K and I seem to be in the habit of taking long breaks between posts and then apologizing for our hiatus in each and every one of them. To make up for that, I decided to finally finish the draft for this post, which I started about a year ago hahaha! Since we’re in the middle of Holy Week, I hope vacationers will take the time to drop by churches and pray. There seems to be an unusual traffic in my previous Visita Iglesia post so I’ll take that as a good sign! If it’s not too much to ask though, please include K and I in your prayers. K is busy with her job in a broadcasting firm and figuring out her career path, while I’m set to graduate–yey!–from law school, and will be taking the Bar Exam soon. I also got in an accident recently but I’m praying that I would be able to walk properly by graduation. Please, please, please help us fulfill our dreams through prayers! I know we’re just faceless strangers on the Internet, but I guess it won’t hurt if I ask you to plead our cause to God as you complete your church visits. Ohhh we’d love to hear from you guys too! Let me know if this blog helped you in any way! Thank you, stranger!
Nothing beats having a family that feeds one’s passions for travel and photography, except perhaps a family that also motivates one to further one’s faith in God. As a sort of part deux to last year’s Visita Iglesia in the countryside of Rizal, my family and I went from church to church again (albeit now in the neighboring province of Laguna), more determined to visit fourteen churches for all fourteen stations of the cross. Laguna, which is part of Luzon’s CALABARZON (read: Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), was named after the Philippines’ largest lake, Laguna de Bay or “Lake of Bay”. It is a host to 24 municipalities and 6 first-class cities, namely Biñan, Cabuyao, Calamba, San Pablo and Santa Rosa, and home to the tourist hot spots Pagsanjan Falls, the Los Baños’ hot springs and even the ancestral house of our country’s national hero, Jose Rizal. Two dormant volcanoes, the mysterious Mt. Banahaw (possibly meaning “banal daw“–Tagalog for “probably divine” or “divine, according to another”), which is characteristically enveloped by a thick puff of clouds, and Mt. Makiling (from the maiden Maria Makiling of Philippine legends, whose profile supposedly gives shape to the volcano), also skirt its borders on the south.
The province has also bore witness to the country’s long history, hence the number of churches in the area. Here’s sixteen under the Diocese of San Pablo, and a couple of interesting extras. In having included new parishes in this list of destinations–yes, even when they’re located in different towns–I feel like my family and I kind of cheated to finish all the stations of the cross. So do note which are heritage and which are not. (As a warning, there are also pretty graphic shots–although not exactly verging on macabre–of people doing their penitence. Feel free to move the kids away from the screen or just skim through those parts if you feel squeamish at the sight of blood.)
1. Nuestra Señora de Candelaria Parish – Mabitac, Laguna
Poblacion, Mabitac 4020 Laguna
Call: +63 49 816-0074
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Gerardo R. Basa
Known as the church sitting on top of the Kalbaryo Hill (Calvary Hill), Nuestra Señora de Candelaria was named after the Virgin of Candelaria or Our Lady of Candles, whose miraculous wooden image was found by fishermen near the Iloilo River in 1587. The statue, which was only about a foot tall, was reportedly extremely heavy and difficult to lift, but became considerably lighter when it was decided that it will be taken to the town of Jaro, Iloilo. Mabitac is one of the nine Philippine towns advocating the image that was later on given by Lt. Don Cristobal Mercado to Dilao (now Paco) in the 1600s.
The Church itself, which is under the Vicariate of Saints Peter and Paul, has gone through two major earthquakes in 1880 and 1937 that left it severely damaged. The bell tower is supposedly the only remnant of the original, which was first built in 1611. It has a 129-step stairway on its left side (but you’ll have to double check that information for me, as I didn’t get the chance to count it myself). Notably, the church bears no marker from the National Historical Commission–not one that we could spot anyway–despite its age, albeit a marker for the Battle of Mabitac, which commemorates the Philippine-American war, is within the area.
It is located in the municipality of Mabitac, whose name supposedly referred to the town’s hunting grounds. The area was filled with “bitag” (Tagalog for “traps”) for wild beasts (read: “mabitag“). However, early Spanish settlers allegedly could not pronounce the letter “g”, hence the name.
2. Nuestra Señora de los Angeles Parish – Sta. Maria, Laguna
Poblacion, Sta. Maria 4022 Laguna
Call: +63 49 200-4075
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Jaime S. Niego
A heritage site, the Nuestra Señora delos Angeles (Our Lady of the Angels) was first built in 1613 by Reverend Geronimo Vasquez. It perished, however, during a Chinese uprising in 1639. Its 1669 counterpart was also completely decimated by earthquakes in 1880. Reverend Leopoldo Arellano rebuilt it eleven years later, but the church was again destroyed by an earthquake on August 20, 1937.
