Visita Iglesia 2017 (Cavite)

It was time for the pious Roman Catholic Lenten tradition of Visita Iglesia, a visit to seven churches on the evening of Maundy Thursday but, it being a long weekend, I decided to do it on the early morning of Good Friday.  That way I would avoid the Wednesday evening to the whole day Maundy Thusday heavy traffic due to the influx of tourists leaving for their choice vacation spots.  For company, I brought along my son Jandy.

Jandy at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Kawit

My Visita Iglesia destination again was to be Cavite. I decided to explore the towns along the province’s southeast coast, traversing the length of the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) to Bacoor, then making stopovers at Kawit, Noveleta, Gen, Trias, Tanza and Naic, then traveling inland for another stopover in Maragondon.

Gen. Trias Church Complex

From Maragondon, I backtracked a bit then went south for a stopover in Indang, then north again passing by the provincial capital city of Trece Martires, then east for another stopover in Dasmarinas City and north for a last stopover in Imus City before going home. In all, we visited 9 churches in all, 8 of them with historical and artistic significance.  They are:

  1. Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Kawit) – the baptismal site of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (March 29, 1869).  His birth certificate is kept in glass cabinet on the left side of the altar.
  2. Church of the Holy Cross (Noveleta)
  3. Church of St. Francis of Assisi (Gen. Trias) – declared a historical structure by the National Historical Institute in 1992, its convent was the site where the Banda Matanda (Old Band) practiced the Marcha Filipina before it was played in Kawit during the Declaration of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898.
  4. Church of the Holy Cross (Tanza) – also called the Diocesan Shrine of St. Augustine, it was declared as a Marked Structure (of Historical Significance) by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on May 3, 1980.
  5. Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Naic) – its convent was used as the headquarters of Andres Bonifacio and the Naic Conference was held there after the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897.
  6. Church of the Assumption of our Lady (Maragondon) – the best preserved church complex in the province, the church was listed by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure on June 30, 2001.
  7. Church of St. Gregory the Great (Indang) –  has elegantly carved doors, impressive carvings on the choir loft balcony and elegant and impressive rose-colored trompe l’oil paintings (done during the 18th century) on its ceiling. The walls and pillars of the church also have several commemorative gravestones.
  8. Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Dasmarinas City) – the site of a bloody battle where Spanish troops defeated Filipino troops led by Captain Placido Campos and Francisco Barzaga on February 25, 1897. In 1986, it was designated as a Marked Historical Structure by the National Historical Institute.
  9. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar (Imus City) – designated as a Marked Structure (of Historical Significance) by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on November 13, 2006.

A retablo covered in blue cloth at the Church of St. Gregory the Great in Indang

It being the Holy Week, all these churches were opened for pilgrims. One drawback was all, if not most, of its statuary and images can’t be viewed as they were covered in lavender or blue cloth.

Panumpaang Bayan of Tanza

Though all closed (it being a holiday), we were also also able to pass or drop by other museums and historical sites:

  1. Bonifacio Trial Museum (Maragondon) – where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were court martialed by a military court presided by Gen. Mariano Noriel from May 5 to 6, 1897.
  2. Museo de San Francisco de Malabon (Gen. Trias)
  3. Aguinaldo Shrine (Kawit) – the birthplace of Philippine Independence.
  4. Noveleta Tribunal (Noveleta) – was where, on August 31, 1896, Noveleta-born Gen. Pascual Alvarez, under orders from his uncle Gen. Mariano Alvarez of the Sangguniang Magdiwang, killed the Guardia Civil Capt. Antonio Rebolledo within the hall of this building.
  5. Panumpaang Bayan (Tanza) – the convent  beside the Church of the Holy Cross here, on March 23, 1897, Gen. Aguinaldo and Gen. Mariano Trias took their oath of office in a solemn ritual, before Fr. Cenon Villafranca, as President and Vice-President, respectively, of the revolutionary government that replaced the Katipunan.
  6. Tejeros Convention Site (Rosario) – the site of the historic March 22, 1897 Tejeros Assembly (or convention) that established the first Philippine government that replaced the Katipunan with a government that would meet the manifold demands of the revolution.  The site is also considered as the birthplace of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Temporary traffic due to a Good Friday parade of carrozas

Though there wasn’t much traffic the whole day, we did have to wait for about 15 mins. in Imus as we watched a Good Friday procession of carrozas pass us by.

CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino (Pasay City)

Diwa: Buhay, Ritwal at Sining

The Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture), an integrated humanities museum established in 1988, gathers together the works of Filipino traditional artists and preserves Filipino artistic traditions; studies and interprets these to provide a deeper understanding of Filipino national culture evolving with and for the people; and strengthens the people’s awareness of the integral, dynamic role of creativity and artistic expression in national life and culture.

Bpagapel (Maguindanawon healing rite)

“Diwa: Buhay, Ritwal at Sining” (Spirit, Life, Ritual and Art), a permanent exhibit, presents an overview of aspects of Philippine traditional culture and showcases significant Filipino artistic traditions as well as explores the development of Philippine art and aesthetics in the socio-cultural context.   

Komedya of Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija

Different artistic forms are presented as a result of the Filipino’s interaction with five conditions/concepts – Bayan (Nation), Buhay at Kamatayan (Life and Death), Kamag-anakan at Pamayanan (Kin and Community), Lupa (Land), and Kaluwalhatian (Divinity).

Ifugao House

On display are sunduks (grave markers) and models of indigenous houses (the Agta lean-to, the Higaonon treehouse, the Badjao houseboat, the Ivatan house, the Mandaya house, the Ifugao house and the Maranao torogan).

Sunduk (grave marker) of Tausug of Sulu)

CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino: 4/F, Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Bldg., CCP Complex, Pasay City. Tel (Visual Arts & Museum Division)(632) 832- 3702, (632) 832-5094 and (632) 832-1125 local 1504,1505 and 1508.  Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM to 6 PM. Admission: PhP40 for adults and PhP30 for students and children. If there are performances at the Main Theater, exhibit hours are extended up to 10 PM. Mobile number: (0920) 470-0690.  E-mail:

A Good Friday Roadside Scene (Tarlac)

On our way back to Manila from our Holy Week vacation at Lingayen (Pamgasinan) with my kids Jandy and Cheska, we encountered, along the highway in Camiling, a group of barefoot Filipino men  marching along the road, one carrying a heavy wooden cross while others were whipping their already bloody backs.  Curious, we stopped and parked our Toyota Revo along the road to join the crowd of onlookers observing this annual, gory Good Friday religious ritual.

A gory Good Friday roadside staple

During the Lenten season, many Filipino devotees (including some women), as a form of worship and supplication, perform religious penance during the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  However, these practices, widely believed by devotees to cleanse sin, cure illnesses and even grant wishes, are discouraged by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines who describe them as “inappropriate.”  However, these practices cannot be easily relinquished as it is already embedded in local culture and tradition. 

The man with the cross

Normally, those carrying the cross wear a maroon robe but the man we observed was, like the others, just naked from the waist up.  His face, also like the others, was covered by a piece of cloth with a crown of leaves on their head.  Bloody gashes, from the repeated strikes of their whips, could be seen on the backs of the flagellants who believe that their sacrifice would, somehow, grant salvation for their sins.

The self-flagellants

The self-flagellation ritual starts with the tying of ropes around the arms and legs of the flagellants (the one carrying the cross was similarly tied).  Then, with a blades, wounds are inflicted on their backs.  They then march, under the scorching heat of the sun, for about 4 to 5 hours.  Every 500 m. or so, they stop to rest.

The Pugutan (Gasan, Marinduque)

After our Nagtangco Island hopping tour, we returned to our resort, had dinner and then left again for the next town of Gasan to watch the Pugutan, the re-enactment of the beheading of the Roman centurion Longinus, which was held at an open-air stage.

The past days, the physically draining habulan (chase) was re-enacted wherein Longinus merrily races through rice fields and the streets, pursued by moriones, to the delight of onlookers.  Part of the play is a simulated fight between the escaping Longinus and the moriones.  He is captured three times, escapes each time and is eventually captured on the fourth try and brought before Pilate.  

The Pugutan we were watching is the continuation of this play.  Longinus is escorted up the open-air stage by a brass band  where he is presented to the people and subsequently tried.  The dialogue is in Tagalog.  As Longinus refuses to renounce his faith, he is ordered executed.  He is given the opportunity to say some last words and a prayer before his beheading (pugutan).  At his funeral, Longinus’ body is borne on a bamboo stretcher by moriones devotees.  

The Good Friday Parade of Carrozas (Torrijos and Boac, Marinduque)

From Poctoy White Sand Beach, we again boarded our Tamaraw FX for our return trip back to Boac.  At Sta. Cruz town, our progress back to Boac was substantially delayed by a parade of carrozas (carriages) of saints, another Good Friday staple, gathering at the town’s Church of the Holy Cross (built in 1714, has 1.5 to 2-m. thick walls and was renovated except for its original tower) and was just getting underway.  

