Visita Iglesia (Church Visitation) is the Catholic tradition of praying the fourteen stations of the cross in seven different churches during Holy Week. Pre-war, Visita Iglesia was done in Intramuros' seven churches. After earthquakes and warfare destroyed five of the seven original churches, it has been acceptable to recite the prayers in other churches.
If you're planning to do your Visita Iglesia within Manila this coming Holy Week, you might want to put these seven beautiful and historical churches in your itineraries.
1. San Agustin Church, Intramuros
Even during the process of repair, there's no denying the grandeur of San Agustin Church. Founded in 1571, this oldest stone church and Wedding Capital of the Philippines is part of the seven churches in Intramuros, where local Visita Iglesia first started.
In 1993, UNESCO declared San Agustin Chuch as a World Heritage Site-- a feat for a Baroque structure that survived centuries of calamaties and war.
Read here: the Opening Prayer, Prayers for first two stations: The Last Supper and The Agony in Getsemane.
2. Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo
More popularly known as the Binondo Church, this imposing structure was founded by the Dominicans in 1596, to serve the Chinese citizens who converted to Catholicism. This church gets its name from St. Lorenzo Ruiz, a former altar boy who eventually became the first Filipino saint.
Read here: Prayers for the third and fourth stations: Jesus Before the San Hedrin, and the Scourging and Crowning with Thorns.
3. Sta. Cruz Parish, Sta. Cruz
Like the nearby Binondo Church, Sta. Cruz Parish was also built to cater to the Chinese Catholics residing in the Binondo area. The original church built in 1608 was destroyed during the World War 2. The present peach-colored, European style structure was erected in 1957.
Read here: Prayers for the fifth and sixth stations: Jesus Receives the Cross and Jesus falls Under the Cross
4. Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, Quiapo
Famous as home of the said-to-be miraculous Black Nazarene, Quiapo Church has a long history of bouts with earthquakes and fires since its first commemoration in 1586. But the church persisted and currently stands in its cream-white glory amidst the busy and colorful Quiapo District.
Read here: Prayers for the seventh and eight stations: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross of Jesus and Jesus Meets the Pious Women of Jerusalem.
5. Basilica of San Sebastian, Claro M. Recto St.
San Sebastian Church, a beautiful structure fashioning the Neo-Gothic architecture common in England, is the only all-steel church in Asia. According to Ambeth de Ocampo, a Filipino historian, Gustav Eiffel--the designer of the Eiffel Tower--may have been involved in designing San Sebastian Church. It is now part of the National Historical Landmarks in the Philippines.
Read here: Prayers for the ninth and tenth stations: Jesus' Crucifixion and the Repentant Thief.
6. St. Vincent de Paul Church, San Marcelino
Adjacent to Adamson University along San Marcelino, St. Vincent de Paul Parish Church is a humble looking abode that, like above mentioned churches, has been rebuilt many times after war. This church, run by the Vincentians, concecrates the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Read here: Prayers for the eleventh and twelfth stations: Mary and John at the Foot of the Cross, and Jesus Dies on the Cross.
7. Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate
The Malate Church is a Baroque-style church, a few steps away from the Manila Bay. One of the oldest churches in Manila, the Malate church houses a Virgin Mary statue that dates back in 1624.
Read here: Prayers for the thirteenth and fourteenth stations: Jesus is laid on the tomb, and Jesus resurrects. You may also say the Final Prayer here, followed by a wish. Like in Simbang Gabi, those who finish the fourteen mysteries can also hope for a granted wish within the year.
The seven Manila churches mentioned above are relatively near each other and are all accessible by public transport. But if you want a more seamless Visita Iglesia experience with a guided private church tour and an overnight stay in historic Manila Hotel, you may want to avail of Manila Hotel’s Visita Iglesia: Manila Revisited Room Package.
In Manila Hotel’s Visita Iglesia: Manila Revisited Room Package, guests get to ride tranvia and horse drawn carriages to go around Manila with certified tour guides from Castillan Carriage and Tour Services. The friendly and DOT-certified tour guides will tell you trivia and history of the churches will en route to your next destination. Upon arriving at the church, guests will be left to say their prayers for twenty to thirty minutes. The church tour and Visita Iglesia trip starts at 3PM and usually lasts for three hours.
This room package also includes breakfast at Café Ilang-Ilang (regular continental breakfast fare), complimentary use of the Pool and Health Club facilities, and complimentary WiFi connection. The Visita Iglesia: Manila Revisited room package is available during the Holy Week from March 25 to 29, 2013. Price starts at P8,600.00 net. For inquiries and room reservations, you may call 527-0011.