There have been several renovations to the church, but the white paint coated over its walls and bell tower to seal and cover the cracks is most noticeable.
3. San Sebastian Parish – Famy, Laguna
Poblacion, Famy 4021 Laguna
Call: +63 49 341-1201
Parish Priest: Msgr. Licerio S. Taguilaso, PC
A relatively new church, San Sebastian Parish is part of the Vicariate of Saints Peter and Paul under the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Pablo. It is host to a wooden Christ entombed in a glass room, with a blue and brown painting of what seems to be Mount Calvary. San Sebastian is also located in the municipality of Famy, which was named after the mother of national hero and President Emilio Aguinaldo, Trinidad Famy.
4. St. Mark the Evangelist Parish – Pangil, Laguna
Balian, Pangil 4018 Laguna
Call: +63 49 557-0774
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Rey Antonio M. Velasco
Generally aiming for heritage churches, we probably either took a wrong turn somewhere or got the wrong directions from people we asked from the streets as we arrived at St. Mark instead of the more popular Visita Iglesia site, Natividad de la Virgen Church (Our Lady’s Nativity Church), which was also in Pangil. The latter was first built in 1611 then reconstructed twice as it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1880 and bombs dropped by the American Air Force during World War II. Meanwhile, the former is a stone edifice, which curiously has the years “1931” and “1932” chiseled in its two front columns, that advocates one of Jesus’ four evangelists, who also happens to be the patron saint of Brgy. Balian in Pangil. The municipality’s interesting name may be traced from the Tagalog word “pangil” (meaning “fangs”), the place’s supposed first natives who were known as “Panguilagan”, or the town’s old chieftain Gat Paguil.
5. St. Peter of Alcantara Parish – Pakil, Laguna
Poblacion, Pakil 4017 Laguna
Call: +63 49 557-0211
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Alberto I. San Jose, Jr.
One of the more beautiful churches in the region, St. Peter of Alcantara Parish was first erected as a bamboo and nipa structure through the leadership of Fr. Francisco Barajas when the town of Pakil was formally separated from Paete in 1676. Fr. Fernando Haro had a convent and church of stone made in 1732. It was consumed by fire, however, in 1739 but rebuilt until its completion in 1767. The bell tower and the shrine of the Virgin of Turumba was added in 1777 and 1788 respectively. In 1851, it was destroyed by a second fire. Fr. Juan de Llarena had the church fixed, but the earthquake of 1881 destroyed the church’s tower and roof. Fr. Juan de Dios Villalayos had the church fixed again, while Fr. Paulino Camba had the ceiling and altar installed in 1883. With the help of the Kapisanang Unidad Catolica, Fr. Federico Diaz had the church repaired when it succumbed to another earthquake in 1937. A marble altar, which was later on placed by Fr. Joseph Regan, was consecrated by Bishop Alejandro Olaila in 1959. The tower and ceiling was finally reconstructed through the Parish Council of the Laity in 1980-84.
6 . St. James the Apostle Parish – Paete, Laguna
Poblacion, Paete 4016 Laguna
Call: +63 49 557-0114
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Joseph B. dela Rosa, VF
Known as the country’s carving capital and named after the carpenter’s chisel or “paét”, the town of Paete is popularly cited by Jose Rizal in his magnum opus Noli Mi Tangere. Its primary parish, St. James the Apostle, was first built as a stone church and convent in 1646. Rev. Fr. Francicso de la Fuente, OFM had a baroque-styled structure made of adobe, egg white and native materials erected in its stead in 1717. The massive earthquakes of 1880 and August 20, 1937, which–like most aforementioned–destroyed St. James, led to subsequent reconstructions and repairs to the church.
7. St. John the Baptist Parish – Kalayaan, Laguna
Longos, Kalayaan 4015 Laguna
Call: +63 49 820-0110
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Gabriel Ma. A. Delfino
Built in 1669, the parish of Kalayaan was founded by the Franciscans in a quiet garden compound near the Laguna Lake, supposedly upon the arrival of one Lucas Sarro, its first priest. While the church seems well-preserved outside with the antique bell, carved retablo and bas-reliefs of St. John the Baptist still on display, keen observers will immediately note the marked difference of the stone walls from the steel roof. Ravaged by Typhoon Milenyo in 2006, the parish suffered major damages structurally and its roof could no longer be restored to its original state due to lack of funds. Part of the Vicariate of Saint James the Apostle, the church is also under the leadership of the Vicar Forane, Fr. Joseph dela Rosa.