A Good Friday parade of carrozas at Sta. Cruz

Approaching Boac, we again encountered another parade of carrozas.  In both cases, instead of fretting, we just got down the Tamaraw FX and patiently watch the parade’s progress.  The parade at Boac was somewhat different than the other parades I’ve attended in the past as, aside from carrozas carrying statues of saints and the Sto. Entierro (bier of the dead Jesus Christ), it included a contingent of moriones (some riding Roman chariots).

Carroza bearing the Sto. Entierro
Chariot bearing 2 moriones

It was just about evening when the parade finally passed us by and we were able to proceed to our resort.

Holy Week in Morong (Bataan)

Napot Point

After our Dambana ng Kagitingan pilgrimage, it was back to my car again for the final drive to Morong. Along the final 23-km. stretch from Bagac to Morong, we passed the controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, situated 18 m. above sea level at Napot Point.  Morong was the chosen site for this “white elephant,” which was supposed to be the first nuclear power plant in the country.

Begun in 1977, it was constructed by Westinghouse (allegedly under a “conspiracy of corruption”) and was expected to generate 620 MW of electricity when completed.  After much delays (construction was stopped in June 1979 due to the Three Mile Island incident in the U.S.), it was finally completed in 1985 at a cost of US$1.95 billion (its initial budget was US$1.1 billion).  However, cause-oriented groups staged a number of “No Nukes” rallies.

They protested its potential to life and property, and its being built on a major earthquake fault line.  The Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in the former Soviet Union in 1986 was the final nail in its coffin as Pres. Corazon Aquino ordered it mothballed that same year.  To this day, it has not been decided what to do with this overpriced but unsafe complex and the sophisticated equipment already installed there.  In the meantime, the country is left with the problem and an incurred US$2.2 billion debt.

Sunset at Morong

We finally reached Morong late in the afternoon and stayed at Vener’s house, located near the town’s Spanish-era church and a few hundred meters from the beach.  A soothing and well-deserved cool afternoon dip at the beach, augmented by a beautiful fiery sunset, relaxed our tired bodies. Early morning of the next day, Good Friday, provided an opportunity to observe, up close, the countrywide Holy Week ritual of self-flagellation.  I first encountered this shocking and bloody ritual when I was still living in Malibay (Pasay City).  Here in Morong it is called pagbubulyos.   This is performed mostly by men, both young and old, who wish to fulfill a panata (vow) of public atonement for one’s sins.  This panata is done for a minimum of 10 successive years and is reflected in the bulyos, a whip consisting of bamboo strips tied to sturdy cord.   Each strip represents one year of atonement, its number being reduced every succeeding year until he completes his panata.  Each strip should be secured properly.  If one is detached during his rounds, another strip (and another year) is added to his bulyos.

Before the actual flagellation, the flagellant’s back is prepared by beating with stick and paddles until swollen and numb.  Numerous small cuts on the back are then made with razors, with vinegar or salt sometimes applied to the cuts.   Only then is the raw back whipped continuously by the bulyos.  The flagellants, most with heads covered, walk barefoot along the town’s streets, stopping by the church to pray, then continuing on until they reach the sea where a healing noontime dip awaits them.

Sto. Lucia Complex (Dolores, Quezon)

Lakbay Kalikasan, Southeast Asia’s first and premier outbound education outfitter, embarked on a series of outbound education demonstration tours for teachers from other schools willing to try out their outbound education programs and they invited me to cover one of these tours that promote appreciation of the living remnants of a pre-Hispanic tradition which is still being practiced today in Mt. Banahaw, that of worshiping nature (rivers, mountains, old trees and fields) in the belief that such natural objects were the habitats of spirits. Jesu-Mariae School, my son Jandy’s school, joined the tour and they were represented by Robert “Rob” V. Castañeda and Eleser “Ely” Borero.  

Hiking up Calvario

Our destination was Mt. Banahaw’s Brgy. Sta. Lucia Complex 1 in Dolores (Quezon), one of Banahaw’s 4 complexes – the others being Kinabuhayan (Resurrection), Durungawan (Window) and Ilalim (Crater), which lies at the foot of the 1,470-m. high Mt. Cristobal.  We left the EDSA Shrine (our assembly place) by 5:30 AM, April 9 (Bataan Day), on board one of two vans. Joining us were 16 other teachers from 6 Metro Manila schools (Augustinian Abbey School, Madre Pia, Miriam College, Olivarez College, St. Benedict and Santa Catalina High School).  Our Lakbay Kalikasan hosts were Mr. Ramon Jocson (Corps Director), Mr. Ronaldo Dalofin (Team Leader/Lecturer 2), Mr. Roger Quizol (Team Leader 2), Mr. Oscar Orbe (Team Leader 3) and Ms. Billy de la Cruz (Facilitator 3).   The trip to Dolores was to take all of 3 hours.

