Cagayan Visita Iglesia
As Lent approaches and we countdown the forty days to Holy Week and Easter it has recently become the tradition to go out on Pilgrimages. The Visita Iglesia ( Spanish for “ to visit churches “ )is a Holy Week tradition where believers visit and pray in a minimum of seven different churches.
One Day or Several Days
It can be done in one day, usually on Maundy Thursday (which is the day before Good Friday, is a Christian holiday and regular non-working holiday in the Philippines.) if the churches are local, or it can be turned into a real Pilgrimage trip and take a few days. There are different ways to complete the Visita Iglesia Pilgrimage Stations of the Cross. The Pilgrims can either visit fourteen churches for each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, or pray at two stations seven different churches.
The Visita Iglesia Week
Travelling around during Holy Week has become so popular that tourists are now joining the thousands of Pilgrims and taking the chance to enjoy the festivities and visit old colonial churches and cathedrals on a Visita Iglesia across the country. The Province of Cagayan has many century old Spanish churches scattered along the Cagayan Valley Road or very close to it making Holy Week a good chance to get out and explore the Province and complete your own “Cagayan Visita Iglesia” Churches in the north of Luzon and especially in Cagayan are known for their Red Brick structures. Clay is readily available along the banks of the Cagayan River. In Barangay Atulu, Iguig there is still a large brickmaking industry.
St.Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral, Tuguegarao
The cathedrals red brick construction prepares us for the other churches we will see along the Cagayan Valley.
Finished in 1767,the Cathedral is one of the biggest churches in the region. It was heavily damaged during WW2 and subsequently rebuilt to its formerglory.
The façade pillars, and other details have recently been painted brick red from their previous colour of white.
Beside the Cathedral is a tall five storey bell tower
Minor Batasilica of Our Lady of Piat
The Basilica of Our Lady of Piat is one of the twelve Minor Basilicas in the Philippines. The shrine is dubbed as the Pilgrimage Centre of the North, and is home to the 407-year-old Black Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Piat.
During Holy Week be prepared for long queues here coming to pay homage to Our Lady of the Holy Roasary, the 400 year old image which is made of papier mache. The image was created in Macau and arrived in the Philippines in the early 17thC and eventually ended up in Piat .
St. James the Greater Church, Iguig
Despite its modern façade the church of St. James the Greater built between 1765 and 1787 is unique in that on the back wall there are some flying buttresses (Wikipedia)built for support.
Iguig is also famous for its Pilgrimage site of Calvary Hills, showcasing life size figures around its 14 stations of the Cross spread across 4 of its 11 hectares.
St. Philomene Church, Alcala
St. Philomene Church is situated along Maharlika highway. It was built in 1881 made of red bricks and is the largest brick church in the Archdiocese of Cagayan.
It is said to be the widest church in the Philippines at 24m wide and can easily accommodate four rows of pews
The bell tower is situated between the church and a school housed in the old convent.
St. Dominic Church, Lal-lo
Lal-lo was one of the first Spanish settlements in Cagayan and was known as Nueva Segovia. It was the seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia before it was moved to Vigan in 1758.
The façade of Lal-lo church is very similar to the one found in Alcala.
Just across the road on the banks of the Cagayan River is a large wooden Cross encased in a glass frame to help preserve the ancient wood from the elements. It was raised there by Dominican missionaries over 300 years ago.
Saint Hyacinth of Poland Church , Calamaniugan
The church is a modern structure but the main attraction here is the Sancta Maria Bell, “ The oldest Catholic bell in the Philippines and South East Asia”
The Sancta Maria Bell forged in 1595 hangs alongside three other bells, San Jacinto 1792, Nuestra Senora de Nieva Y Santa Barbara 1822, and Santiago Apostol 1879.
No one is sure how the Sancta Maria Bell ended up in the town. There is a record of it being an attraction at the 33rd International Eucharist Congress in |Manila in 1937
St.Lorenzo Ruiz Church, Aparri
Our last stop on this Cayagan Visita Iglesia.
This is not a Spanish red brick church but a modern structure built in 2006 inside the Lyceum of Aparri, one of the best religious schools in the country ,so I am told.
The school is also home to the Ecclesiastical Museum. The museum showcases the history of Catholicism in the Province.
Artifacts include religious statues and images, vestments, and other religious literature and items. There’s also a broken old bell but I couldn’t read its inscription (it needs to be cleaned very carefully)
How to get to Cagayan
By Bus – Victory Liner takes 12 hours to Tuguegarao from its Kamias terminal on East Avenue, Kamias, Quezon City.
More information and bookings check Victoryliner.com
By Air – PAL and Cebu Pacific have daily flights to Tuguegarao. Flight duration is 1 hr 10 minutes.
How to Get to Piat : In Tuguegarao take a tricycle to the Van Terminal going to Piat.
Fare is P60.Travel time is 45 minutes. Another alternative is to take the Jeep. Vans leave when full.
The Basilica is 40km from Tuguegarao City.
Where to Stay in Cagayan
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NOTE: This NLEX-SCTEX Lakbay Norte media familiarization tour was made possible by North Philippines Visitors Bureau in cooperation with Manila North Tollways Corp., Victory Liner, DOT 2, DOT 3, Jollibee Foods Corp., Petron, Prifood, Maynilad, NECVA and CNCVB.