Visita Iglesia

Visita Iglesia, which is Spanish for church visit, is a tradition among Filipino Catholics to visit seven churches for adoration of the blessed sacrament after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.

Jose Rizal's books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, are filled with references to the religiosity of Filipinos as well as his attitude towards the church and the people that ran it. The culture of the Philippines is woven tighly by church traditions. And, wherever the Filipino goes, his practice of these traditions distinguishes him apart.

It is in this context that I am reminded of the Filipino faithfuls' carrying on the tradition of Visita Iglesia, an ancient practice originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance. Wikipedia lists the seven churches as: Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.

Filipinos have expanded Visita Iglesia to include fourteen churches and say the Stations of the Cross, with one station in each church. Interestingly, the Catholic Herald credited the Filipinos for having brought the practice to places in North America that never had it before.

Culture! Culture!

I recall having some friends from Manila coming over to Iloilo for a brief stop over on their way to the famed Boracay island in Aklan. Iloilo then has none of those fancy night life stuff which they favor. So, for a change, I invited them to take a tour of centuries-old churches in the province, specifically in the towns going to Antique. I thought it would be worth their time. I was glad they gamely accepted.

San Jose Church. The church I love going to every Sunday in my youth. Located in front of equally historic Plaza Libertad, San Jose Church is considered the most storied amongst the churches in Iloilo City. It is a Byzantine-Neoclassic Church modeled after the Spanish Church of Valencia del Cid. It is known for its collection of priceless Catholic treasures. It is managed by the Augustinian Order.

Jaro Cathedral. The seat of Catholic faith in Western Visayas is also the home of Our Lady of Candles. Every February 2nd, pilgrims and devotees celebrate the feast of Candelaria, one of the largest fiestas ever in the entire country.

Molo Church was visited by Rizal in 1882 on his way to Dapitan. The Gothic Rennaissance church is also famous for a row of beautiful images of female saints along the main aisle. Thus, it is often referred to as a feminist church.

Miagao Church. The cavernous church is a World Heritage Site. The Aztec-Baroque inspired church is noted for Filipino botanicals carved on its intricate facade. It was used as a fortress against invading pirates in the old days which explains its heavy and massive structure built with yellow limestone. It's steep location has a commanding view of the Visayan sea and, get this, around it are charming small eateries serving typical home- made snacks. Now, why did I remember this little detail? Perhaps the food were a cultural curiousity?

Tigbauan Church. Certainly, one of the most beautiful churches I've been to says The blogger, Marcos C., who has written a brief tribute to the church accompanied with stunning photos. Some interesting notes: Tigbauan is also famous for SEAFDEC, a research facility on aqua culture.

Guimbal Church. One of the oldest in the Philippines, the yellow sandstone church in Guimbal, as far as I am concerned, is what makes the beautiful town all the more charming. On a fine and pleasant day, the trip is as exhilirating as reaching the church and being bathed by the aura of its antiquity because the scenic view on the run up are truly picturesque. Besides the Church, the town plaza and the town hall might of interest. If you wish to make a quick detour, you might also want to visit the Garin Farm and Racso.

San Joaquin Church. I couldn't leave this beautiful church alone. Declared by National Historical Institute as a National Cultural Treasure, San Joaquin Church's uniqueness is attributed to the intricate sculptural relief depicting the Spanish victory over Moroccan forces in the Battle of Tetuan. Read more about Heritage Conservation Society's entry on San Joaquin Church here.

How To Get There

Plaza Libertad is right at the heart of Iloilo City and just across the Plaza is San Jose Church. If you are entering the City for the first time through the new airport in Sta. Barbara, the most convenient way to find it is by taking a taxi. If you want to save on fare, there's a van that charges only Php50.00/person. This will take you to Jaro Plaza. If you are taking this route, your most obvious first stop should be the Jaro Cathedral which is right where you will also take jeepneys going to Iloilo City downtown proper.

Plaza Libertad is just one jeepney ride from Jaro and costs only Php7.00. Take jeepneys marked Jaro CPU going to the old Central Business District. Simply tell the driver you are getting off in Plaza Libertad.

To reach Molo Church, jeepneys going to Molo Plaza are also available in Plaza Libertad. It costs only Php7.00 to get to this lovely church.

Guimbal Church, Tigbauan Church, Miagao Church and San Joaquin Church can be reached via jeepneys, too. The jeepney station is found in Molo Plaza.

Fortunately, these scenic towns are what I refer to as "seaside towns" which means, to me anyway, the road going there is perhaps the most enjoyable you will ever take. If you love the sea, that is. Looking on to a body of blue waters (check map below) is just exhilirating and quite relaxing as you will discover, I hope.

Best Time to Get There

Start early, as early as 7am and prepare for this trip. I suggest you bring your own snacks and bottled water because you may not like what's available out there. Depending on the level of your interest, you will be able to finish visiting these churches in a day. The farthest, San Joaquin church is slightly over an hour ride back to Iloilo City. When I took my friends along for this tour, we were back by about 7pm just in time to watch the City that is preparing to sleep.

The map below shows how far we've been. Thanks to Google map, it's just amazing to have a graphic view of the length we took to understand a part of culture of southern Philippines through this church visit.

Iloilo City to San Joaquin

Manila Churches


Manila Cathedral


the Manila Cathedral, and

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church are tops on my list.



Keep returning on to this page for more updates.




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