Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Filipino Catholics' Holy Week plans have been put on hold and the annual Visita Iglesia has become out of the question. But as the month-long home quarantine prompts us to better appreciate the world outside, we could also expect that a trip to the house of worship would be more rewarding once the virus has settled down and social gatherings are not deemed dangerous anymore.
And while we await that moment when we could celebrate this season like we normally do, we've listed down some of the beautiful churches here in the country that you might want to add to your future travels.
Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas
This compact chapel in Nasugbu, Batangas which has a distinct brick-laden facade is a popular spot for weddings and spiritual retreat. It was named after the town of Caleruega in Spain, the birthplace of St. Dominic de Guzman, the father of the Order of the Preachers.
Paoay, Ilocos Norte
The Saint Augustine Church, also known as Paoay Church, is well-known for its pyramidal baroque structure that is designed to withstand earthquakes. Besides the 2.5 meter-thick supporting buttresses surrounding the building, its walls are also incorporated with corals which is said to be twice as strong as bricks. Built in 1710, this church is one of the oldest here in the Philippines, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
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Callao Cave Chapel
A unique churchgoing experience awaits you at the Callao Cave in Cagayan. A number of pews and a platform have been erected inside the cavern under a round hole projecting a beam of light from outside. Instead of the usual statues and intricate designs on stained glass, you will be surrounded rock formations sculpted by nature itself.
The Mayon Volcano continues to mesmerize with its perfect cone shape, and while its most famous angle is behind the tower of the sunken Cagsawa Church, its beauty can also be seen from the Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church also known as Daraga Church. This church that was built in 1772 has walls that was infused with volcanic rocks and a white facade embellished with sculpted saints and other religious ornaments.
Founded in 1859, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish or Barasoain Church is touted the Cradle of Democracy in the East, being a symbol of our independence as it has been the venue to many historical events such as the convening of the First Philippine Congress, the drafting of the Malolos Constitution, and the inauguration of the First Philippine Republic. The church has a clean yet charming facade that really brings you back to our heroes' times.
Sacred Heart Chapel and Tower
A spiritual oasis situated in Batangas, the Marian Orchard Pilgrimage Site is a 5-hectare land filled with religious monuments, lush greeneries, and blooming flowers. Its church, the Sacred Heart Chapel and Tower may be a simple-looking structure but the surrounding area and its landmarks make the whole retreat worth it.
Church of the Sto. Niño de Cebu
Cebu City, Cebu
This church was founded by Fr. Andres de Urdaneta on April 28,1565, the same day the Legazpi-Urdaneta expedition arrived on the island. Today, it is a monolithic structure at the center of the city with a facade that blends Muslim, Romanesque and neo-classical features. With its preserved stone texture and color, the church remains simplistic yet elegant in design.
Standing high and respectable within the walled city of Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral is touted as the Mother of all Churches, Cathedrals and Basilicas of the Philippines, since it was the only church in the country that was elevated into a Cathedral in 1581, after the country was separated from the Archdiocese of Mexico and became a new diocese with its episcopal seat in Manila. Today, the Manila Cathedral is nothing short of impressive in its architecture from the facade to its interior.
Mt. Carmel Chapel
Unlike the other churches, Mt. Carmel Chapel or the Tukon Church is not about grandeur, but instead charms with its simplistic look. It is a stone-made chapel with a thick overgrown arching over its entranceway. First established in 2008, the structure was modeled after the Ivatan houses, except that it used red bricks on its roofing instead of cogon. The church also boasts a wonderful 360° view, sitting on top of a verdant hill that rolls down into the sea.
The St. John the Baptist Parish Church or Liliw Church in Laguna is known for its notable red bricked facade and baroque architecture design. The first church was built with wood in 1620, before a stone one was erected in 1646. It was partially destroyed in 1880 during the Luzon earthquake and got reconstructed in 1885.
The La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, commonly known as the Baclayon Church, is a white structure with walls infused with corals. Perhaps its most distinct feature from the outside is its huge watchtower that looms alongside it. In November 17, 1596, the first Jesuits arrived at Baclayon, and found a pre-existent Catholic chapel in the area. In 1717, it was elevated into a parish.
The Miagao Church, also known as the Santo Tomás de Villanueva Parish Church, is another baroque church with elaborate carvings and sculpture on its ivory-colored facade flanked by two humongous bell towers. The church that was completed in 1797 was made with thick walls to repel invaders.
Even as we all spend our Holy Week indoors amid this pandemic, we can still reflect and revere within the confines of our home. After all, a worldwide need for healing against this virus also calls for more prayers from its people. Let us all stay safe, keep the faith, and wait for the right moment to resume our annual rituals for the Holy Week.
Homestream image from the Church of the Sto. Niño de Cebu website.