Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Visita Iglesia

Come Holy Week, the faithful will troop to various churches to keep alive the tradition of the Visita Iglesia. Every year my family and I make it point to go on Maundy Thursday and perform The Way of The Cross. I do savour the mini road trip and the quality time I spend with them sans the distractions of every day life.

Last year’s excursion was especially enjoyable because my parents made it a point to visit the churches in the city of Manila. Being established as a suffragan diocese of Mexico in February 1579, majority of the churches which date back past a hundred years are found in this city. You cannot begin to imagine what a treat it was for me to go on an “old church” tour. Not only was I able to get my three wishes since I had not visited most of them before (well, that’s what my mom said), but I was also able to walk through the hallowed halls which have witnessed so much of our history.

Malate Church

Built in the 16th Century,
Malate Church has quite an interesting background. Not only was it built inspired by Baroque and Muslim influences (as evidenced by the façade and interiors), in 1762, the church was used as a fortress by British troops during their efforts to capture Manila from the Spaniards. Rebuilt a number of times due to natural calamities and wars, the church is dedicated to the Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, the saint who is believed to be the patroness of women who have just given birth.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Malate Church
Manila Cathedral

Witness to the creation of the Diocese of Manila, the
Manila Cathedral has been around since Fray Bishop Domingo de Salazar had it constructed out of wood, bamboo, and nipa in 1581. Needless to say, it has been a spectator of the rich and turbulent history of Intramuros and has been damaged and destroyed numerous times, but has been re-constructed and restored without fail.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Manila Cathedral
San Agustin Church

The oldest Catholic Chirch in the Philippines,
San Agustin Church was built using nipa and bamboo in 1571, eight years before Manila was declared a suffragan diocese of Mexico. Back then it was called the Church of Saint Paul. Eyewitness our tumultuous history, the San Agustin Church has been destroyed and rebuilt quite a number of times. Interestingly enough, it was witness to the American-Spanish dialogue on the surrender of the city in 1898 and survived the Battle of Manila in 1945, the only church in Intramuros to do so. Inside the church lays the tomb of Manila’s founder and first governor general, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi along with the remains of other Spanish conquistadors and that of Juan Luna.
Visita Iglesia de Manila
San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church is also notable for being a favorite venue for weddings, probably because of its lavish interiors. The church is decorated with several ornate chandeliers, beautifully carved wood, sizable slabs of marble and a magnificent trompe-l’oeil ceiling (murals which give off an optical illusion, making the objects painted on the ceiling seem as if they are three dimensional).

Quiapo Church

Built in the late 16th century,
Quiapo Church is also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. Quiapo Church is one of Manila’s most famous churches. Every January 9, devotees flock to Quiapo in hopes of touching the life sized statue of the Black Nazarene who is believed to have miraculous powers. It is interesting to note that some people have claimed that the reason the Black Nazarene is so popular with us Filipinos is because it was the first religious image which Filipinos could relate to owing to its dark skin tone. Regardless of the reason for its popularity, the Black Nazarene continues to be a beacon of hope for people who want to receive absolution for their sins. Ironically, surrounding the compound of the church are numerous stalls and vendors who sell curious items which serve as a testament to the animist roots of Filipinos.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Quiapo Church
The Twin Churches of Bustillos

If you would like hit two birds with one stone, trooping to the Twin Churches of Bustillos is a good idea. Saint Anthony of Padua Shrine and Our Lady of Loreto (Church of Sampaloc) are found in the same compound along Bustillos Street in Sampaloc, Manila. Bustillos Street, continuously congested by human and vehicular traffic, remains a religious hub in this side of Manila for its two historic churches and their interesting patron saints.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Twin Churches of Bustillos
Saint Anthony of Padua Shrine

Long before the construction of this shrine, Filipinos have revered Saint Anthony of Padua in the Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Intramuros. After the Second World War, the church of Saint Francis was destroyed in the Battle of Manila. The Franciscans decided to erect a shrine just for Saint Anthony of Padua who is said to be patronized by those who have lost things and by the poor.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Saint Anthony of Padua Shrine

Our Lady of Loreto Parish (Sampaloc Church)

Erected by the Franciscans in 1613, the chapel which preceded the church was dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto. In 1666, the actual church was built after it had been devastated by several disasters, both induced by nature and humans. According to Catholic history, “Our Lady of Loreto” refers to the Holy House of Loreto where our Blessed Mother Mary was born and where the Annunciation took place. Traditionally, the Lady of Loreto is the patron saint of people involved in aviation and construction. However, in the Philippine setting she is invoked against fire on account of the statue of Our Lady of Loreto surviving the numerous fires which have razed the Sampaloc district.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Our Lady of Loreto Parish

Binondo Church

Binondo Church was built in 1596 on what is now the corner of Ongpin and Quintin Paredes Streets. It is situated across the street from Plaza San Luis in the Chinese center of Binondo. Over the centuries the original structure considerable damage, the most significant of which is the bombing of Manila during the Second World War which basically wiped out the whole city, leaving only a few structures standing. Binondo Church was part lucky; although majority of its structure was left in ruins, its bell tower and façade were spared and remain intact to this day. Standing in the center of the Chinese commercial district, the church remains to serve as a reminder of a tumultuous past and of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the First Filipino Saint who first served the Catholic faith in this church as a sacristan.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
Binondo Church

San Beda Church

San Beda Church , which is also known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Monserrat, was built in 1925. It was designed with a neo-Gothic theme and inside one will find magnificent murals of the ceilings of the abbey made by a Spanish monk, Fr. Lesmes Lopez. Another notable design component is the three arched doorways which are made of bronze and colored panels similar to stained glass.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
San Beda Church
San Sebastian Church

The ground on which the present structure of
San Sebastian Church has been holy ground since 1621 with the Lady of Mount Carmel as its patroness. But over the years earthquakes and fires have destroyed the previous chapels and churches which stood on the site, giving way to the present steel structure which was erected in 1891. The San Sebastian Church takes its place in world history as the first and only Gothic style church built in Asia. Fascinatingly, the church was designed by Alexander Guatve Eiffel, the same man that brought the world the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
San Sebastian Church
San Vicente De Paul Church

In 1883, a chapel was built on the site of the
San Vicente De Paul Church. From 1898 to 1909, the structure was used as the parish church of Paco. In 1912, the present stone church was built in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Vincentians’s arrival to the Philippines. Its patron, Saint Vincent de Paul is known to aid charities, hospitals and lepers.

Visita Iglesia de Manila
San Vicente de Paul Church

These are only a few of the places that Manila has to offer. There are still more churches and chapels that are worthy of a visit this Holy Week.

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