Monday, April 02, 2007

Visita iglesia routes for Holy Thursday

I was a guest at Shop Talk on ANC this afternoon. The topic today was visita iglesia and Pia Hontiveros asked me to suggest some routes for Holy Thursday. Many people have been asking why seven churches. That custom of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is said to originate from the early Christian practice of visiting the seven great basilicas in Rome.

As I mentioned in the show a while ago, we should try to visit heritage churches so that we get a glimpse of Philippine culture while we pray. These centuries-old churches form an inherent part of our national identity, and we must thus endeavor to preserve them for future generations of Filipinos. If you remember, we came out with a petition to the CBCP to stop the further defacing of Philippine heritage churches late last year.

Anyway, I'm posting my suggestions here for day trips around and near Metro Manila. You can also check out my destination index if you have a particular province which you want to visit or if you want to read more details about the churches I mentioned below.

In the City of Manila, check out the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin, Binondo, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo, San Sebastian, Malate and Sta. Ana. You can go further by visiting San Pedro Makati, Guadalupe and Pasig. Check out this list of heritage churches in Metro Manila for the rest.

Pampanga is an emerging visita iglesia destination. Take the San Simon exit and backtrack to the Apalit Church which is the silver dome you see from the NLEX. Then cross over to the other side and drive to the town of San Luis. Then pass by the San Fernando Cathedral, the half-buried Bacolor Church, Betis Church and its ornate white and gold retablo and marvelous wall to ceiling murals, and Lubao which is Pampanga's oldest town church. If you have time, include Angeles City, Sta. Rita or Minalin.

In Bulacan, pass by Barasoain, the Malolos Cathedral, San Rafael and Angat (although there's an explosion of gold leaf inside and new ceiling murals which do not match the original simplicity of the church).

The Laguna de Bay Loop is a very popular route. Make sure you pass by the churches in Pila, Longos (Kalayaan), Paete, Pakil and Mabitac in Laguna; and Tanay, Baras, Morong and Antipolo in Rizal.

Then there's the Mount Banahaw Loop which brings you to the provinces of Laguna, Quezon and Batangas. You can start with San Pablo, followed by Nagcarlan and Majayjay in Laguna; then to Lucban, Tayabas and Sariaya in Quezon; and finally San Juan in Batangas.

In Batangas, also check out the Cathedral and Carmelite Convent in Lipa, San Jose Church, the Immaculate Conception Basilica in Batangas City, Taal Basilica and Caysasay Shrine in Taal, and Balayan Church. You can go further to Cavite and visit the churches in Maragondon, Silang, Naic, Tanza, Kawit and Gen. Trias.

To those who have been asking how many basilicas we have in the Philippines, the answer is twelve: Agoo, La Union; Piat, Cagayan; Malolos, Bulacan; Manila Cathedral, Quiapo, San Sebastian and Binondo in Manila; Batangas City and Taal in Batangas; Tayabas, Quezon; Penafranacia, Naga City; and Sto. Nino in Cebu. You can also visit churches in the list of national cultural treasures.

Anyway, I might be in Pampanga this Holy Week checking out the violent rituals, panatas, and other Holy Week traditions. To give you a glimpse of what to see, here's a video from the Center for Kapampangan Studies:

Related entries
Visita iglesia to our heritage churches
Pisamban... the churches of Pampanga
Visita iglesia aroung Laguna de Bay

Metro Manila and its old churches
Visita iglesia Bohol
Holy Week practices in the Philippines

Related articles
Lenten tour of magnificent 'retablos'
If you notice, most of our retablos are white with gold details. That's a very unique Filipino characteristic in our Spanish colonial church altars. The sad part is some priests feel they have Midas' Touch as the article puts it and paint the entire thing gold. It's horrible what they did to Argao in Cebu, Tanay, and Orion in Bataan! I hope priests put it in their heads that churches are Church property and not their own personal property. They are simply caretakers and not the owners who can do whatever they want with it.
Lenten rites in Cutud a man’s world

Angat Church heritage disaster on PDI front page
I was horrified when I saw the cover photo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer today (5 April 2007). What they did in the Angat Church was horrible! Those murals do not match the simplicity and historicity of the heritage church! Why do we have to copy murals in the Vatican? We have our own Philippine Baroque to be proud of. The sad part about publishing that heritage blunder on the front page is it will give the wrong impression to parish pastoral councils that it's a cool thing to do to their own heritage churches.