8. San Sebastian Parish – Lumban, Laguna
Poblacion, Lumban 4014 Laguna
Call: +63 49 501-4601
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Ricardo B. Basquiñez, MF
According to the church’s marker, the Church of Lumbang, which was first made out of wood and thatch, was replaced by a stone church–the first of its kind in Laguna–in 1600 after it was destroyed by a fire. The great 1880 earthquake that decimated a number of churches and buildings, not only in Laguna but also in Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, damaged the San Sebastian Parish. The marker additionally notes that Franciscans maintained a refuge for the sick in the church from 1606-1618. Reverend Juan de Santa Maria, OFM also managed a regional school in 1606, where some 400 boys learned music and liturgical hymns.
9. Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish – Pagsanjan, Laguna
Poblacion, Pagsanjan 4008 Laguna
Call: +63 49 808-4121
Parish Priest:Father Noel C. Artillaga, VF
Pagsanjan, which is most famous for its majestic waterfalls, is home to the Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church was founded in 1687 with Fr. Agustin de la Magdalena as its first curate. In 1872, Fr. Joaquin de Coria had the original bamboo and nipa chapel, which was reconstructed through the supervision Miguel Guan-co and Alguacil Mayor Alonso Garcia in 1690, enhanced. A transept was placed by Fathers Serafin Linares and Cipriano Bac in 1872. The church was damaged during the second world war but later on repaired.
10. Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish – Cavinti, Laguna
Poblacion, Cavinti 4013 Laguna
Call: +63 49 256-2094
Parish Priest:Father Rico V. de Vera
The first church and convent of Cavinti, which was built in 1621, was a victim of 1639 Chinese uprising. The stone church and convent were also respectively partially and totally damaged by earthquakes in 1824, but reconstructed in 1851. Like many others, it also took a serious hit from the great 1880 and 1937 earthquakes, which toppled its tower and gave way to huge cracks on its walls.
11. Saint Paul the First Hermit Parish – San Pablo City, Laguna
Poblacion, San Pablo City 4000, Laguna
Call: +63 49 562-1039
Rector: Msgr. Melchor A. Barcenas, VG
Relatively new-looking, the Cathedral of Saint Paul the First Hermit supposedly begun as a small chapel with thatched roof and was built in 1586 through the efforts of one Father Andres Cabrera and the Augustinian order. While it first became a stone church in 1629, and the constructions of its foundations and improvements were supervised by Father Juan Labao and, later on, Father Francisco Juan de Elorreaga, the presently standing neoclassic structure was built only in 1714. Home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Pablo, the parish is said to be the only diocese in the whole of Laguna.
12. San Bartolome Apostol Parish – Nagcarlan, Laguna
Poblacion, Nagcarlan 4002 Laguna
Call: +63 49 563-1006
Parish Priest:Father Larry R. Abayon, VF
One Reverend Tomas de Miranda, OFM, who was designated as Nagcarlan’s resident priest in 1583, led the erection of the town’s first church. A brick and stone structure later replaced the original, which was made from light materials, in 1752. A fire engulfed and partly damaged the church in 1781. Reverend Vicente Velloc, who notably commissioned the construction of Nagcarlan’s underground cemetery, had a choirloft installed in 1845.
13. St. John the Baptist Parish – Liliw, Laguna
Poblacion, Liliw 4004 Laguna
Call: +63 49 563-3511
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Philip B. Atienza
Formerly under the ecclesiastical administration of Nagcarlan until 1605, the church and convent of the baroque-styled St. John the Baptist also took a serious blow from 1880 earthquake. It was then rebuilt but later on partly damaged by a fire on August 6, 1899.
The red-bricked church has a number of statues of saints dotting its grounds, and a museum (admission is Php20) that highlights, among others, the beheading of its patron saint. Taking a tour from its novice group of pre-teen guides, I noticed that the museum’s underground tomb freaked out my young companions. I pressed for the hunting details, but got a disappointing shrug. With the church’s history and age however, the idea of ghosts is not far-fetched.
The church is also notably located in the municipality of Liliw (a name that can be traced from the tweeting of a beautiful bird), which is famous for its shoe industry.
14. St. Gregory the Great Parish – Majayjay, Laguna
Poblacion, Majayjay 4005 Laguna
Call: +63 49 573-6305
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Cesar A. Gonzales, Jr.
