During Holy Week, one of the most common traditions done by Catholics in the country is the Visita Iglesia (which translates to "Visiting Churches"), usually done on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.
Here, devotees visit 7 to 14 different churches, where they pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament or commemorate the 14 Stations of the Cross as a way to remember the passion of Christ.
If you're planning to do your yearly Visita Iglesia in Metro Manila, but still don't know which churches to visit, fret not because we're giving you 7 historical and beautiful churches you could add to your Holy Week itineraries!
Located inside the walled city of Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral-Basilica is not only known to be the premier church, but also the Mother of all Churches in the Country. It's the only church to be elevated to the rank of a Basilica as per the Pope's initiative.
The church has had 8 renovations since it was first built in 1571, having been through different moments in history - from wars to fires and storms. Just by looking through its bronze central door, you could even see the important moments of history that the church, and the whole of Intramuros, had witnessed.
Just a few steps from Manila Cathedral is San Agustin Church which is under The Order of St. Augustine. It's also one of the four Philippine baroque churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period which is now tagged as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The first stone church to be built in Manila by the Spaniards since their move from Cebu, San Agustin Church's architecture reflects the Baroque style, with its Corinthian columns and carved wooden doors. It was able to survive the major earthquakes, wars, and bombings, and is also known to be the burial sites of history's notable figures, including Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo, and Guido de Lavezaris.
Also known by many as Binondo Church, Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz is located inside the Chinatown district in Manila. It's named after Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, a Filipino-Chinese martyr, who used to train and serve in the church back he was young. As it's usually visited by the Fil-Chinese community, masses here are held in Filipino, English, Mandarin, and Hokkien.
The church was built in 1596, and was renovated a number of times after it sustained damages from wars and natural disasters. The only thing that remained from the original structure is the octagonal bell tower.
San Sebastian Church, or Minor Basilica de San Sebastian, is known to be the only all-steel church in the Philippines, and is designated to be both a National Historical Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure in 1973, and 2011, respectively.
Designed by Spanish architect Genaro Palacios back in the 1880s, this church is reminiscent of a Neo-Gothic style inspired by the Burgos Cathedral of Spain. During the time it was designed and constructed, it was said to be fire and earthquake proof. Today, however, it has been damaged with rust and corrosion and has been put into restoration for it to go back to its original state and beauty.
Nuestra Senora de Gracia Church or Guadalupe Church is a baroque church in Makati that's under the administration of the Augustinian friars of the Province of Santo Nino de Cebu. It honors the Marian image of the Our Lady of the Guadalupe from Spain.
The church features a mixture of different architectural styles, from Neo-Romanesque-Gothic facade, to the touches of Baroque which one could see from its exteriors. Like all the other ones built during the Spanish period, Guadalupe Church also saw and survived earthquakes and natural disasters. However, it was after World War II that it faced its darkest time, when the monastery was ordered to be demolished so its stones will be used for the reconstruction of the damaged Manila Cathedral. It was restored again in 1970, serving its parishioners even until today.
6. Santo Niño De Tondo Church
Established in 1572, Santo Niño de Tondo Church is one of the first churches that the Spanish friars established in Luzon. It also houses the image of the Infant Jesus which originally came from Acapulco, Mexico, making it one of the most visited churches in the country.
Every January of each year, the church is flocked by devotees to celebrate the feast day of Sto. Niño with a procession.
Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish in Marikina was consecrated in 1690 and has been home to one of the miraculous images of the Virgin Mary. It's also known to have the third longest Holy Week procession in the country, with 70 floats back in 2017. While it has suffered major damages after the Philippine-American war and World War II, this church was completely refurbished and reconstructed in 1957 with the help of different religious and civic organizations.
Now that your Visita Iglesia itineraries are almost complete, make sure that you've got your books ready as you'll be needing it as a guide when going from one station to another. In case you have this bad habit of forgetting or losing it in the middle of the day, you can download apps like Stations of the Cross - Litefor Android and My Stations of the Cross for Apple users which is already complete with the stations, Bible verses, and prayers you'll need.