Artists can release their creative juices in a new church. But let's respect our forefathers and the artisans who built the heritage churches by keeping theirwork intact, without the explosion of gold leaf and murals which weren't originally there to begin with.

Heritage watch
Pride of Place: Trashing Intramuros
Nat’l culture body to look into Intramuros complex

i-Witness: Mansyon de Pobre VIDEO


  1. Anonymous3.4.07

    [...] and the travel with heritage conservation advocacy trio of Ivan Henares [...]

  2. Anonymous3.4.07

    This is a great post! Congratulations on the Bloggie! =)

  3. Anonymous4.4.07

    I have been in this blog once. i think ileft a comment in your article about my classmate's uncle's resort in bagac bataan... about those huge antique houses..

    i even made an entry about the issue... i'll just get the URL

  4. Anonymous4.4.07

    Here's the URL

  5. Yes, I read that. If you notice, I left a comment way back. :)

  6. Anonymous5.4.07

    [...] Sure, you know what Visita Iglesia is all about but do you know why seven churches? Ivan Henares of Ivan About Town has a brief explanation on this [...]

  7. Anonymous5.4.07

    Hi Ivan! I totally agree with you! I looked at the front page this morning and was greeted by eek! that horror! Can anything be done about that? It's such a disgrace.

  8. Anonymous5.4.07

    It's disturbing that many parishes want to copy either estampitas or famous murals on their walls and ceilings. Example: the parishes of Binondo and Ermita. The lack of art education among both priests and parishioners is to blame. What to do?

    Bad taste is widespread in this country.

  9. I was told the murals in Angat Church was the brainchild of Dez Bautista. He argued that he placed the embellishing there because the old artisans failed to produce manificent artworks that otherwise would have been done in Bulacan. I hope someone who knows him makes him realize the damage he did to the church and the possible damage to that could be done to other churches with that frame of thought. It's really sad.

  10. p.s. Let's write the PDI and complain about the misleading caption!

    "VISUAL FEAST. Considered one of the country’s most beautiful churches, the Sta. Monica church in Angat, Bulacan, is a pilgrimage destination for the faithful who prefer their beliefs lavishly illustrated. The central frescoes are variations of the Sistine Chapel’s masterpiece by Michelangelo. But both sides of the ceiling portray Philippine events and traditions such as “Simbang Gabi,” the First Mass at Limasawa and “Santacruzan.” Though the church was rebuilt by Franciscans in 1892, the ceiling was painted by Rene Robles only in 1998 and Jess Santos in 2002. RODEL ROTONI"

    It's not a visual feast at all! Write them at

  11. Great post! I am thinking of visiting different churches when I go home.

  12. Anonymous7.4.07

    What I disagree with the caption is the line "One of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines" and the graphics showed the ceiling that was Sistinized. Again like any other churches in Bulacan that was Porte cochered, it may again create a string of Sistinized ceilings. In Balayan, a parish center was built behind the church, also with a Sistinized ceiling. In Luna La Union, it was a circa 1920-30's ceiling painting on tin, this was Agoofied.

    The effect of media.

  13. i just want to say thanx to your blog about the visita iglesia, i remember a tradition that i almost forgot

  14. Anonymous8.4.07

    Thank you for posting that insightful comment on the Angat Church murals yesterday. My mom, sister, and I visited the Angat Church during a Visita Iglesia tour by Inscribe. The church's black-and-white tiled floors, carved front pews and doors, and wide span are beautiful; but it was very disappointing to see the church's interior in a new textured concrete finish that reminded me of our garage. Fortunately, the bell tower still evokes much of the church's remaining old charm.My aunt's sister, who was with us during the tour, immediately figured out that the murals were new after spotting Pope John Paul II.

