafting of the Malolos Constitution from September to January 1899 and the assembly of the First Philippine Congress in September 1898.
Photo from: commons.wikimedia.org
OBANDO CHURCH. This church is most famous for its three-day Obando Fertility Rites held yearly in May to honor two patron saints and the Virgin Mary: St. Claire of Assisi, St. Pascual Baylon, and Our Lady of Salambao. The founders of the church were Franciscan missionaries. Also referred to as San Pascual de Baylon Parish Church, this church is among the oldest and most historic Philippine churches. It is located in Bulacan.
MANAOAG CHURCH. This church, located in Pangasinan, is one of the most visited sites for Roman Catholic pilgrimages. Also, it is home to the statue of Our Lady of Manaoag, formerly known as Nuestra Senora del Santissimo Rosario de Manaoag. It is famous for a long history of miraculous and religious events which are documented on the murals of the church. Our Lady of Manaoag is the patron saint of the sick, the helpless, and the needy.
PAOAY CHURCH. The church’s construction began in 1704 and was completed in 1894 by Augustinian friars headed by Fr. Antonio Estavillo. Found in Paoay, Laoag, this church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like San Agustin Church. The bell tower beside the church was an observation point of the Katipuneros during the 1896 Philippine Revolution and by the guerillas during Japanese occupation.
TAAL CHURCH. Taal Church, also known as Basilica de San Martin de Tours, is world famous for being the largest church in Asia. St. Martin of Tours is Taal’s patron saint. The celebration of his feast day is every 11th of November. Although first established in 1575 in San Nicolas, Batangas, Taal volcano’s eruption in 1754 however destroyed the church. After being rebuilt and transferred to a different Taal site, an earthquake in 1849 ruined the church again. Eventually, the reconstruction was taller than the original edifice. In December 8, 1954, the church became a basilica. Then in January 16, 1974, the government declared the church a National Shrine.
You don’t necessarily have to make all the churches part of your Visita Iglesia itinerary but visiting one or two of these seven famous Philippine churches this Holy Week, whether you’re on a road trip or in Metro Manila, will be worth it.
TIP: Take a camera and document your Visita Iglesia. Most of the churches above have beautiful or interesting architecture worth capturing in a photograph.
NOTE: UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. The UNESCO is an agency of the United Nations that promotes education and communication and the arts.