Thursday, April 28, 2011

7 historical churches, 7 beautiful moments

Holy Week in the Philippines has always been a solemn occasion. With the exception of a few who chose to hie off to the beach for the holidays, most people opt to just stay at home or go to their hometown where they can be with family while doing simple sacrifices to commemorate the death of our Lord.

Visita Iglesia or "Church Visits" is a tradition that most Filipinos still exercise to this day. Maybe the reason why this custom which started in Rome remained, is because it is a great opportunity to bond with family without deflecting from religious observance.

A church for each of the 14 Stations of the Cross was the usual practice. But our family decided to bring the count down to 7, since it would be a real challenge to visit 14 churches with several kids in tow. Anyhow, we already visited 7 chapels around Las Piñas yesterday. Our Thursday is for my husband's family while mine does our Visita Iglesia after the church service on Good Friday.

Our route for this year is the area of Manila. Traffic is minimal during this time so our travel from Cavite to Manila is considerably easy. 

1) Malate Church is our first stop. Historically significant as the base from which the British launched their assault on Intramuros, this church dates back to 1588.

 This is where my youngest brother was christened.

My son enjoyed roaming around while observing the street vendors sell all sorts of stuff, from balloons to snacks. 

2) Ermita Church. Founded in the late 16th century, legend has it that the image of the Virgin Mary housed inside was found by soldiers of Miguel López de Legazpi along the seashore, the day Spanish forces took over Manila.

Right outside the walls of this church is the house where my mom grew up.

The parish put up the "Stations of the Cross" at the courtyard to accommodate more pilgrims.

3) Paco Church. Built in 1820, this was where the remains of the Philippine's national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, was secretly buried until it was transfered to the Rizal Park (Luneta) in 1912.

They closed the church after the service, so we just recited our prayers right in front of the park's gated entrance.

The church where one of my brothers was married in 2009.
Paco Park was once a municipal cemetery for the well-off Spanish aristocrats living within the walls of Intramuros.

 4) Sta. Cruz Church. Commissioned by the Jesuits in 1608, the church served as a parish for the growing Chinese immigrants in the area.

Sixteen years ago, I often stood here distributing fast food flyers to churchgoers. My first job: Halo-Halo crew at Chowking. 
We forgot to bring our prayer booklets so we have to make do with the two I was able to buy for Php30/pc. I could have bought those for Php10 each on a normal day.

5) Binondo Church. Erected in 1596, this church is one of the oldest places of Christian worship in the country. It's also the same parish where the Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, served as an altar boy.

The church where my husband, son and I were baptized.
Masses here are held in English, Filipino and Chinese dialects (Mandarin and Hokkien).
My son has never been to any of the churches we were to visit that day, except here in Binondo where he was christened. Surprisingly, he knew where to doze off and still not miss anything on the itinerary.:)

6) San Agustin Church. The mother of all churches, being the oldest in the country. Constructed from 1587-1607, it has survived earthquakes, typhoons, the British Invasion, the Philippine Revolution and World War II and is the only building left standing in Intramuros.

The church where one of my sisters would soon get married.
The church contains the tomb of Miguel López de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo and  Juan Luna, the famous painter.

A replica of the Shroud of Turin was hung up in the choir loft.

My 6-year-old niece, reciting the Stations of the Cross. 
7) We ended our Lenten journey at the Manila Cathedral. The present edifice was built in 1981, after the original structure of 1581 was destroyed several times by natural calamities and war. The cathedral was the seat of the Archbishop of Manila during the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, and still remains the ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Manila.

The church where my husband and I sealed our bond.
The crucifixion scene depiction at the Manila Cathedral. It's interesting to note that the INRI inscription was not used here. It showed instead a more realistic one in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. 

Our wedding day, 2005.

6 years later, we're back with the product of our union.
Lent is a time for prayer, and prayers are better said with family. Visiting these 7 churches brought back so many wonderful memories for each of us. Beautiful moments of the not so distant past. 

A family that prays together stays together. An old saying, but true.
Who knew history would also be a part of our itinerary this year? The stories behind these religious landmarks may not have been all glory, but it's history that gives these churches an air of mystery that transports one back in time for a glimpse of a past long gone.


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