Maundy Thursday Mom and I together with our helper Ate Dor and our baby boy Yankee set off to Pampanga for Visita Iglesia. It's a Filipino tradition every Maundy Thursday to visit 7 churches to either do the Stations of the Cross or just pray inside the churches. It's so cool to go to Pampanga for a religious thing, the last time I was in Pampanga was in Angeles for the Hot Air Balloon Festival on Valentine's Day.
It's our first time to do this for Holy Week, so we were all quite excited. The day before, Mom and I panic bought food we could bring for the trip. The downside to this was, I didn't prepare for it. We spent most of the time asking the locals for the nearest church. Funny cos most of them don't even know the names of their churches and where they are exactly in their town.
Here are the 7 churches in Pampanga we visited. For next year's Lenten Season you guys might want to put these churches on your list. A lot of the churches we went to where beautiful! And a note to foreign readers, you guys might be thinking why the altar and the statues are all covered in either white or purple cloth. It's also a Filipino tradition to cover it up during Holy Week as a sign of mourning for the Lord's death. I know, this is what makes the Philippines a culturally rich and religious country, and we're proud of it! :)
HOLY CROSS PARISH, LUBAO
This is a small parish in the town of Lubao. We were sort of disappointed with this Church because we were distracted by the kids playing inside. Plus they were cleaning up for the upcoming activities, so it was abuzz with people cleaning.
LUBAO PARISH CHURCH, LUBAO
The first old Church we visited. Constructed by Agustinian priest, Fr. Antonio Herrera in 1614, it was completed in 1630. Used as a hospital by Americans in 1899, it was completely destroyed by the Japanese in 1942. From 1949-1952, Fr. Melencio Garcia oversaw the re-construction.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION PARISH, GUAGUA
We saw the Church's dome from afar, that's how big it was. I really loved this Church, but the sad thing was, as we were on our way out, we saw a family of Aetas (a tribal group found in many parts of the Philippines) and the sad thing was they let this girl defecate right there. I know, gross! It was so disrespectful! Maybe the local authorities of GuaGua should do something about this!
STA. LUCIA PARISH, SASMUAN
Right beside GuaGua is the town of Sasmuan, formerly Sexmoan. The Church is found in a really lazy, sleepy barangay and only quite a few people came to visit this Church. This was by far, our favorite Church. Just look at the interior, it was so pretty! I also loved the dome in the center, it looked like the one in GuaGua, but since the ceiling was lower, it really illuminated the entire Church. It was peaceful, too, so we were able to pray without any distractions.
SAN GUILLERMO PARISH, BACOLOR
You could also see the dome from the National Highway, so you really won't have a hard time finding it. Also built by Agustinian friars, this Church has got more historical drama compared to the other Churches we visited. In 1995, 4 years after Mt. Pinatubo's massive and destructive eruption, the Church was almost completely buried by lahar flow. Kudos to those who dedicated a lot of time and effort to salvage the Church, it was beautiful and it would've been a completely loss if it weren't dug out of the lahar.
SAN FERNANDO CATHEDRAL, SAN FERNANDO
The biggest Church we visited, San Fernando Cathedral was also packed with people. We weren't able to pray the rosary here anymore as the Washing of the Feet was about to start. It's also a Filipino custom to re-enact Jesus washing the feet of his disciples every Maundy Thursday. And outside, we saw a penitent genuflect at the Cathedral's door. A group of foreigners were also there to document our tradition during the Holy Week. I think it amazes them how firm our beliefs are.
OUR LADY OF SORROWS, SAN FERNANDO
The last Church on our journey, this is most modern looking Church we visited. Also packed with people for the Washing of the Feet, we didn't stay long. Plus the Mass was in Capampangan so we just left.
We were pooped after our road trip. Too bad we weren't able to have a Capampangan food trip, most of the restaurants, save some fast food, were closed. We would definitely do this again next year! And maybe, we'll do it somewhere in Laguna. Visita Iglesia is a fun thing to do with the family. They have a saying here, "The family that prays together, stays together". And doing the Visita Iglesia would totally make any family bond. Plus you also get closer to God! :)
I also feel bad we weren't able to visit other Churches in Pampanga. It was a bit hard to navigate, and the asking around for directions took up a lot of time. Next year, I promise I'll be more prepared than this!