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"VISITA IGLESIA" Virtual Edition (COVID-19 version 2.0)

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Marietta Pangan

The year is 2021, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the world. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still not entirely under control. Tens of thousands are still getting infected globally.

At the time of this writing, in the Philippines’ capital, Metro Manila plus bubble, including four adjacent provinces, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, are in place on granular lockdowns.

The world may not be ready for our next travel. Still, the spiritual experience and the annual tradition of commemorating lent do not need to stop. Let me take you to these fourteen oldest and historically significant churches in Metro Manila and Bulacan (gateway to the North), right from the comfort of your living room and browsing the web or social media.

"Visita Iglesia is a Biblical recount of Jesus Christ's suffering. It was when Jesus was most sorrowful and praying in the garden of Gethsemane.

The essence of Visita Iglesia is the meditation of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. It is also the "Via Crucis" (Stations of the Cross) on Christ's way to Calvary.

Via Crucis is a timely prayerful meditation and a common religious practice during Lent and every Friday throughout the year until Good Friday.

The commemoration of Christ’s Crucifixion starts when Pontius Pilate condemns him until he is interred. These fourteen churches portray events in the Passion of Christ.

The spiritual significance, heritage appreciation and cultural enrichment of visiting the many oldest churches in a province or country are always rewarding.

1. San Agustin Church (San Agustin Manila)

San Agustin Church is located inside the scenic and historic walled city of Intramuros, Manila. It was completed in 1607, the oldest stone church and the first religious structure constructed by the Spaniards in Luzon. San Agustin Church is believed to have patterned after some of the magnificent temples built by the Augustinians in Mexico.

There are few burials among the Philippines’ famous personalities, such as Miguel López de Legazpi (the first Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies, including the Philippines and Pacific archipelagos). The second Governor-General, Guido de Lavezaris and Lopez de Legazpi’s nephew Juan de Salcedo and one of the Filipino heroes in the 19th century Juan Luna.

The present structure was initially built in 1587 and completed in 1607 under the name Church of St. Paul of Manila. The church is often damaged; however, it withstood significant earthquakes in 1645, 1699, 1754, 1796, 1825, 1852, 1863 and 1880. San Agustin church served as a hospital for several of those injured during the earthquake in 1863 and a concentration camp during the Japanese occupation of World War II.

In 1993, San Agustin Church was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1976.

2. Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. John the Baptist /Calumpit Church

Built-in 1572, San Juan Bautista Parish Church (Calumpit)is the oldest church in Bulacan. The church is nestled in Calumpit, the first pueblo established and Christianized in Bulacan province. The simple facade is highlighted with Corinthian columns. The most notable among the designs are the elaborate stucco carvings on the main and side portals.

The Calumpit church witnessed the Filipino’s struggle against Spanish, American, and Japanese rule. It is believed that during the war, revolutionaries and Spaniards were buried in the tunnel built underground of the church. History has it; back then, Spanish priests to keep gold, religious statues, and ornate jewelry hidden within the church tunnel. St. John the Baptist was declared a diocesan shrine in 2013.

3.Minor Basilica & Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception /Manila Cathedral

Minor Basilica & Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or famously termed as Manila Cathedral. The Basilica started as a parish in 1571; it was originally known as the "Church of Manila." Manila then as a diocese in 1579. The cathedral was severed and destroyed several times; however, it was rebuilt eight times from the original structure in 1581 until 1958. On the outside, there is a four-armed cross on the dome, which serves as a reference point of astronomical longitudes of the Archipelago, In the inside are the eight pairs of stained glass windows which give the church interior a dramatic lighting effect. The cathedral received its Basilica designation on April 27, 1981. Manila Cathedral has also merited a papal endorsement by Pope Gregory XII. There is another homage to it by other popes such as Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and recently by Pope Francis.

4.Parish Church of Sta Monica /Angat Church

Parish Church of Sta. Monica was built around 1683 and is one of the most beautiful churches in the country, boasting marvellous Baroque architecture. This 400-year old church displays Baro