One of the big traditions here in the Philippines is Visita Iglesia, which literally translates to church visit. During Holy Week, most churches are open 24 hours for pilgrims to visit. Filipino tradition says you should visit 9 churches; at each one you’ll pray and make a wish every time. Complete the 9 churches and your wish comes true. I’m not very superstitious (we ended up just attending 6 churches within one day), but I am grateful for the Church and the tradition because it’s what first brought me here to the Philippines. Last week, I took a [food] trip with Huan.
First stop was Intramuros, simply because this was my first home when I came to the Philippines. San Agustin Church is a popular wedding destination, which means there are many beautiful reception venues in the area (but no, it’s not very high on the list of possible locations for Huan and I). Intramuros is also extra special since they recently renovated the Manila Cathedral, where the Pope said Mass.
Going between the two churches in Intramuros is very straightforward: literally. General Luna Street connects them, but if you’re not sure of which way to go, follow the street food and vendors. I’m normally not one to try street food since I get really paranoid about getting sick, but when it’s all in front of me and I see that it’s cooked fresh or from one of the caterers, I can’t help it! The quiet walls become completely crowded, and it looks more like a market than a historical city. However, I don’t mind it all too much since it encourages people to visit the walled city and make it a part of tradition.
Going between the two churches is pretty easy, too, but I’m never sure which of the bridges has a funny smell, so we actually just took a tricycle going to Binondo – the Chinatown of Manila. This was Huan’s first time here. I’m not sure familiar with the area since I’m usually accompanied by someone when commuting, but I’ll go there just so I can shop around Divisoria. :B
Our first stop in Chinatown was Binondo Church, also known as the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, (or SLRB, short for San Lorenzo Ruiz Basilica). Coming here was nice because they had water stations all around, as well as a station for checking blood pressure.
Sta. Cruz is a second church in Manila’s Chinatown. Getting here can seem intimidating since the walk is half a mile when you take Ongpin Street, but this street is actually the heart of a food lover’s paradise. It’s clutch since Chinese people on Ongpin don’t close their doors during Holy Week, so if you’re not fond of eating food from the pop-up shops lining the streets, you can have your meal there instead. I’ve taken mental note to bring back Huan since eating there is the bomb.
After this, Huan and I headed back to meet with my dad at Binondo Church, which he mistook for Sta. Cruz Church. I’m assuming the reason that Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz has the title of Binondo Church is simply because it’s nearly 200 years older (it gets first dibs) and sits in the center of Binondo.
Malate is a bit more of a distance from where we started, so my brother and dad picked up Huan and I to go to our next locations. I also started our Visita a bit late in the afternoon, so it became dark, hence the dark photos. I’ve learned my lesson and will start making a habit of taking my prime lens with me.
We stopped into Ermita Shrine first, which is a small church with a cute garden. The church sits behind a small garden, gates, and a busy street, so getting a photo of the facade was a challenge. However, the garden has a few welcoming seats and faces large open doors so that people can sit in the garden but still hear Mass.
Someone had told my dad that Malate Church was walking distance from Ermita, but it’s also a bit of a trek. Not saying that my dad can’t do the walk, but when you’ve been walking around all day and have a car, sometimes it’s not a terrible idea.
Taking our car ended up working in our favor, since one of our go-to restaurants is Aristocrat of Roxas Blvd, which sits in the same plaza as Malate Church (and like, a bajillion other restaurants, too). As earlier mentioned, night-photos aren’t my forte when armed with just a cell phone, so the best photo I got was of Huan’s back. The church is narrow and is currently undergoing renovation, but it does often times act as the first stop of many pilgrims’ routes for Visita Iglesia.
Anyways, I love visiting churches, and hopefully I’ll have the chance to visit more sometime soon. If you’ve done Visita Iglesia, what churches have you gone to? If not, what churches do you want to visit?