Aside from Christmas, Holy Week is another holiday break that many Filipinos are waiting. Although it’s an official break for the students, working people are the most eager because it’s a long weekend for those who are following Philippine Holiday Calendar (sorry to those working in Call Centers). For many Pinoys this is a great opportunity for reunions, family get together, barkada gimiks, beach outings and or just plain home rest. This is a great time also for resorts and hotel owners for the large number of bookings brought by flocking local and foreign tourists. Boracay in Aklan and Puerto Galera in Mindoro are the most popular holiday getaway destinations during this time of the year.
For the past years, I also spent the holy week break either by having family swimming on the nearby ‘ilog’ (Mangulila Falls or Dalitiwan River) or just staying at home watching movie or TV series marathon. Lenten break for me were always like that ever since, but this year was a different one, I finally had my first ever Visita Iglesia experience. It was a great first time, having to share Visita Iglesia with different Catholic faithfuls who flocked to different churches in the metro. It was nice seeing families along with their kids doing the Way of the Cross. There were also couples who are very solemnly praying (maybe their praying for their relationship to last). It was also characterized by those ‘Teen Barkadahans’ who are sporting party like clothes while doing Via Crusis, there are also Chruch and Barangay groups who came in their uniform shirts. And there are also those who decided to make it more solemn by going solo (like me). Different faces, different backgrounds and or different orientations, but one intention and that is to reflect on the passion of Christ.Here is the list of Churches that I went on this first Visita Iglesia experience last Maundy Thursday (April 21,2011).
First stop is the National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help (also known as the Redemptorist Church) or most commonly known as Baclaran Church.The shrine is a Roman Catholic parish church under the vicariate of the parish of Santa Rita de Cascia in the Diocese of Parañaque. It is situated along Roxas Boulevard in Baclaran, Parañaque City. Considered as one of the largest churches in the country, it also houses the image of the most venerated Marian Image which is the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Next stop was Our Lady of Pilar Parish Church commoly known as the Sta. Cruz Church.
Located at Plaza Lacson in Sta. Cruz, Manila, it was originally built in 1608 by the Jesuit Priests but later on governed by the Dominicans. The original church was damaged by earthquake and war, that’s why the present church structure was rebuilt in 1957.
Just walk way from Sta. Cruz Church is the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (St. John the Baptist Church) or the very well known Quiapo Church.Located in the district of Quiapo, Manila, this church is considered as one of the most popular churches in the country. It is the home of the most venerated image of Jesus Christ, the Black Nazarene. This church is flocked by thousands of devotees during its feast day every January.
Taking a jeepney ride from Quiapo, I then went to Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, better known as San Sebastian Church.
Located also in the Quiapo district, this church is boasting its title as the first and only neo-gothic steel church in the country and in Asia. The church was completed in 1861 and said to be designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same person behind the Eiffel Tower.
Not too far from San Sebastian is the National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus or the St. Jude Church. This church is the most close to my heart because this has been my resident church when I’m still living in Sampaloc, Manila. Having it close to my boarding house, I constantly attended mass and novena here during Thursdays and Sundays (whenever I didn’t got to the province on weekends). Located in Malacañang Complex in San Miguel,Manila, this church is flocked by different devotees praying for their intentions on health, education and popularly love matters.
Just outside the gate of Malacañang Complex is the San Beda Chapel formerly known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Monserrat.
Located inside San Beda College in Mendiola Manila, the church was built in 1925 and supervised by the Benedictine Monks. It houses the image of Santo Niño de Praga and Our Lady of Montserrat.The chapel is renowned for its wonderful interior paintings by Fr. Lesmes Lopez (OSB) and Bro. Salvador Alberich (OSB).
Also a walk away from Mendiola area is Our Lady of Loreto Church or Sampaloc Church.
It is located along the busy streets of Bustillos in Sampaloc, this church was originally built in 1613 and was rebuilt in 1666 by the Franciscan priests. It was also known as “The Twin Church” being adjacent with St. Anthony de Padua Church also in the same compound in Bustillos area.
Last but not the least is the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish or the Sta. Mesa Church. Located in Sta. Mesa district, it is very familiar to students who are studying and have studied in PUP since it is very near there. I also used to passed by this church when I was still studying at PUP.
Lenten Holiday maybe an opportunity to relax from months of loaded office works, a time to chit-chat with friends we didn’t see for a long time, bonding moment for families and relatives who didn’t have much time to talk about anything or just plainly relaxing at home, but this should also be used as an opportunity to bond with the Lord. We can use this time to renew our personal relationship with Him, talk to Him, say our prayers and our confessions. As what the saying goes “Nasa Tao ang Gawa nasa Diyos ang Awa”, God is so merciful and forgiving that He always forgive all our trespasses. His generosity in spite of our misdeeds and sinful ways is so great that He still blesses us with His grace. My visita iglesia experience this year is one of the best if not the best Holy Week experience in years. Praying and following the Way of the Cross is a humbling and learning experience of how Jesus suffered and died for the sake of saving mankind. May we also learn to have courage to carry other people’s burdens, there are many people who are suffering and in need of help. Let us use Christ example of sharing His life to us by sharing also our life to people who are burdened by the crosses their currently carrying. May we become an inspiration for them to take up their crosses and win over all their challenges in life. And may His resurrection on Easter Sunday be the signal and challenge for us to rise from our own sufferings, to combat all our atrocities and rejoice in never ending faith and trust to our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Rest and vacation are not bad, but don’t also forget to reflect on the passion of Christ”