The Visita Iglesia is a religious tradition to visit seven churches on the evening of Holy Thursday to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. If you’ve chosen Batangas as your next destination to visit this Holy Week, read on for these suggested churches for Visita Iglesia in Batangas, Philippines.
In the Philippines, where more than 86% are Christians, it has been a tradition for devotees to do Visita Iglesia during Maundy Thursday. The practice is to visit at least seven churches and recite the Stations of the Cross in the churches to be visited. Others would visit fourteen churches to complete the fourteen stations.
Two years ago, I joined a group of parishioners from St. Joseph Parish in Balintawak in their Visita Iglesia in Batangas. One of my friends is a parishioner here. The group started off very early morning at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. I was coming from south of Manila that time so I opted to join them in their first stop in Batangas. Here are some of the many churches you can visit in Batangas.
1. St. Thomas Aquinas Parish
210 General Malvar Avenue, Sto. Tomas, Batangas
It’s surprising to know that this church has been built around 1800’s because looking at the church then (two years ago), it looked like newly built. Obviously, it has been extensively renovated. I actually like the façade of the church.
2. National Shrine of Padre Pio
San Pedro, Sto. Tomas, Batangas
The National Shrine of Padre Pio is a newly built church made with indigenous materials such as wood, bamboo and sasa. Padre Pio, an Italian priest, is known for bearing the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ, for 50 years until his death.
I love the concept of the church’s salakot-shaped (Salakot is a traditional Filipino wide-brimmed hat usually made of rattan or reeds) roof. According to the church’s dedicated website, the salakot symbolizes God’s protection to its people, just like how the salakot protects the farmers and fishermen from the weather.
The church’s traditional design makes coming to church feel like going home in the province. It’s also breezy inside due to natural ventilation.
A separate structure form the church is the Mother of Mercy Belfry. In the 1st floor of the belfry rests the Chapel of the Living Water, where water flows in a fountain. The water is believed to be miraculous.
3. Tanauan Church/ St. John the Evangelist Church
A. Mabini Avenue,Brgy. 1, Poblacion, Tanauan, Batangas
The original church made of wood dates back to 1690, and is built at the edge of Bombon lake, now called Taal Lake. The church was replaced with stone structure in 1732. However, it had to be relocated to where it stands now, after Taal Volcano’s eruption in 1754 sank the church. The church was built in 1881, but was again destroyed in 1944 during the World War. It was rebuilt again in 1948, with the façade closely resembling the original.
4. Nuestra Senora de la Soledad Parish
Darasa, Tanauan, Batangas
This church was built in 2008 on a parcel of land owned and donated by Mr. Danilo Dolor, in memory of his mother Doña Soledad Lirio Dolor. Mr. Dolor is a devotee of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad.
5. Cathedral of Lipa or San Sebastian Cathedral
G. Solis St., Lipa, Batangas
The Cathedral of Lipa is also named as San Sebastian Cathedral, the patron saint of soldiers and athletes. This historical church shares a similar built-destroyed-rebuilt-restored story as the Tanauan Church. It was likewise submerged by Taal Volcano after its eruption in 1754, and rebuilt to its current location. Again, it was heavily damaged during the World War and was restored later.
The most striking characteristic of this church is the impressive domed ceiling, its grand altar and colorful paintings around the church. I was actually staring at the intricate ceiling for the most part that I was inside. There’s just a different tranquil atmosphere inside, like being transported to Europe. Imagine the air was cool and the only illumination comes from streak of light passing through several small windows of the dome.
6. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish
P. Torres Street, Poblacion, Lipa City, Batangas
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, also called the Monastery of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, albeit its relatively modern architecture compared with the century-old Batangas churches, also has an interesting history to tell. In September 1948, two years after the church was built, story has been told that the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to a Carmelite nun named Teresita Castillo inside the church grounds.
Other miracles occurred including the showering of petals inside and out of the convent. However, the apparition was not officially recognized by the Church as a supernatural intervention. This decision is not entirely free of controversy as some bishops were allegedly forced to sign the declaration disfavoring the apparition.
It’s hard to judge if the apparitions are authentic or not. The fact is that I’ve witnessed how a lot of devotees flock into the chapel on a Holy Week when we did the Visita Iglesia.
7. Parish of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace
P. Torres Street, Antipolo del Norte, Lipa, Batangas
Quite confusing because #6 and this parish are similarly named. These two are actually located close to each other. It turns out that the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, also named as Monastery of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace is a convent, while Parish of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace is a church built in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared to the Carmelite nun in the monastery.
The lot where the church now stands is donated by the family of Mr. Danilo Dolor. Yes, it’s the same family as the one who donated the land in Church #4. The church grounds is very spacious with a green park fronting the church’s entrance. The church was interestingly designed by a priest architect, Rev. Fr. Alex Bautista.
8. St. Joseph the Patriarch Church
Poblacion, San Jose, Batangas
This is another century-old Augustinian church in Batangas, dating back to 1762. The architecture features Baroque and neo classical design built in the honor of St. Joseph Marello. The domed ceilings above the altar are also impressive.
Holy Week is a much awaited time of the year in the Philippines. For Filipinos, it equates to long vacation off the daily grind. For Christian devotees, it’s a time for spiritual revitalization, meditation and activities like Visita Iglesia, mountain climbing, Stations of the Cross, etc. Whatever your plans are this Holy Week, be mindful of your garbage from your outdoor activities. More crowd = more wastes. Be a responsible traveler, reduce waste at source and properly manage your wastes.
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