Guess what I did last summer, as a Filipino Catholic, I was raised to follow the practices associated with Holy Week. Including the one you called “Visita Iglesia” wherein you would embark on a day-long pilgrimage of churches. Most would visit churches on their way to resorts and tourist destinations but those of us, who are staying in the country’s capital, Manila, will have plenty of choices. These churches are noted for their architectural value as well as for their historical importance. Here are some of the historical churches I visited.
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH
Located in Manila, a visit to the San Agustin Church is a must see. Built in 1589, this beautiful church has survived seven earthquakes and two fires over the centuries and now remains as the oldest stone church in the Philippines. At the main entrance, there are exquisite carvings on the wooden doors. Inside the lovely, Mexican-influenced interior is designed in the shape of a Latin cross. The gorgeous ceiling was painted in the 1800s by Italian artists, Giovanni Dibella and Cesare Alberoni.
THE MANILA CATHEDRAL
Officially called the Cathedral-Basilica of Immaculate Conception, this architectural wonder is located within the walls of Intramuros, the Spanish bastion of Spanish-colonial Philippines. It was built in honor of the Philippines’ patroness, the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The parish started out as part of the diocese of Mexico in 1571 and became a separate diocese on February 6, 1579. It serves as the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and as the highest seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in the country.
MINOR BASILICA OF SAN LORENZO RUIZ
More commonly known as the Binondo Church, the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz is located in Binondo, Manila. It was founded by Dominican priests in 1596 to serve the Chinese converts to Christianity which set up residence in the area. Called a Basilica since it was built in the 1600s, it got its name from the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, a resident of Binondo who was born of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. It has suffered damages over time, the worst one on September 22, 1944 when the Americans advanced to reclaim Manila from the Japanese. Nothing was left of the beautiful structure except the stone walls and the octagonal bell tower. The present church was rebuilt in 1946 and renovations continued intermittently until 1971.