Visita Iglesia is an intrinsic part of Filipino culture during Holy Week. Visiting 7 churches not only appeals to our piety, but to our natural penchants for lakwatcha as well. Thus over the years the traditional Visita Iglesia has evolved into a family or barkada affair that also involves travel and adventure. So this year, try out this Laguna Visita Iglesia itinerary for a prayerful and cultural Holy Week.
One of the largest cities in the province of Laguna is San Pablo. It is most famous for its Seven Lakes, which are a major daytrip destination. For a quick trip, visit the largest of the lakes, Sampaloc Lake, which is just behind the city hall. Take a quick stroll around the lake or have a bite at Café Lago for a sweeping lake view. Afterward, visit the San Pablo Cathedral, a stone church completed in 1721.
The San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church in Nagcarlan is a Baroque-style structure first constructed in the 1700’s. Its imposing façade and sky-high ceilings will immediately put you in the mood for the Stations of the Cross. Along the way, you can also check out the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, a national historical landmark. It was established in 1845 and was used as a cemetery for Spanish friars and townspeople. During the various revolutions, it was also used as a meeting place and a hideout for Katipuneros and guerilla fighters.
The self-proclaimed “Tsinelas Capital of the Philippines” is a quaint and unique town which holds a lot to be discovered. Start your visit in Gat Tayaw Street, which is lined by locally-made shoe and sandals shops left and right. At the top of the street is the majestic St. John the Baptist Church, with its red brick exterior and grand antique retablo, where you can say your prayers. Afterward, dine at Liliw’s renowned Arabela restaurant for yummy, home-style comfort food. Fair warning to tall people though, you might need to stoop when entering!
The San Gregorio Magno Parish Church in Majayjay has a long and rich history. After a few attempts at construction and subsequent fires, it was finally completed in 1649. It served as the sight for the first priests to evangelize the town of Laguna. The Romanesque-style church is beautifully preserved and features many architectural details unique to the era. While in Majayjay you can also make a quick stop in Bukal Falls. It takes a short hike to get there, but the crystal clear waters make it worth the effort. Stay for a short dip or a photoshoot to refresh in between your Laguna Visita Iglesia travels.
Originally a part of Majayjay, the town of Magdalena is now its own quiet and serene entity. Its church, the Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish, is a Baroque construction completed in 1855. Its dark gray stone walls and starkness feels like being in an authentic fortress. While its recent claim to fame was being the location for a dramatic concluding scene in the hit biopic, Heneral Luna, in reality its convent was used as a refuge for another battle scarred revolutionary, Emilio Jacinto. To this day, you can still see his bloodstains on the church leading to the convent.
Formerly part of Lumban, Sta. Cruz earned its own parish in 1602 in the form of the Immaculate Conception Parish Church. It was completed in 1608 but was sporadically renovated and expanded until 1850. The church as it stands now however wasn’t completed until 1948 after it was reconstructed after being destroyed by fire. Despite its young age, compared to other churches in the province, it still maintains an authentic colonial vibe. After your stations of the cross here, you can also try out a Sta. Cruz delicacy, bibingkang bugok: bibingka made with rotten eggs (really!). It is said that once you get over the initial smell, it makes for a great snack dipped in vinegar with siling labuyo.
Being a heritage town under the National Historical Commission, there is no doubt that Pila has a lot to add to your Laguna Visita Iglesia itinerary. The historic town center alone is filled with sights worth exploring. Then there’s the rest of the town with all its herniate houses waiting to be discovered. But one of the town’s crowning gems is undoubtedly the San Antonio de Padua Church, which was completed in 1849. Apart from its nicely preserved Spanish colonial structure, the church is also very historical. This is where the Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala, the first ever Tagalog dictionary, was printed. One of the oldest surviving church bells in the country is also housed here.