Noted as the area where the Laguna natives first met the foreign representatives sent by the Catholic Church, the Augustinians, in 1571, the now grand church started as a chapel made only of bamboo, dried cogon grass, and nipa. Like most old churches, it underwent reconstruction after being gutted by fire, but was finally rebuilt as a red-tiled adobe structure in 1606. The parish, which was named after Pope Gregory the Great, endured several more fires and revolutions after that, and even played as headquarters to American soldiers during the Philippine-American war. It also carries what is supposedly the oldest church bell in the country.
15. Santa Maria Magdalena Parish – Magdalena, Laguna
Poblacion, Magdalena, Laguna
Call: +63 49 503-0658
Parish Priest: Rev. Fr. Leon A. Duran, Jr.
Named after the biblical character Mary Magdalene, the church and convent of the Parish of St. Mary Magdalene stands on a slightly elevated plot of land in the quiet, airy town of Majayjay or Malay Barangay. The trek to the town was supposedly difficult and tiresome in the olden days, prompting its visitors to sigh “hay!” upon climbing a hill, and exclaim another “hay!” after navigating the river, hence the name “ma-hay-hay” or many sighs. Fortunately, travel to the present church is not as grueling. Built in 1821, the parish now hosts not only a wide parking space, but also artifacts, tombstones and old images of the town’s patron saint.
16. Immaculate Conception Parish – Sta. Cruz, Laguna
Poblacion, Sta. Cruz 4009 Laguna
Call: +63 49 808-1041
Parish Priest:Father Ricardo D. de Luna
Supposedly built as a stone structure in 1608 with the help of Father Antonio de Llave, the parish of Santa Cruz underwent several reconstructions and improvements for expansion through the centuries under the leadership of Fathers Miguel Perciva, Juan Antonio Marzo, Antonio Martin de Vidales, and Mariano Limjuco. The two wings added by Fr. Perciva along the side of the church apparently even gave it the shape of a cross. With starkly white interiors, the church also carries fascinating stained glass displays in its side wings.
Sights of Faith
You may have noticed that this post shows a number of churches and other destinations. My family and I were actually on our way to Laiya, Batangas for our annual summer vacation, so we decided to cover as many ground and hit as many birds with one stone as possible. Apart from our day trips in Laguna–and the moderately-within-distance beautiful beaches of Batangas of course, we made an overnight stop at the province of Quezon to taste its famous longganiza (a local pork sausage-type of delicacy akin to Germany’s brätwurst, but sweeter or saltier depending on the region) and take in some of its famous sights as well.
Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan, Laguna
The only cemetery of its kind in the country, the Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan was built by the Franciscans through the leadership of Friar Vicente Velloc in 1845, along with the Church and Convent of San Bartolome. It has a chapel and a crypt, which was used as a hide-out and safe house by Filipino revolutionaries and guerillas respectively.
No admission fees. It is also open to the public from 8:30AM-4:30PM every Tuesday to Saturday. Call the National Historical Institute’s central office at +632 524-9952 for details.
Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church – Lucban, Quezon
While I’d hate to add any more garbage, noise and crowds to this place by broadcasting its existence on the Internet, Kamay ni Hesus (Hand of Jesus) is a shrine that deserves a spot in your list, not only of Visita Iglesia destinations, but also of tourist stop-overs. It is well-known for its 50-ft statue of a red-cloaked Christ with outstretched arms, atop a mountainside (Hill of the Ascending Christ) that features all fourteen stations of the cross and a 310-step stairway that leads to a beautiful view of Lucban.
On the grounds are the famous Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church (under the stewardship of healing priest Rev. Fr. Joseph Ayala Faller), Garden of Eden, Marian Park, Noah’s Ark, Angel’s Hill, Gallery of Saints, Eden Falls, retreat centers, souvenir stores and quite a number of food stalls. As of this blog’s posting, the Church celebrates mass starting 9AM on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9:30AM on Wednesday and Saturday, and 7:30AM on Sunday. Healing masses are held at 5PM every Saturday.
If you plan to visit any time soon, my only pleas are that you throw your garbage in the proper waste disposals and keep the noise level at the minimum. While this blog aims to help local tourism, I’d hate to think I caused a riot somewhere.
Visit Kamay ni Hesus Shrine Brgy. Tinamnan, Lucban, Quezon Call (042) 540-2206
[Update: If you enjoyed this post, consider this other Visita Iglesia read and plan your week ahead.]
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