ARTS AND CULTURE: Semana Santa: Visita Iglesia 2016

9:00 AM

It looked like an exodus gone bad.
Cars practically parked on the northbound lane of the NLEX and TPLEX. Coupled with moans about the horrendous traffic jam, my fb feed resembled a traffic monitoring app last Maundy Thursday morning. I guess, the lesson there is that if you want to get out of the capital for your Easter break, better do it in the dark of Wednesday night.

I blame naiveté for the spur of the moment decision to abandon our usual Visita Iglesia Itinerary and head west. If there’s hardly another soul in the National Capital Region, it is okay to travel 20 kms to the center to visit the old churches, right?  

In our little corner east of Manila, it has always been people and traffic free during Semana Santa. Marcos Highway, Katipunan Ave, and C-5 are a driver’s dream. Coming and going from churches are also a breeze, hardly any jostling even if some do the way of the cross along the periphery of the church. We often start at 8:30 pm and be done well before midnight.

We stuck with our usual first stop, the Our Lady of the Abandoned in Marikina, where it was business as usual. People came and went in an orderly fashion as expected. Marikina, after all, is a city of good manners.

Things started to get odd when we entered Quezon City and stopped at our second church for the night. Parking at Santo Domingo Church was hard to come by that we had to park roadside. There were lots of people in the church. Not packed, as told by some of the empty pews, but there was certainly a lot if the queue for confession was an indicator.

Then it got really worse at the intersection of Espanya and Quezon Blvd approaching Recto. An hour of inching our way towards Quiapo Church made us see all sorts of characters outside the car window. There were the panatas who barefooted it to Quiapo with the Black Nazarene statue on their backs, the jaywalkers who blatantly disregarded the existence of an overpass some five meters away, as well as the white dude spotted inside an airport taxi. If he was heading to the airport, I certainly hope he made it on time.

By the time we finally hit the ground, it was clear that Manila wasn’t deserted. I couldn’t walk a mere two feet without bumping into a warm sweaty body. Downtown, uptown, within its walled city, it was the same hot, humid, packed scene. Whoever was left in the city was doing his her rounds in the capital.

Manila – as in Metro Manila – is after all, an amalgamation of sixteen cities and one municipality. It is the home of twelve million souls at the last count. So while social media can give a good insight of what’s happening on the ground, it still can’t paint quite the accurate picture when it comes to Kalakhang Maynila. 

1. Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish, Marikina

The altar abound with Sampaguitas. Certainly made the it smell nice. 

The rather irregular placing of the pews might have made coming and going easier but it also made praying a bit awkward too.
Turned sideways isn't exactly the usual posture when in prayer. 

Some still prayed facing the main altar of the church even if the statues were covered with purple cloth. 
Commerce right outside the church gates. 

2. National Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila (Santo Domingo Church), Quezon City

Carroza ng mga santos, out for the Good Friday procession

Kumpisalang Bayan in Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo's pretty glass panes from the courtyard

San Martin de Pores along the corridor 

Queue for Kumpisalang Bayan

The church altar dimmed for the night. Attention must be towards the tabernacle.
Santo Domingo Church is said to be the biggest church in Metro Manila. 
To the right of the altar is the tabernacle. 

Two priests doing their time on their knees. 

3. The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church), Manila

It was bumper to bumper on the way to Quiapo Chruch.
It seems as though a lot of people had the same idea.

Quiapo Church from Plaza Miranda. It has become what it has always been, a meeting place for people. 

Quiapo Church, simply put, was packed. 

It was quite a struggle to get inside from the side since a lot of people were doing the stations of the cross. 

Camera phones up! People taking photos of the Tabernacle. 

The faithful on their knees. Some brought their own prayer books. 

*In between Quiapo Church and Santa Cruz Church

Free water near Plaza Miranda. Mostly for the pilgrims but anyone can have a drink or two. 
A group of Panata parked their image of the Black Nazarene by the side of the road.
This lady stops for a moment to touch the statue. 
This group of Panatas of the Black Nazarene from Santa Mesa, having finally arrived in Quiapo, searches for a spot where they can rest.

4. Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church (Santa Cruz Church), Manila

Trompe l'oeil for the seemingly elaborate altar 

This group brought their crosses 

Santa Cruz Church is popular on its own though perhaps its proximity to Quiapo Church brought more people to its doors. 

5. Immaculate Conception Parish Church of San Agustin (San Agustin Church), Intramuros Manila

Quite a festive atmosphere outside the country's oldest church

An effort to create some semblance of order 

Standing or kneeling, people praying 

Trompe l'oeil employed to create the elaborate interiors. 

San Agustin's chandeliers features blue crystal drops. 

The throng of people walking to and from San Agustin Church and the Manila Cathedral

6. The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral), Intramuros Manila

Manila Cathedral all lit up and quite lovely as ever. 

This photo doesn't do this room justice. That mosaic is simply arresting.
Had to take it from the outside as photo taking wasn't allowed in the room.

As it was close to midnight, church folks were preparing the statues for Good Friday. 

Lots of people and no AC. Imagine the humidity.
That was one step to ruining this church all over again. 

Manila Cathedral from behind

7. Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church (Malate Church), Manila

Unfortunately. we didn't make it. So we prayed just outside the Church's doors. 
When we got there, lights were still on but the doors were already closed. 
A World War II Memorial on the grounds of Malate Church 

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