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Visita Iglesia: A Choice of Sacrifice

Binondo Church for Visita Iglesia

Different Ways on How Visita Iglesia is Practised

To begin with, there are many ways on how to successfully do this Visita Iglesia. There were many options, but, still, with one intention: to pray the Stations of the Cross with the sacrifice of offering your walking, or just your precious time, to experience a bit of suffering, sharing the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Visita Iglesia is a Catholic tradition practised every Lenten season.  It is usually done every Maundy Thursday after the Holy Mass, wherein the Gospel reminds us about the Last Supper and the washing of the feet by Jesus Christ to the disciples.

You could perform Visita Iglesia by walking through 7 or 14 different churches and, simultaneously, reciting the 14 Stations of the Cross. That is to say, it depends on your capacity, in walking.

Aside from walking, you can join Visita Iglesia tours with van or bus as transportation.  For example, you will visit different churches on a certain province like Bataan, Batangas or Laguna. 

You can also participate on a free guided tour formed by event organizers.  The tour consists of visiting 14 historic churches in Manila.

You can seat down in front of your computer and, after that, visit the site for visita iglesia.

How Visita Iglesia is Understood

Visita Iglesia is the act of visiting churches, and, on each of every church, you would pray the Station of the Cross on its consecutive order.  The Station of the Cross consists of 14 stations.  So, it would be your choice on how many churches you would want to visit. Many decided to visit 7 churches, thus, reciting two stations on each church.

Firstly, on the first church visited, you would recite the first two Stations of the Cross. And, by standing in front of that specific station, you would read and recite the prayers for that Station.

On the next church, you would recite the next two Stations of the Cross, and transfer again to the next church, repeating the same process until you completed the whole Stations of the Cross and the number of churches planned.

Walking to Offer Sacrifice

I first experienced this Visita Iglesia through my cousins, Mae and Olive. Moreover, they let me joined their group on that afternoon of Holy Thursday, thirty years ago

The first church was our parish church, Holy Trinity Parish Church in Balic-Balic, Sampaloc, Manila.  We recited the first Station of the Cross.

The Plan

The plan was to visit 14 churches, that is to say, one Station of the Cross per church would be recited. 

After Holy Trinity, we then decided to go to University of Sto. Tomas church in Espana, by foot. Yes, we only walked and would walk all the way through.  Visita Iglesia is summarized by the sacrifices made while visiting different churches to, at least, experience some suffering the way Christ had suffered for us.

So, we walked from Balic-Balic to UST Espana, almost 2 km apart.

After Ust Espana, we went to Bustillos.  In Bustillos, there were two churches, standing side by side, the Our Lady of Loreto Parish Church and St. Anthony of Padua Shrine, both we visited and prayed the Stations of the Cross.

Next stop was Mendiola.  Since there were several Catholic schools here, we made more visits than we expected.  These schools opened their gates and welcomed devotees on their chapels for the Visita Iglesia.  I forgot how many we had visited here, but I am sure, right now, that we were not yet through, for we then proceeded to San Sebastian Church.

Going to San Sebastian Church was quite dark already for the sun had already set.  Our feet were starting to feel the tiredness of all the walking, but we continued for we had our “agreed sacrifice” to finish.

After San Sebastian, we went to Quiapo Church.  Every church we visited, people were everywhere, that is to say, all drawn in groups, all with the same intention like ours.

When the Station is Occupied

Each station was packed by groups.  But, your group would not wait for a chance to clear the space in front of the station, for it would not.  People were streaming the Station.  What we did was find a free spot just near that specific Station.  It may be yards away but it was okay.  As long as the sacredness of each of your prayer was felt, the spot you had did not matter.

After Quiapo and the growling of the inhabitant on our intestines, we proceeded to Sta. Cruz Church and then to Binondo Church.  It was a little late at night, and the surrounding was dark.  We still need to visit three more churches to complete the Stations of the Cross.

The Unplanned Move

And since we had no way to go, the group decided to rode a jeepney going to Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. 

Manila Cathedral was a break from crowded groups.  There was still lot of devotees, but since the Cathedral was located with a park surrounding on it, it seemed easier to breathe.

The last Station was to be reflected on Sto. Domingo Church.  Yes, you had read it right.  That is from San Agustin Church of Manila to Sto. Domingo Church of Quezon City.  Even riding a jeepney seemed quite far, almost 8km.  But since, we had no other option, for we had already combed nearby churches, and, most importantly, the night was really late, we hopped in a jeepney going to Sto. Domingo.

Our heart broke when we saw that Sto. Domingo Church was closed.  Why, oh why? Of course, it was real too late. Imagine, the year was 1989, a 10pm was really late.  But, as we were so much blessed on that night, the gate was still open. We saw a group of devotees praying outside, just behind the door of the church. At least, that made our night, we went in through the church’s gate.  Stand just outside the closed, heavy door and recited the last prayer for the last Station of the Cross.  And every one stayed silent for a long time.  We made it.