    I agree that churches should be faithfully restored rather than be decked with obviously newer additions like ostentatious molding and gold leaf -- which were never part of the structure. Many of the churches we visited yesterday dated back to either the 19th century or the 1960's. With the contemporary paint colors, extensive gold leaf and molding, and other finishes, I couldn't figure out how old the church was (thank goodness for historical/commemorative markers). The "old" structures looked campy and hardly resembled the churches that townsfolk of generations earlier would have remembered.

    Ivan, perhaps in our Letter to the Editor we could include background info on the history of the Angat Church. It would greatly help if people also knew what (fires, earthquakes, etc.) the church has gone through to understand why it's in its current state.

  15. Yes, the sad part about it is that centuries of work are bastardized by a few years assignment of a parish priest and misinformed individuals who are not even from the town.

  16. Anonymous8.4.07

    Sad to hear that. Dez is a good friend and a staunch defender of heritage. But this is one case of gilding the lily.

    By the way, we say "Return the church to what it was." But what was it before? What if it was poorly deisgned to begin with? I think it might be better to appeal to aesthetics: visual unity, order, a sense of balance and proportion. It might also help to explain our position in Tagalog. Mas may dating.

  17. Anonymous8.4.07

    Am writing to PDI Publisher and Editor in Chief plus the web sight you give below. BUT how to put a stop to bad taste when it is considered 'good taste' by Priests and parishoners? Is it too late to educate?

  18. Anonymous8.4.07

    In all probability, the ceiling of the church might have been bare. Only a few churches have painted ceilings in the country.

    I am inclined to think that in our time, the state of aesthetics in churches would not compare with that of the Spanish colonial ! Angat may have been better compared to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in QC, where proportion is absolutely lacking. Still, the Angat ceiling is just a copy and in all probability, it is a poor copy ( imagine comparing it with the original ).

    I think the present time is obsessed with monumentalism, just like what we have in Binondo and Ermita. In addition, there is no originality. If one inspects the church of Santiago Apostol in Betis, one would notice that some portions of the ceiling were actually copies of images that are familiar to us. However, the panels were part of a composition that fits into the scheme of the church's decoration.

    I just hope that the youngsters of Angat would have dealt with the powerful images of Micelangelo's work, with he help of their parents.

  19. Anonymous9.4.07

    Hi. I agree with you wholeheartedly. It's not even a good copy of the original! It's indeed horrible.

  20. Hi Ivan! just dropping by to say hi, hope you still remember me from the Central Youth Choir. (Vivo's cuz)hehe! i was googling Visita Iglesia, and saw your bloglink!
    I'm surprised! seems you're really good with your craft!
    regards and Happy Easter! :)


  21. Hi Conne, yes I still remember you. Kamusta?

  22. i watched your guesting on shop talk about a year ago. i became so interested with the routes you mentioned. little did i know that a year after that i will be able to visit some of it.

    the past couple of weeks brought me to 14 churches in 14 towns around Cavite, Rizal and Laguna provinces. it was an experience like no other. i am in awe how a small country like ours is so rich in faith and so abundant with treasures. we should all be stewards of these gifts. you're doing a great job ivan. keep it up :)

  23. That's great to hear! Try the north during your next trip. A lot of beautiful churches to visit there as well.

  24. First mass painting of Sta. Monica church in Angat, Bulacan

    The Limasawa first mass is a hoax. Please go to
    to know how this innocent error by a Jesuit who knew nothing about the Magellan anchorage at the island-port of Mazaua was turned into a hoax by the National Historical Institute.


  25. I had my Visita Iglesia recently in Laguna Loop and I visited the Baroque churches of Pila, Santa Cruz, Magdalena, Liliw, Nagcarlan, Majayjay, Luisiana, Cavinti, Pagsanjan, Longos (Kalayaan), Pakil and Paete. You can also visit the churches of Mabitac, Lumban and San Pablo City.


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