Upon arrival at Sta. Lucia, we visited the compound of the Suprema Iglesia del Ciudad Mystica del Dios, Inc.  (Supreme Church of the Mystic City of God), the largest of Banahaw’s 66 to 88 registered colorums, entering it via a huge 20-foot high stainless steel gate.   The word colorum is derived from the Latin Mass invocation in saecula saeculorum.  These esoteric folk Christian religious communities, varying in size from several thousand members to a few adherents, believed that Mt. Banahaw is the site of the Holy Land and that Christ walked in the area.  They also share an intense nationalism and reverence for National Hero Jose Rizal who is considered a demigod or the Tagalog Jesus Christ.  Many sects also believe in the ascendancy of the female (Ciudad Mystica included) and women, rather than men, perform the priestly functions. These religious sects around Dolores resent the kulto (cult) connotation insinuated by non-believers. 

Piedra Mental

Mt. Banahaw is full of sacred natural shrines locally called puwestos (places), all said to have been discovered by Katipunero Agripino Lontok, and one of our objectives was to undergo and relive the pre-Hispanic tradition of pamumuwesto (spiritual pilgrimage) by hiking, crossing rivers and entering caves, all sacred destinations with deep historical and symbolical meanings, communing with the spirits for paglilinaw (discernment) and paglilinis ng loob (inner cleansing) so that we may take the challenges ahead.  Along the way, lectures and meditations are intermittently given and, in all puwestos, candles are always lit.

My baptism

We descended, down a gorge, to Sta. Lucia Falls, fed by the cool Lagnas (or Kinabuhayan) River, and Piedra Mental, a stone altar where pilgrims pray for mental discernment as they go through the pamumuwesto. At the stream which courses down Banahaw (also called Ilog ng Jordan, alluding to John the Baptist’s baptism of Christ), we “cleansed” or “purified” (water is a universal archetype for cleansing) ourselves and drank the sulfuric waters of the falls 3 times (symbolic of the Triune God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) prior to our entering the sacred caves (kuweba), the pilgrim’s church.  After our ritual baptism, we we then climbed up the steep gorge. 

One of many caves in Sta. Lucia Complex

At the huge boulder of Kaban ni San Isidro, the gate to the entire complex of Sto. Kalbaryo, we lighted candles and said a short prayer for safety and guidance, while at the book-shaped boulder called Aklat ng Buhay (the Book of Life said to contain our names, date of birth and even date of death) at Prisintahan , we imaginatively “register” our names and those of our loved ones. A real hurdle was the 40-m. long Santong Husgado (Holy Judge), one of the caves at Ina ng Awa revered by the religious sects and given Biblical names.  Said to test the purity of those who enter, it is believed that when you get out of this cave, 7 years of your sins will be forgiven but, if you are not completely malinis (cleansed), you will be trapped inside. 

Santong Husgado

We had to hike, barefoot, from Ina ng Awa to the cave opening (with lit candles strategically placed along the cave), carrying just the clothes on our back.  The ladies,  with their small frames, decided to go in first.  I was the last to enter this “cave” which was more of a rabbit hole.  All the while, I was figuring out how to get my 5’-10,” 188-pound frame inside that hole. Ready and willing for this test of faith (pagsubok), I kept remembering the familiar Biblical proverb “I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  Crawling through it entailed a lot of body contorting as well as decision-making. “Should I enter head or feet first?”  “Should I do it on my stomach or on my back?” Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of struggle, I finally made it out to Ina ng Awa. Now I know how a worm feels.   I, together with the others, were all mud-splattered yet, surprisingly, our habit-cladded sister colleague from Madre Pia was still spotlessly clean.  Could it be divine intervention?  I wonder.   

Lakbay Kalikasan: G/F Balai Lakbay, 2 Alondras St., Mira-Nila Homes, Tandang Sora Ave., Quezon City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 932-7818 to 19.  Mobile number: (0917) 500-4796. Website:

The Tubungan Ceremony (Gloria, Mindoro Oriental)

The next day, with the arrival of invited travel agents, we were all transported, come evening, to Dupong Freshwater Resort, a swimming and fishing resort situated in the middle of a rice field.  Here, we were welcomed by resort owner Mr. Romeo Castillo and his wife Clemencia.  The word dupong means “to set on fire.” The couple toured us around the resort’s facilities: a cool, clear swimming pool (fed by springs from Mt. Halcon); a fishing lagoon filled with with tilapiadalag (mudfish) and hito (catfish); and a huge native-style pavilion.  A pleasant surprise awaited us at the pavilion – the tubungan ceremony.

