Friday, April 6, 2012

We’re Pilgrims in an Unholy Land: Visita Iglesia (Seven Churches Visitation) with the Ruiz-Castro Confederation Part 1

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My mother, being the devoted Catholic that she is, has been taking us to church pilgrimage trips every time we visit a new province. Her first question right after we arrive at a new place would always be “I wonder how their church looks like.” I, my brother, and my father, being the not-so devout Catholics that we are, would always indulge her and take her to the church before anything else. I even remember having to travel to Cagayan, having to wake up at 5 AM, having to ride a van for six hours, just to visit a miraculous dark-skinned statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And yes, all because of my mother’s devotion.

So it’s no surprise that we do another pilgrimage trip this Holy Week. The last time I joined my family for a Visita Iglesia, or a Seven Churches Visitation, was some two or three years ago, and I must admit that my mother outdid herself this time.

With the help of my brother (I suppose), my mother came prepared with a list of the pilgrimage churches, or churches that pilgrims or travelers go to gain indulgence or forgiveness of sins. It’s an alien concept to modern Christians now, but what do you have to lose when you get to take road trips, learn about history, and experience great architecture?

 Our Lady of the Pillar Parish, Imus, Cavite


Our first stop was our home diocese, the Imus Cathedral, Our Lady of the Pillar Parish. I don’t know much about the church, aside from the cathedral being the mother church of our parish, the Sto. Nino de Molino Parish.

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My mother had one task for me: take pictures of the façade and the aisle of all the churches we visit.


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Here’s my lovely mother catching the light on her photo.

St. Mary Magdalene Church, Kawit, Cavite

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Here’s an interesting fact about the St. Mary Magdalene Church of Kawit: because the town of Kawit used to be frequented by Spanish marines, the town quickly became a red light district. To get rid of the town’s bad reputation, Manila Archbishop Miguel Garcia Serrano ordered for St. Mary Magdalene to be the town’s patron saint. I think it’s funny and crazy at the same time, but if it’s Wiki-confirmed, then it must be true!

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We weren’t able to see the miraculous Mary Magdalene statue that has a distinct mole because all of the statues were covered. The mole, according to legend, distinguishes her from Mary, mother of Jesus, and the mole or mark was supposed to be Jesus’ thumb mark when he touched her during his resurrection.

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You know you’re in Kawit when you see the iconic Aguinaldo Shrine, home of the Philippines’ first president and where the Philippine independence was declared in 1898.

Dambana ng Mahal na Birhen ng Soledad De Porta Vaga, Cavite City, Cavite

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The Altar of Our Lady of Solitude of Vaga Gate, loosely translated, is the most massive and grandiose church that we’ve visited during this trip. It is rightfully so because this is the home of the Nuestra Senora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, the patroness of the province of Cavite.

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The interior is still under repair, but I assume it would be very magnificent once it’s finished.

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I remember the Blessed Mother through stories passed on during homilies and Christian Living classes when I was younger. But it is just today that I learned about the real story of her miraculous statue and how it is the oldest dated Marian painting in the Philippines. She is revered and loved by all Cavitenos that even Julian Felipe, composer of the Philippine National Anthem, wrote a song for her called "Reina de Cavite," a song that I remember hearing during town fiestas.

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This dude’s got my back. He’s my homeboy.

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Quick ice cream break.

Holy Cross Parish Church, Tanza, Cavite

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We almost got lost looking for this church because our GPS said “Holy Cross” while locals kept calling it Santa Cruz. That was until my mother realized in a split second that Santa Cruz means, well duh!, Holy Cross.

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I’m not sure if this is a Caviteno practice, but outside the church, there were these particularly shaped candles that you light up to bless your family. I remember offering the same type of candles in Dasmarinas before and it’s surprising to see them here in Tanza as well.


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We lit two sets for my family and for my niece’s. Her baby sister was born a few days ago so we lit one for her as well.

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Call me superstitious, but the last time I offered candles for my family in Manaoag, we were spared from Ondoy. Also, probably because we live in a fairly high place. But superstition or not, it doesn’t hurt to believe.

Stay tuned for the next four churches that we’ve visited!

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