Things are seemingly getting back to normal and I’m grateful that almost all the churches today are finally open for Visita Iglesia. Although we managed to visit some churches in Bulacan last year, the protocols are less stricter this year. For instance, the churches now allowed bigger capacity of people and they can even bring their kids around. I was able to join four pilgrimage tours this month and I am happy to share with you all the amazing old churches we have visited.
The first province on our list is Laguna. We’ve already visited some churches in Laguna last 2019 (Check: A Pilgrimage to Laguna) and a couple of other churches in the province in 2020. This year, we managed to visit 14 churches in Laguna and some of which are very new to me. Without further ado, here’s the summary of our recently concluded Pilgrimage in Laguna 2022.
1. San Agustin Church of Bay, Laguna
I was able to visit the San Agustin Parish in Bay last 2020 during our 2-Day camping trip in Laguna. The Church is dedicated under the patronage of Saint Augustine and was first established in 1571 that makes it one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in Laguna. Bay Church is also the only Augustinian church in the town. History-wise, the first church of Bay was made out of poor materials like bamboo and nipa and was originally situated near the shore of the Laguna Lake. It was administered by the Augustinian friars of Provincia del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus. It became an independent parish in 1578. In 18th century, the ecclesiastical administration of Bay was transferred to the Orden of Franciscan Minors (OFM), with Father Domingo Martorel as its new parish priest on November 23, 1737. From the original site along the lake, the church was transferred to its present site later known as poblacion, or town center.
2. La Resurreccion Parish in Victoria, Laguna
This is my first time to visit La Resurreccion Parish in Victoria, Laguna. Compared to the other churches from this list, La Resurreccion Parish is relatively new. The construction of the church to its current location was conceptualized in 1963 and they started building the church and the convent the following year (1964). The church was finally completed in 1991 according to the design by Architect Reynaldo Espiritu and with the help of the Saint Joseph the Worker Foundation of Victoria Laguna Inc.
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3. National Shrine of San Antonia de Padua in Pila, Laguna
The third church is the recently declared National Shrine of San Antonio De Padua in Pila, Laguna. It is very interesting to note that it is the first Antonine parish church in the Philippines and probably in Asia. It was founded in 1578 by the Agustinians as a villa and eventually elevated into a parish status in 1581. The oldest surviving church bell of Pila was cast on the centenary of the parish in 1681 with the Franciscan emblem and the inscription “San Antonio de Pila.” It survived British invaders in 1762 when the people of Pila submerged it in Laguna de Bay facing the church. It is now the third-oldest church bell in the Philippines. There is also a relic of Saint Anthony displayed in the church.
4. Immaculate Conception Parish in Santa Cruz, Laguna
Our fourth church was in Santa Cruz Laguna dedicated under the patronage of Immaculate Conception. Immaculate Conception was first established as a chapel of ease and became an independent parish under the advocacy of the Immaculate Conception in 1602. The church was destroyed by fire in January 28, 1945 during the Liberation and was reconstructed in 1948. Besides the devotion to the Virgin Mary, an image of the Holy Guardian Angel, whose devotion started in 1678 by Fernando de la Concepcion, was venerated in Santa Cruz.
5. San Bartolome Apostol Parish in Nagcarlan, Laguna
Our fifth church is the Nagcarlan Church, a parish dedicated under the patronage of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle. The church of Nagcarlan was first built from light materials in 1583 under the chaplaincy of its first priest, Father Tomas de Miranda who also pioneered the cultivation of wheat in the country and was dedicated to Saint Bartholomew. The multicolored stones and bricks of the church were offered by the people during its construction. Like many other old churches during the Spanish period, Nagcarlan was destroyed in numerous occasions. It is also known for being featured in the 1974 film and 2005 TV series adaptation of Kampanerang Kuba. Prior to this, our group also went to visit the famous Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery.
6. Saint John the Baptist Church in Liliw, Laguna
The sixth church on our list is the famous Liliw Church. The church was first established as a reduccion by Franciscan Priests in 1578. It was part of the Spanish rule during their regime in the country to establish towns modeled like those in Spain and establish them as settlement and encourage those inhabitants from far-flung scattered barangays to move into a centralized town or cabecera (kabisera) where church and townhown were situated. The Liliw church eventually annexed as a visita (chapel) of Naglarcan until it became an independent parish in 1605 with Father Miguel de San Lucas as first parish priest. I also took the opportunity to visit the chapel of San Buenaventura which i missed the last time i visited Liliw Church.