Tubungan dance

Also called putung, this ceremony for welcoming and honoring friends and visitors is originally from Marinduque.  A large proportion of Gloria’s population are migrants from this province and they brought this unique tradition with them.  As honorees, a unique crown made of bamboo was placed on each of our heads by mamummutongs who happened to be our trusty tourist guides (in my case Gorett).

Putong ceremony

We were then made to partake of tuba (coconut wine).  A troupe of women then serenaded us with native songs as well as danced before us to the accompaniment of a band.  As a final act, these well-wishers showered us with confetti made of colored paper as a sign of love and affection.   I, together with the others, was truly touched by all these.  The evening was capped by a native buffet dinner and a fellowship night.

Dupong Freshwater Resort: Sitio Dupong, Brgy. Kawit, Gloria, Mindoro Oriental.  Mobile number: (0916) 674-3968.

Good Friday Parade of Carrozas (Sariaya, Quezon)

The Sto. Entierro
After our visita iglesia in Tayabas and Lucban, we drove back to Sariaya, in time for the traditional Good Friday parade of carrozas (carriage) at 5 P.M..  This parade, a tableaux from the ministry, passion and death of Christ, was accompanied by a huge crowd of devotees.
At the parade were about 15 tastefully-designed, silver-plated and antique carrozas (or andas) of different sizes, some grand and ostentatious beyond comprehension, and festooned with floral arrangements.  All are pulled by devotees as they navigated the streets of Sariaya in a long and winding procession after attending the late afternoon holy mass.  
Each carroza carried different images including colorfully decorated statues of heirloom santos (saints), the town’s patron saint Francis of Assisi among them, all resplendently attired with expensive finery, and the Sto. Entierro (meaning “holy burial”), glass case of the dead Jesus Christ in state.  According to Jun, one of the carrozaswas donated by his family.  The parade ended at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.  After the procession, eager Sariayahins try their best to get the decorations and flowers (which they place in the altars of their homes) from the carrozas, especially those from the Sto. Entierro.

Visita Iglesia (Tayabas and Lucban, Quezon)

Today being Good Friday, Jandy and I also joined Jun and Jane’s relatives for the visita iglesia, the traditional visit to 7 churches.  We motored to the nearby town of Tayabas, just  23 kms. from Sariaya, and dropped by the St. Michael the Archangel Minor Basilica were we recited the 14 Stations of the Cross.  The longest Spanish colonial church in the country and also one of the oldest, this 103-m. long church was first built by the Franciscans in 1585, repaired in 1590 by Pedro Bautista, changed into brick in 1600, destroyed by an earthquake in 1743 and later rebuilt and enlarged in 1856 by building a transept and cupola. The church’s roof was changed to galvanized sheets in 1894 and its belfry contains an 18th century clock, the only one of its kind in the country, that chimes every 30 minutes.  It was made into a minor basilica on October 18, 1988 and has an antique organ, a balcony over the altar and a now unused tunnel from the altar. 

St. Michael the Archangel Minor Basilica
Our second and final stop of the visita iglesia was the town of Lucban, a quiet old Franciscan town of 35,128  people whose name was derived from a delicious fruit of the same name which looks like a small pomelo or suha. The “poor man’s Baguio,” Lucban lies 1,500 feet above sea level at the cool, damp shadow of Mt. Banahaw de Lucban whose clear, ice-cold waters flow through the little canals of the town.  It is almost as cool as  Baguio City in December.  There are also has numerous old and stately Spanish colonial houses.
Church of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
Here, in front of the town’s shady plaza, is the moss and vine-covered Church of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.  It was first built in 1593, ruined in 1629, reconstructed between 1630-1640, seriously damaged by fire in 1733 and reconstructed in 1738. Its convent was built in 1743.  It was partially destroyed in 1945 during World War II and finally reconstructed by the Philippine Historical Commission in 1966. However, it’s somewhat modern interior, which enshrines the venerated image of San Isidro Labrador, doesn’t blend in with its centuries-old exterior (my opinion).   The church is surrounded by gardens and grottos and fenced in by old stone walls called quince-quince.