During the Semana Santa (Holy Week) of the Catholic Lenten Season, the faithful observe the ritual of the Visita Iglesia, when they visit seven churches on Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, to recite the Via Crusis. The Via Crusis (Way of the Cross) is a recitation of 14 events (or stations) of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, to remind the faithful of his sacrifice for the salvation of mankind.
The Visita Iglesia started in Jerusalem during the start of the Christian Western Roman Empire or Byzantines, where the early Christians would observe the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow); which started at the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ is believed to have been buried. During the medieval period, many pilgrimages started across the Europe, where the faithful would travel from church to church in different countries, and complete their quest to pray to different holy relics in either Jerusalem or to the Vatican, in Rome. One of the earlier pilgrimages was the Crusader’s Via Francigena (The Road from France), from France to Rome.
In the Philippines, the establishment of the Catholic faith in 1565 did not necessarily see the observation of the Visita Iglesia strictly enforced at the start of the Christian evangelization, as most towns had only one church and very far from the next municipality. It was only by the late 19th and early 20th century was there enough churches near each other in major urban centers for the Seven Churches Pilgrimage to be practiced; with the most noted was the Visita Iglesia within Manila’s Intramuros; covering the churches of the Diocese of Manila’s Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, the Augustinian San Agustin Church, the Dominican Santo Domingo Church, the Franciscan San Francisco Church, the Augustinian Recollect Church of San Nicolas de Tolentino, the Jesuit San Ignacio Church, and the Franciscan Capuchin Lourdes Church.
In Quezon City, to enact a full Seven Churches Pilgrimage within Cubao and Project 4 area would only be realized by the mid-1970s, after decades of post-World War II (1939-1945) development. Although the industrialist José Amado Araneta (1907-1985) developed district of Cubao between 1952 and 1955, there were many communities that existed in the area such as the farming communities to the east of Hacienda Magdalena (now New Manila), the residential areas of the families of enlisted personnel serving within the pre-war Camp William Francis Brennan Murphy (now Camp Emilio Famy Aguinaldo), as well as Cubao was the location of the home and first Quezon City Hall under Mayor Tomás Eduardo Bernabéu Morató (1887-1965) in 1939, the population would explode exponentially with the establishment of the 1950 People’s Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) residential relocation Project 2, Project 3, and Project 4 during the administration of President Elpidio Rivera Quirino (1890-1956), and Project 5 under President Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay (1907-1957). This continued growth saw the need to establish more community chapels and parishes, which would also see the formation of the first diocese for Quezon City and the realization of a Seven Churches Pilgrimage in the area.
The area where the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao stands was part of a large farming community before World War II. And with the 1935 establishment of the nearby Christ the King Mission Seminary by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD, or Societas Verbi Divini), the SVD missionaries helped set up a small chapel dedicated to San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Laborer, 1070-1130), after the Spanish patron saint of the farmers and laborers. When Mayor Morato built his new home within the area in 1939, to oversee the development of the Homesite Project 1 of Barrio Obrero (Workers’ Village), richer families began to move in. By 1940, the San Isidro Chapel was moved to its present site at what is now Lantana Street, and was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in 1949. When the Immaculate Conception was declared as a parish in 1950, the first parish priest Fr. Juan Simón SVD campaigned to have a new church constructed. The 1964 church blessing unveiled to the parishioners beautiful Neo-Romanesque architecture by Arch. Arturo M. Mañalac (1915-1990), who had designed the SVD’s Parroquia del Sagrado Corzaon de Jesus decades earlier. Later additions to the church were the 2003 stained glass windows by Kraut Glass Art, the 2004 Neoclassical styled painting of the Sypnotic Apostles at the dome’s ceiling by Rafael del Casal, and the Cathedral Grottos and Columbarium. In 1990, the SVD turned over the Immaculate Conception Parish to the Archdiocese of Manila, and was renamed the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao (ICCC) in 2003, when it became the seat of the newly formed Archdiocese of Cubao.
Barangay Eulogio Adona Rodríguez, Sr. was first constructed in 1952, as part of the Homesite Project 5. At the start, the residents of the 64,410 hectare barangay first attend mass at the Saint Joseph Archdiocesan Shrine in Project 3, then later at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish (OLPH) in the Murphy District of Cubao (Now Barangay Soccoro). Needing their own place of worship, the residents built as small chapel at the corner of KH and Ermin E. Garcia Sr. Street in the late 1970s. After the chapel was declared as the Nativity of the Lord Parish on the 25th December 1982 by Cardinal Jaime Lachica Sin (1928-2005), the parishioners campaigned to build a bigger church, which they completed in 1999. The new church is a mix of the simple modernist geometric structure and the mission style church architecture, but latter additions saw the installation of an ornate Baroque-styles retablo (altarpiece), with paintings of the Nativity, the Crucified Christ and Christ Resurrected in the retablo niches, which draw inspiration from Noël Coypel’s (1628-1707) 1700s painting of the Birth of Christ, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez’s (1599-1660) 1632 Christ Crucified, Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino’s (1483-1520) 1516 Transfigurazione, and Raffaellino del Colle‘s (1490–1566) Resurrezione di Cristo.
