During the end of the Lenten Season, the Philippine Catholics would observe the Semana Santa (Holy Week) with the Visita Iglesia, by taking a pilgrimage to seven churches to recite the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The Via Crusis or Way of the Cross depicts fourteen events in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. Although the Via Crusis finds its roots with the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) in Jerusalem during the Christian Western Roman Empire, it was revived by Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). By 1686 Pope Innocent XI (born Benedetto Odescalchi, 1611-1689) issued a decree that the Franciscan order the right to install stations within their churches, and Pope Clement XII (born Lorenzo Corsini, 1652-1740) extended that right to churches in 1731.
The original Franciscan Via Crusis was practiced starting in the 17th Century, and it began with Jesus sentenced to death by the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:13-25 and John 19:1-16) as the first station, and ends with Jesus buried at the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42, Luke 23:50-56, Mark 15:42-47, and Matthew 27:57-61). In 1991, Pope John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1920-2005) introduces the Scriptural Way of the Cross, which starts with Jesus’ lamentations and betrayal at the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-50 and Luke 44-22:43) and ends with the burial at the tomb. However, in 1992 the Philippine Catholic Church offered the New Way of the Cross, which begins with Jesus Last Supper with his Apostles (John 13:1-17:26, Luke 22:7-39, Mark 14:12-26, and Matthew 26:17-30) and ends with the Resurrection of Jesus (John 20:1-20, Luke 24:1-12, Mark 16:1-8, and Matthew 28:1-20). Several churches include a fifteenth station of the Resurrection of Jesus to their traditional Franciscan Via Crusis.
In observance of the Visita Iglesia, the faithful will recite two Stations of the Cross per church, while the extra pious would recite one station per church to cover a total of fourteen parishes. And in the Visita Iglesia of the Quezon City section of the Epifanio Cristóbal de los Santos Avenue (EDSA for short), the 17.7 kilometer route starts in the Spanish period Balintawak district in the northwest, to cover churches along or near the EDSA, and end in the equally historical intersection of ESDA and Don Francisco “Paco” Barcinas Ortigas Sr. Avenue.
Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, Balintawak
The Saint Joseph the Worker Parish is located at the southwestern part of the Balintawak Cloverleaf Exchange, which was the site where it was originally believed that the historical revolutionary Cry of Balintawak declaring independence from Spain, in 1896. To mark that historical event, a sculpture “Monumento sa mga Bayani ng 1896” (Monument to the Heroes of 1896) by Ramon Lazaro Martinez (1869-1950) was erected at the site in 1911. By 1940, the farming community in the area erected as small chapel a few hundred meters from the monument, which would be declared as the San Jose de Balintawak Parish in 1959. However, when the Balintawak Cloverleaf Exchange began and completed construction in 1968, the church and the monument had to be moved. The statue was transferred to the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, while the parish was moved to its present location and renamed as the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish. The new church is an interesting mix to the then trendy Brutalist style and the traditional Baroque, until its renovation that started in 2015. Other interesting additions to the church are the three Gnostic-styled paintings of the life of Saint Joseph at the “dome” by the former parish priest, Father Emmanuel “Pong” E. del Rosario.
Diocesan Shrine of Santo Niño Parish, Barangay Ramon Magsaysay
The area of Barangay Ramon Magsaysay was originally part of Barrio Bago Bantay (New Guardians), which was a pre-World War II (1939-1945) community that was named after the US Naval Radio Station on the corner of Misamis Street and North–South Circumferential Road (now EDSA). During the reconstruction of Manila, after the devastation of the 1945 Battle of Manila, families were slowly relocated to Quezon City by the government’s People’s Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC). Bago Bantay became part of the PHHC’s Project 8, under the administration of President Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay Sr. (1907-1957), which the barangay would eventually be named after by 1969. Most of the relocatees were from the Manila district of Tondo, which brought in the notorious Oxo, Sigue-Sigue and Bahala Na criminal gangs that formed in the 1940s. The gangs brought crime and territorial battles in Barrio Bago Bantay, which caused the innocent residents to call on their faith to intercede to end the violence. The residents established the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel in 1957, and named it after the Christ Child (Santo Niño) in 1962, who was the patron saint of Tondo and its 1572 parish, the Santo Niño de Tondo Church. When the chapel was declared as a parish in 1967, its first parish priest, Fr. Miguel P. Nuguid, campaigned for the construction of a new church building. Fr. Nuguid not just tapped into the parishioners, but to the leaders of the gangs, to unite and raise funds for the new church; which would thus end the violence. The new church was completed in 1983 on Bukidnon Street, and was designed by a local resident, Arch. Juanito M. Santiago. Two more locals, Jess Perez and Jim de Tagle, created the mural of the “The Blessed Santo Niño and the Holy Trinity” at the nathex, and a painting of the Santo Niño Parish at the right transept. In 1976, the Santo Niño Parish was declared Diocesan Church, when the Niño Parish Vicariate was created under the Diocese of Manila, and later transferred to the Archdiocese of Cubao in 2003; and declared a National Shrine in 2016.
