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I love to travel just to explore new things in life from breathtaking natural wonders, interesting historical sites, delicious food, friendly people and colorful culture. I treasure every moment in traveling by writing in my journal, taking photos and publish it in my travel blog.
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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Culture and Faith: A Discovery on Churches (Reflections on the Visita Iglesia Journey)

Filipinos are known for being religious and having a strong faith in God. It is depicted through the solemn observance of Lenten season through religious customs and practices held in churches and communities during Holy Week. These practices are observed by the Catholics which serve as their “panata” or a solemn vow devoted to God as a sign of faith. In the observance of Lent, I always do the Visita Iglesia as devotion to my faith. “Visita Iglesia” also known as the Seven Churches Visitation is an ancient Roman Catholic tradition to visit seven churches on the evening of Maundy Thursday. During the Visita Iglesia, the devotees visit seven to fourteen churches to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
The Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours in Taal, Batangas, the largest Catholic church in the Far East.
I started last 2010 and it is my vow for the past six years. I began this practice with my family and the following years, I traveled on my own to devote in the Seven Churches Visit. I went to different provinces and cities from the highlands to the coastal areas, from the busy urban streets to the simple, rural countryside. Every place that I’ve been for Visita Iglesia is leading to the discovery of our heritage, the unique culture and the interesting history as well with the reflection of the challenges and blessings that I’ve experienced which help me to become a better person and having a closer ties with God. Therefore, Visita Iglesia is also one of the favorite topics in some travel blogs and many people are interested in this religious activity. It also taught me to explore the interesting tidbits of our culture and history where I need to travel in neighboring towns and provinces to visit the churches.
Our Lady of Assumption Parish Church in Maragondon, Cavite
During my Visita Iglesia, the first thing that I have done is to pray for forgiveness, thanksgiving and supplication. I never forget to reflect on personal experiences that I’ve had during the journey. In addition, I also checked the historical markers in the churches that I’ve visited. Many churches witnessed relevant events in history. For instance, Cavite has many Spanish-era churches which became the place which played a significant role in our history. Emilio Aguinaldo and Mariano Trias took their oaths in Santa Cruz Church in Tanza which led to the organization of Revolutionary Government.
Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Magdalena, Laguna. The church where Emilio Jacinto sought refuge after being shot.
On the other hand, churches have an interesting story to share in the lives of some historical figures. For example, the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo was the church where Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus tied the knot. On the other hand, Father Mariano Gomez of GOMBURZA became a parish priest in Saint Michael the Archangel Parish Church in Bacoor and Emilio Aguinaldo was baptized in Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Kawit. In addition, Emilio Jacinto sought refuge in Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Magdalena, Laguna after being shot near the Maimpis River. The marker where his blood stains are covered with glass along with his hat and bolo.
Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Quiapo, Manila. The only all-steel church in the Philippines.
Visita Iglesia is also an opportunity for travelers and bloggers to explore the cultural heritage of our country. First, there are churches that show an astonishing artistry in the field of architecture. For The Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Quiapo which is the only church in Asia made up of steel. There are stories that Gustave Eiffel made a participation in the creation of the church. On the other hand, you may find the largest Catholic Church in Asia, the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours located in the heritage town of Taal, Batangas. The province of Laguna also features Spanish-era Baroque churches which can be found in the lakeshore towns of Paete, Pakil, Kalayaan and Lumban as well with the churches in Liliw, Nagcarlan, Magdalena and Majayjay which are located in the foothills of Mount Banahaw. These churches are still standing for many centuries and survived natural disasters and wars.
Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.
Saint James the Apostle Church in Paete which is known for its woodcarvings of religious images.
These churches also show participation in some cultural events in their place. They have a significant role in the preservation of traditions, customs and religious practices of the people. In fact, the Saint James the Apostle Church in Paete was a gathering area of wooden sculptures of images of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary and the saints. The adjacent town of Pakil has the Saint Peter of Alcantara Church where it played an important role in the celebration of Turumba Festival. The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church is much known for its Feast of the Black Nazarene where millions of devotees are attending every year to have a spiritual blessing.
Saint Gregory the Great Parish Church in Majayjay, Laguna.
Lastly, churches serve as national treasures. It is a reflection of culture and tradition of the Philippines and the heritage that was influenced by Spain who administered our country for more than three hundred years. We also preserve these churches even there are many natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes that destroyed the earlier structures. However, there are old churches that are still existing and showcase the cultural heritage of the Filipinos. Some of the churches that I’ve been are included as National Cultural Treasures by the National Historic Commission such as Saint Gregory the Great (Majayjay, Laguna), Our Lady of Assumption Parish Church (Maragondon, Cavite) and Immaculate Conception Parish Church (Balayan, Batangas) to name a few.
Nuestra Senora de Candelaria Parish Church in Silang, Cavite.
Therefore, Visita Iglesia is a yearly activity should be treasured. Our country has a lot of heritage churches that can be visited in different parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In addition, you will come back and visit again the churches that you’ve been there and try a new route to explore more. It can be accomplished on your own or with your friends and family to explore the cultural heritage of our country in religious aspects and to reflect on our experiences in life that we become a better person with the help of our God. 


This article was published in the March issue of Glabella Magazine which is an online magazine in Issuu.Com. The online magazine is a pet project of Carl Lorenz Cervantes, an actor, blogger, vocalist and a reality show contestant. 

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