In the Philippines, Lenten Season is considered as one of the most celebrated holidays. Alongside the long weekend sans work, families gather together in the provinces, friends go out on a vacation and some just chill at home having staycation appreciating the quiet and solemnity of the metro just because everyone’s on a trip.
For Roman Catholics like me which I believe majority of the Filipinos are as well, Lenten Season is the perfect time for reflection and getting closer to God. There are many ways of doing it and the list of activities are usually traditional. Others do the Pabasa, which is singing the Passion of Christ and is usually done as group, some do Penance or Penitensya which is an act of repentance by way of flagellantism or even voluntary pseudo-crucifixion, others attend Church activities which focus more on reliving the Passion of Christ and another is the Visita Iglesia which is visiting different churches and praying on the 14 Stations of the Cross.
I, personally am making it a point to do the Visita Iglesia every year and each time my journey to the churches is different. Same prayers may be read but the messages realized are always unique. This year, we decided to pay a visit to the churches of the quiant towns of Laguna namely Pila, Nagcarlan and Liliw. The original plan was to visit 7 churches but since we were pressed for time, we decided to just trim it down to 3.
Having the biggest church in the Quezon province as the center of our Parish – the Minor Basilica of St. Michael Archangel (our church deserves a separate entry which I will do soon!), I have adored church designs so much which usually emanate the era when the structure was founded. The intricacies, the differences in the strokes of paintings displayed on the ceilings and walls, the gold and wooden adornments, the Pulpito where Priests used to deliver their homilies, of course the bell towers, the facade and all the elements are sooo well thought of they speak a lot about the church’s character.
I tried to put justice to the churches’ beauty through my lens and I hope I did but of course nothing beats the first hand experience of actually having a feel of being in these stunning places. Let’s start our journey then and maybe, I’ll be able to help you decide where your next Visita destinations are, I’ll also insert some tips and side trips along the way.
The Church of Pila – San Antonio de Padua Parish Church
A church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua in the Philippines and was founded in 1578. It is the first Antonine parish church in the country and probably in Asia.
The church has a three leveled facade with classical Doric columns. At the pediment is a niche reserved for the town’s patron, St. Anthony, the Parish also owns the third oldest church bell in the Philippines.
Just in front of the church is a line of old houses that seem to bring you back to the past and so we could not refuse but check them out. They may not look as old as the ones in Intramuros but hey, they are still worth visiting.
The Municipal Hall of Pila, Laguna
Nagcarlan Church – San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church
With its distinct Baroque style, Nagcarlan church’s facade has a semicircular arched main entrance along with semicircular windows and tall pedestals and columns present also in the church’s side entrance. The four storey brick bell tower has bell with the Franciscan coat of arms (crossed arms of Christ and St. Francis of Assisi) and Muslim inspired crenelations.
We were lucky to be invited to the exhibit of Saints’ Relics that the Parish holds in the church during our visit and the lessons that we learned there were priceless! We got to know our dear Saints more and it seemed as if we were on an educational tour! I’m just sharing the one that amazed us most but I’ll allocate a separate blog entry for that to share short stories of each Saint and so we will all be able to know them better.
This is a relic of the actual rose petal of the miracle of Lipa.
And since we were already in Nagcarlan, we couldn’t miss dropping by the renowned Underground Cemetery which is considered as the only one in the country. It was built in 1845 under the supervision of Franciscan priest, Fr. Vicente Velloc as a public burial site and its underground crypt exclusively for Spanish friars, prominent town citizens and members of elite Catholic families. In 1896, the crypt was used as a secret meeting place of the Laguna revolutionary leaders against the Spaniards.
Below is the crypt that literally sent me the creeps. It was unusually cold or maybe it was just on my mind. And so apologies for the photos, I took them too swiftly! Haha!
Outside the chapel, we were greeted by this stunning view! The place is now operating under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
It’s just less than 5-minutes trip from Nagcarlan Church and so we encourage you to pay a visit. Don’t forget to grab a yummy espasol from the caretaker of the Chapel and ask her first hand information. It’s amazing how she was able to memorize all the dates with her age, too bad we weren’t able to get her name.
Liliw Church – Saint John de Baptiste Parish Church
The most prominent and notable part of the church is the façade that is made of striking red bricks and adobe which can already be see even from afar. I can already imagine how the facade can be a great background for a wedding photo!
There was a mass when we arrived in Liliw and it was indeed an apt way to conclude our Visita Iglesia this year.
It was the first time that I went for an out of town Visita Iglesia on commute, we did not use GPS and just asked around and it could never be better. We spent less and learned a lot from mingling with the locals and that made the experience more special! With only the list of churches to visit and a prayer guide on our hands we managed to finish our task.
And so to reward ourselves, we went to one if not the most popular restaurant in Liliw, Arabela. Arabela is known for their pastas and steaks and the pasta lover in us were just so happy!
When we started this walk, we never knew it could bring a lot of meaningful lessons in our lives. I may have repeatedly uttered the same readings on the 14 Stations of the Cross but each and every time, a new learning is coming to me. We walked hand in hand going to this journey without any expectations but the fulfillment that we brought back on our return is a treasure that we’ll surely value forever.
It is one thing that we tend to commit sins and act human because we are born that way but it is also another thing to listen when He calls you back and remind you that it is time to fix the mess, to fix yourself so that you’ll be whole again.
Church Facts Reference: Wikipedia