7. Saint Gregory the Great Parish of Majayjay, Laguna
The church is dedicated under the patronage of San Gregorio Magno or Saint Gregory the Great. Majajay Church is one of the oldest churches in the country and is declared by National Museum as a National Cultural treasure. The first church was constructed by locals in 1575 near the May-it river and was made of nipa and bamboo and was later burned in 1576. The church was again partially burned in 1660. Rehabilitation started in 1711 and finished in 1730 by 14,000 people on forced labor. Instead of rebuilding the church, Father Puertollano decided to sandwich the ruins between two layers of brick resulting in an unusual wall thickness of 3 metres. It took 19 years for the people of Majayjay to complete the church which was made of volcanic tuff with red tiles and prime lumber. On completion in 1730, the church became the biggest in the Philippines. In 2001, it was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.
8. Santa Maria Magdalena Parish in Magdalena, Laguna
Magdalena was formerly known as Ambling, a barrio of Majayjay until it was elevated as a town in 1821. The first church, made of cogon and wood was constructed in 1820 and was dedicated to Mary Magdalene. A permission to build a stone church was ordered by Captain Pablo de la Concepción in 1829. The construction of the church building was halted in 1839, continued in 1849 and finished in 1855. Construction of the belltower was finished in 1861. In its convent, Filipino revolutionary leader General Emilio Jacinto sought refuge and his blood stains could be found.
9. Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Pagsanjan, Laguna
Our 9th Church is the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Pagsanjan, Laguna. It is home to the patroness of Pagsanjan, Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image was a gift from Mexico. It is also considered as the oldest church in the Philippines under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church was heavily damaged by American and Filipino military bombers on March 15, 1945 during World War II but a replica of the church was constructed over its ruins, without the original dome. In 2012, the Pagsanjan Church was declared as a Diocesan Shrine.
10. San Sebastian Parish in Lumban, Laguna
A church made of nipa and bamboo was first built in a site called Entablado, in the northern portion of the town. The church was also utterly destroyed in many occasions. The church of Lumban was finished in 1600. It became the first stone church in Laguna and the first Franciscan building outside Manila made out of stone.In this church, the first tabernacle outside Manila was built including the first Eucharistic Procession outside of Manila on October 9, 1600. In the 18th century, the town adopted Saint Sebastian Martyr as its patron saint.
11. Saint John the Baptist Parish in Longos, Kalayaan, Laguna
Longos, was a former barrio of Lumbang and Paete. The church was placed under the patronage of San Juan Bautista and Señora Dela Paz as its second patron. Unfortunately, The convent and its some parts was later destroyed by an earthquake. Even some ecclesiastical treasures were lost when the time goes by. The church was abandoned for almost 40 years, Longos lost its parish and as town capital in 1956. On February 13, 1996, Bishop Francisco San Diego order decreed of canonical erection of the Parish of San Juan Bautista. The church also features one of the few functioning Botafumeiros in the Philippines.
12. Saint James the Great Parish of Paete, Laguna
The next stop is the popular old church in Paete dedicated under the patronage of Saint James the Apostle. The church is known for its huge and exquisite collection of images depicting the Passion of Christ, its century-old paintings and wooden images of saints. The first stone church and convent were built by Paete natives under the supervision of Fray Andres de Puertellano in 1646 but it was later destroyed by an earthquake in 1717. The church served as a dungeon and torture house to the people of Paete during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. Another notable feature of the church are the huge murals of Saint Christopher by Luciano Dans.
Read More – Saint James The Apostle Parish – Paete, Laguna
13. Nuestra Señora dela Natividad Parish of Pangil, Laguna
Our 13th church is the Nuestra Señora dela Natividad Parish in Pangil, Laguna. Pangil was initially founded as a visita or hermitage by Franciscan in 1579. It features a very simple facade with a very spacious interior. The church enshrines a statue of the pregnant Virgin Mary known as the Nuestra Señora De la O is said to be a gift from King Carlos III of Spain. The church also houses the image of Santo Niño de la O.
14. Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish/ Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Turumba in Pakil
We concluded our Visita iglesia in Laguna in Pakil. The church of Pakil is dedicated under the patronage of Saint Peter of Alcantara. The church is also designated as the diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora Delos Dolores De Turumba, one of the most prominent Marian images we often see during the annual Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros (Check: 39th IGMP). The first church was founded in 1676 and was utterly damaged on numerous occasions including fire in 1739 and 1851, earthquakes in 1881 and 1937 and during the second world war. It is also interesting to mention that the Turumba Festival in honor of the Our Lady of Sorrows is the “largest and longest religious celebration in the country”. They also had a newly renovated Sanctuary dome.
Read more – Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish – Pakil, Church
It was truly a rewarding experience to witness all these great churches. You will definitely appreciate the rich history behind their amazing structures. Above all, it was another spiritually enlightening pilgrimage for everyone of us. I will post a separate article for some of these churches on my future entries.
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