The Lenten tradition of the Visita Iglesia, or Seven Churches Pilgrimage, and it reflects the solemnity of the season, and the Filipino Catholic’s desire to emulate the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. On Maundy Thursday of the Holy Week, the faithful would visit seven churches to recite the ritual of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross). In the past, pilgrims would recite the whole 14 stations in each church they visit, where as now they would either recite the whole rite in one church, or two stations for each church.
The tour starts at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in the Tierra Verde Homes I, Barangay Culiat. Exiting the subdivision through Doña Regina Street, one enters Tandang Sora Avenue and turns right. Crossing the intersection of Congressional Avenue, one turns right at the first corner of Philand Drive, and continues towards Himlayang Road towards the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park, and visit Salakot Chapel. Afterwards, one returns to Tandang Sora Avenue, and turns right from Philand Drive. Driving northwestward, one reaches the Santuario de Vicente Paul, at the corners of Tandang Sora and St. Martin Street. Then turning back eastward along Tandang Sora Avenue, one turns right at the corner of Congressional Avenue. Driving east, one turns right at the Mira Nila Homes subdivision, and follows Alondras Street up to the Parish Road of Our Lady of Consolation. After that, one returns to Congressional Avenue driving westbound, then turns right at Pangilinan Street, where there is an SM Cherry Foodarama at the corner. From Pangilinan Street, turn left to Cherry Road, which leads straight to Bahay Toro Avenue, where the San Nicolas de Tolentino is located. Going back to Congressional Avenue, one drive southwest and turns left at Sta. Gertudes Street to enter the Toro Hills subdivision. From Sta. Gertudes, one turns right at Jersey Street to reach the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Church. Returning to Congressional Avenue, one turns left on the southwest route. Turning left at the corner of Cagayan Street, one drives until reaches Ilocos Sur Road, which leads directly to the intersection of Bukidnon Road, where the Santo Niño Parish Shrine is located, and thus ending the tour.
1. San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, Tierra Verde Homes, Barangay Culiat
The San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish is a small a simple modernist structure, which was established in 1987 to coincide with the canonization of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Philippine Saint. Located on Gabriela Silang Street, in Tierra Verde Homes I, the church is decked with many artworks created by the National Artist for sculpture, Napoleon Abueva, who lives right beside the church.
2. Santuario de San Vicente de Paul Parish and Shrine of the Poor, Tandang Sora Avenue
The Santuario de San Vicente de Paul Parish and Shrine of the Poor was completed in 2012, as part of the Philippine Province of the Congregation of the Mission’s Millennium Project. Located at the corner of St. Martin Street and Tandang Sora Avenue, the Santuario de San Vicente de Paul Compound is home to the Congregation of the Mission Provincial House, St. Vincent Seminary and St. Vincent School of Theology, and the De Paul House, San Vicente de Paul Parish, and ossuaries. Designed by Arch. Froilan Hong, the San Vicente de Paul Parish also has the works of noted artists Willie Layug, Daniel dela Cruz, Michael Cacnio, and Jordan Mendoza.
3. Salakot Chapel, Himlayang Pilipino
In the center of the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park is the circular Salakot Chapel, designed by Arch. Eliseo P. Tenza Jr. As part of the Himlayang Pilipino’s thrust to showcase and celebrate Philippine culture and history through the arts, Tenza’s draws i8nspiration from the conical hat used by commoners and the wealthy, called the salakot. With its bold yet simple lines, the Salakot Chapel exudes both the strength and humility of the Filipino people. Throughout the cemetery, there are other great sculptures that extol Philippine culture and history, as expressed by Francisco Verano, Juan Flores, Arturo Esteban, Apolinario Bulaong, Renato Rocha, Florante Caedo, and Victor Tabernilla.
4. Parish of Our Lady of Consolation, Mira-Nila Homes
The Parish of Our Lady of Consolation, in the Mira Nila Homes subdivision, is a beautifully simple modernist church, with its grand spacious halls that give a similar majesty as the Gothic and Baroque churches, without the embellishments and décor. Another thing that makes the Parish of Our Lady of Consolation special is its part of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR) compound. Within the compound there are the Recoletos Formation Center and the Bulwagang Recoletos Library and Museum, which hold an impressive collection of artworks and artifacts that tell the history of the OAR, especially in the Philippines and Asia. Part of the OAR collection are the beautiful monuments by Florante Caedo and René Salvación.
5. San Nicolas de Tolentino, Neptune Street, Congressional Subdivision
The San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish in another testimony to the influence of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR) in the area. The church is also the Provincial House of the Augustinian Recollect Province of Saint Ezequiél Moreno, when the OAR division was established in 1998. The Province of Province of Saint Ezequiél Moreno has jurisdiction over the Philippines, Taiwan and Sierra Leone. Aside from the historical significance of the church, there are also beautiful sculptures by Anselmo Day-ag and paintings by Roget Bactong.
6. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Church, Jersey St. Project 8
The kite-shaped base and fin-like roof give a feeling of a dynamic forward movement for the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Church. Established in 1966, the sleek modernist design was actually conceived by the church engineer and first parish priest, Fr. Alonso Caparas. Aside from the beautifully carved Stations of the Cross, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Church has on display the 1885 bell from the historic Chapel of Nuestra Señora, Virgen del Rosario- Echague.
7. Sto. Nino Parish Shrine, Bukidnon Street, Bago-Bantay
The simple modernist design of the Diocesan Shrine of Santo Niño Parish belies the impact the church has in reforming the whole community of Barangay Bago-Bantay. The community was established in the 1950s, when the government moved out hundreds of families from the district of Tondo, which was greatly the impoverished after World War II (1938-1945). However the criminal gangs of Tondo also settled in the neighborhood, and soon criminality was rampant. The first chapel was erected in 1957, and the first parish priest Fr. Miguel P. Nuguid campaigned to unite the people, and end the violence by having them focus on the building of a new church. The new church was finally completed, forever changing the lives of the residents of Bago-Bantay.
Taking the Visita Iglesia tour, and knowing the histories behind each church and their art collections, one cannot deny how powerful the impact of the Roman Catholic Church on the lives of every person, whether they are Christian of not. In the Philippines, this is more evident in how most of the barangays, towns and cities are formed when a church is erected in the area. This lends to a greater appreciation of the Catholic Church as a force of positive change and growth, despite its troubled past (and present).