A Thought about Choices

Though the plan was to walk along through all the Stations on different churches, we had not made a stand on it, for it was very difficult when you had finished the known Churches, and its neighbour churches and still you did not have the right number, and you were far away to the next Church you knew.  No choice but to ride, just to complete the sacrifice to be made that had been promised.

Meanwhile, that was a very far experience, such 30 years ago.  Many had changed, for changes would always change.  A time that still greatly remember, a tear to a cousin that had already gone.

Visita Iglesia Tour Packages

So now, that all is different.  So as Visita Iglesia. The tradition had evolved with time.  It was not done not only by walking.  Moreover, there are travel agencies who offered Visita Iglesia tours, visiting churches on different provinces. So, all you need is money to book yourself, and, alas, you can go along, hopped in the bus, hopped off on a Cathedral.  The only burden is the traffic, an added sacrifice to your chosen religious tradition.  The time is not the same as years ago, being practised only on a Holy Thursday.  The Visita Iglesia trip is offered for the whole Lenten season, nearly on the Lenten week.

Churches and Chapels Opening their Doors

Meanwhile, many churches and chapels had opened their doors for Visita Iglesia devotees. You can complete your 7-church visit on one area like Intramuros.  To clarify, Intramuros Administration had announced that 9 churches in Intramuros will be open for Visita Iglesia (you can read the article in gmanetwork.com) from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday.

The following churches and chapels are:

  • Manila Cathedral
  • San Agustin Parish Church
  • Fr. Willman Chapel in the Knights of Columbus Building
  • Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Chapel
  • Mapua University Chapel
  • Lyceum of the Philippines University Chapel
  • Colegio de San Juan de Letran Chapel
  • St. Matthew’s Chapel in the BIR Building
  • Guadalupe Shrine in Fort Santiago

Having churches and chapels opened on an area is quite good. That is to say, you would just walked around one area.

Some devotees chose to ride cars when doing Visita Iglesia. It is okay.  It is not limited to walking, there is nothing wrong or any rule saying that riding is prohibited.  Most importantly, it is your choice.  As long as the intention is present, you can go through different churches on any transportation or platform that you prefer.

Visita Iglesia in Modern Technology

Speaking of platform, now at this age of technology, each one had a chance to exercise their faith thru Visita Iglesia even if you cannot walk, or in bed of sickness, or too old to walk side by side with your grandson, or you just chose to do Visita Iglesia this way.  All is fair now, each had a chance.  And that is through the internet. With the CBCP, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, visitaiglesia.net, you can experience and practice your longed visita iglesia Catholic tradition right in the convenience of your home. Moreover, it can be just anywhere, just in front of your computer or your mobile phone. 

The Visit

I had tried to visit the site, and I had not expect, that I would be hooked.  Because, with Visita Iglesia in 360 Virtual Reality, the impact was great, that visiting would not just a visit.  You would stay and looked for more. 

What do I mean?  Firstly, as you click the Visita Iglesia in 360 at their home page, you will be amazed of their chosen Church. The first one is the Sto. Nino Church in Anda, Bohol. 

The first to see is the view of the Church from the outside. And since you can navigate in 360 degrees the said view, you would eventually see the whole vicinity, with all the structures outside including the park, the images, the trees and the space for the churchgoers.  On the second view, the entrance of the Church, you would be enveloped with such peace and solemnity, and would be puzzled how can that be?  Is it because of the serenity of the place? Or the welcoming experience the place had given?  Or the voice over while you were exploring the place on its 360, that followed you while reading the first prayer of the Station of the Cross?

All of these add up, and would focus you on the intention of the video, that is, for you to cooperate in praying the Station of the Cross. Truly, the words and the quietness of the place were all powerful to capture your whole attention, guiding you to reflect on the words of God.  The two-minute time allotted for the first Station of the Cross was more than enough for you to decide not to hang up the video, but instead to continue the experience, an experience touching your heart, a very timely one.

Test the Second

As the second church is viewed with the second Station of the Cross recited, the feeling will then repeat: the amazement on the place and the peacefulness it is giving to you. This Visita Iglesia that had been prepared by the Catholic Bishops is excellent.  That is to say, I was wrong to tell that it is only for those who had no chance to visit the churches physically.  Everyone needs to visit the site, if one chose to experience a different kind of Visita Iglesia.  In short, you will not be sorry. Your time will not be wasted. 

Here is the list of churches that they had featured:

  • Sto. Nino Church in Anda, Bohol
  • Church of St. James the Apostle in Betis, Pampanga
  • St. Joseph Cathedral in Butuan City, Butuan
  • St. James the Great Parish in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Palo Metropolitan Cathedral in Palo, Leyte
  • Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in Maragondon, Cavite
  • Sto. Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo
  • St. Agustine Church in Panglao, Bohol
  • Sta Agustine Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
  • St. Joseph Cathedral in Romblon Island, Romblon
  • San Sebastian Church in Quiapo, Manila
  • Church of San Diego de Alcala in Silay, Negros Occidental
  • San Isidro Labrador Church in Lazi, Siquijor
  • Our Lady of the Abandoned in Sta. Ana, Manila

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