Also part of Barangay E. Rodriguez is all-girls Stella Maris College and Convent, at the compound between Cambridge, Columbia and Oxford streets, near Aurora Boulevard. The school was founded by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) in 1955, and named after an old title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Our Lady, Star of the Sea. Inside the Stella Maris College is the Chapel of the Lilies, which was named to confer the whiteness of the Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum) as a representation the Blessed Virgin Mary and her attributes of purity, innocence, and connection to the divine; as well as the Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum) represents the Annunciation of the Virgin (Luke 1:26–38) in which Mary is declared as the handmade of God and the Resurrection (Mark 16, Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20) where we are washed our sins by the Rising of Christ from the dead. At the Chapel of the Lilies altar, there is a mural of “The Immaculate Conception with Saints Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua, enshrined by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters.” For a while the Chapel of Lilies also served as an alternative chapel for the residents Barangay E. Rodriguez, until the completion of the Nativity of the Lord Parish.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, Barangay Marilag, Project 4
Although the Homesite Project 4was completed in 1950, the residents has to attend mass at the Franciscan Order of the Poor Clares’s Monasterio de Santa Clara along Aurora Boulevard, and later the Saint Joseph Parish in Project 3. As the population of Project 4 grew and was subdivided into fifteen barangays, a demand for their own parish arose. In Barangay Marilag, a chapel was erected in 1970 at the corner of Agustin de Legazpi and Casimiro “El Tulisan” Camerino streets. The chapel was later declared as the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in 1976, and was dedicated to the Medal of Our Lady of Graces, which was based on the vision of Saint Catherine Labouré (1806-1876) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in 1830. The church features the simple mission style, with simple ornamentation of its retablo. To compensate for its low ceiling, a mural of a cloudy sky is painted onto the ceiling, to create the illusion of a larger and more spacious edifice. Despite the not-so-large edifice, the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish has a mediation garden for parishioners to contemplate on the Word of God.
Cubao’s Barangay San Roque was originally a part of the housing community for families of enlisted men in the Murphy District, and in 1960s the residents named their barrio after the French Saint Roch (1348-1379), whose patronage would protect the people from diseases, especially in the face of the 1957-1958 Asian Flu pandemic. The community built the first chapel along 19th Avenue in the early 1970s, near the current barangay hall as a sub-Parish of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, on 13th Avenue. After the barrio ceded from Barangay Soccoro (formerly Barrio Murphy), and was established as Barangay San Roque in 1974, the chapel was renamed as the Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel; in which Jesus Christ took a pilgrimage with his apostles, and he would be transfigured in light while conversing with the prophet Elijah and Moses (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36). In 1981, the new Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish was blessed at the corner of 18th Avenue and Máximo F. Inocencio Road, with a simple baroque inspired design. However, this new edifice still proved too small for the needs of the community, so a new church was constructed on the same lot, as was designed by Sister M. Celeste Parrilla of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM). Completed in 1993, the new modernist church also features a metal wire and sheet sculpture of the Transfiguration at the façade, and spiraled design of the Christ Triumphant at the altar, and Brutalist styled altar pieces all by Sr. Parrilla.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Barangay Soccoro
During the reconstruction efforts after World War II, the residents of Barrio Murphy (now Barangay Soccoro) were in need of a spiritual center, as the chapel within Camp Murphy was destroyed by the fleeing Japanese forces, along with other facilities of the military base. In 1946, the Augustinian nun, Sr. Alfonsa dela Santissima Trinidad, donated a plot of land her family owned in 13th Avenue, for a local chapel and orphanage. This small chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or Our Lady of Succor, to reflect the comfort the people sought after experiencing the devastation of war. In 1961, Barrio Murphy was renamed Barangay Soccoro, and in 1964 the chapel was declared as the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. With the founding of the new parish, the OLPH became a driving force in the area, helping establishment of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, the Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish, and the Nativity of the Lord Parish. The OLPH is also active in the religious events of the commercial district of the Araneta Center, including the annual Lenten retreat at the Araneta Coliseum, which was then headed by Fr. Erasmo “Sonny” Ramirez, OP. Over the years the OLPH has gone through major renovations, starting with original Baroque inspired structure, the church was redesign in the 1990s to the modernist style that included a balcony to accommodate more parishioners. And in the 2000s, the OLPH had an ornate Baroque retablo installed, along with a repainting of the gold accents of the ceiling and the orange accents on the façade. In 1974, the OLPH became a diocesan parish by the declaration of the Vicariate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of the Diocese of Manila.
Ignatius de Loyola Cathedral, Camp Aguinaldo
Upon the construction of the Philippine Army’s Camp Murphy, the American colonial government had a military chaplain to administer to the spiritual needs of the enlisted men. When the Camp Murphy was converted into the installation General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 1965, the base was renamed as Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo. To administer to the AFP’s spiritual needs, the Saint Ignatius de Loyola Church was erected in 1964, as the home of the Philippines’ Military Vicariate, which was decreed by Pope Pius XII (born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, 1876-1958) in 1950. Serving as its first vicar, Bishop Rufino Jiao Santos (1908-1973) oversaw the construction of the new church along Brigadier General Mateo M. Capinpin Avenue; and named it after the Spaniard, San Íñigo López de Loyola (1491-1556), patron saint of soldiers. In 1986 Spirituale militum curæ was decreed by Pope John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1920-2005), elevating the Philippine Military Vicariate to Military Ordinariate of the Philippines (MOP), making it equal to a diocese; and thus effectively changing the church’s name to the Ignatius de Loyola Cathedral. As a diocese of the MOP has jurisdiction over the Catholic members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Bureau of Jail Management & Penology (BJMP), and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), through its chaplains.
From the cathedrals of the Immaculate Conception to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the 8.1 kilometer Visita Iglesia of Cubao and Project 4 is not just a means to enact the Via Crusis, but to discover the rich history between the two dioceses within the area.