Christ the King Parish, Veterans Village, Project 7
Veterans Village was first part of Barangay Bago Bantay, as the government’s post-war relocation Homesite housing program Project 7. Named South Bago Bantay in 1955, the 52.7114 hectare community was one a rice farming community, and became a housing program for World War II veterans, and was thus renames as Veterans Village in 1956. By the completion of the village in 1957, a small chapel was erected and administered by the Santuario de San Pedro Bautista Church. Soon the local Holy Fame Society and Catholic Women s League started campaigning to the Diocese of Manila for their own parish, and in 1961 the Christ the King Parish was established. The current church is located at the corner of Calumpit and Bansalangin Streets, with a modernist approach to the mission style architecture. Within the church are two reproductions of murals of the 1957 Stations of the Cross by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Villaluz Francisco (1914-1969), from the Far Eastern University’s Immaculate Concepcion Chapel. And at the nave of the church is the inscription of “Qvia Rex Sum Ego” (I am King) in marble, which is lifted partially from the Bible’s John 18:37, where Jesus Christ responds to the interrogation of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate saying “Tu dicis quia rex sum” (You say that I am king).
Santa Rita de Cascia Parish, Philamlife Homes
Following the government’s People’s Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) lead, the Philippine-American Life Insurance Company decided to build a residential compound for its employees in Quezon City, and opened the Philamlife Homes in 1955; which would be declared a barangay in 1975. The 54 hectare community was comprised of more affluent families, and were thus able to have a chapel constructed by 1955 on East Maya Drive. The chapel was named the Santa Rita de Cascia Chapel, after Italian Augustinian nun, Saint Rita of Cascia (born Margherita Lotti, 1381-1457), patron saint of families and the impossible miracles, hinting at the new lives of the residents after the devastation of the war. In 1956, the construction of a new church on South Lawin Avenue, and was was designed in the mission style architecture by Arch. Arturo M. Mañalac (1915-1990). With the completion of the new church in 1957, it was declared as parish with the consecration of the church. In 1974, the Diocese of Manila declared the church as the seat of the Vicariate of Santa Rita de Cascia, and was transferred to the Diocese of Cubao, in 2003. In 1993, the parishioners renovated the church, completely changing Arch. Mañalac’s design, for a larger structure, but still reflecting a mission style design.
Hearts of Mary and Jesus Parish, West Triangle
Established as a barangay in 1975, the area of Barangay West Triangle was part of the Morellos Compound , and it was initially developed by the government’s People’s Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) in the early 1950s, but the construction was continued by Embassy Garden Homes of Conrado Francia Benitez (1889-1971) and Francisca Tirona-Benitez (1886-1974), as a residential community for the employees of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). In 1956, the community was inaugurated along with the opening of the Benitez’s Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS), at the border of Philam Homes and Barrio West Triangle, along Highway 54 (now EDSA). By the 1960s, the residents of Barrio West Triangle erected the Chapel of the Nativity, with masses administered by priests for the nearby Saint Rita de Cascia Parish. After the chapel was declared as the Hearts of Mary and Jesus Parish in 1988, the residents pooled their resources to build a new church, which was completed in 1993, at the corner of Daily Mirror and Bulletin streets.
Ignatius de Loyola Cathedral, Camp Aguinaldo
Within Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Ignatius de Loyola Cathedral stands as the seat of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines (MOP). The MOP acts as the diocese of all Catholic personnel 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). Completed in 1964, the then- Philippine Military Vicariate church was named after Spaniard, San Íñigo López de Loyola (1491-1556), patron saint of soldiers.
Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA
The Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace: Our Lady of EDSA Church (EDS Shrine for short) was built as a monument to the peaceful 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution was believed to be an act of divine intervention that saw a bloodless ouster of President Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos Sr. (1917-1989). Completed in 1989 at the border of San Juan and Quezon City, the EDSA Shrine is not just a place of worship and a memorial to a historical event, it is also a showcase of the creative talents of the Filipino, with the architecture by the National Artist, Arch. Francisco “Bobby” Tronqued Mañosa (1931-2019), additional work by Arch. Dominic Galicia; sculpture by National Artist, Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018), as well as other works by Virginia Ty-Navarro (1924-1996), Eduardo De Los Santos Castrillo (1942-2016), Ramon Gahol Orlina (born 1944), Nemesio “Nemi” R. Miranda Jr. (born 1949), and Manuel Casal; and paintings Benjamin Pagsisihan Alano (1920-1991).
The 17.7 kilometer route of the ESDA Visita Iglesia is a tour of Quezon City’s revolutionary past, to its post-war Homesite developments, and ends in a historical location that showcased the Filipino’s bravery and unity in times of uncertainty. And in all these historical moments, it was the Filipino’s faith in their selves and God, which pushed them to forge on for the country and the development of Quezon City. That faith and sacrifice is also felt in the observation of the Via Crusis, as the people look to Christ for inspiration, hope, and salvation.