Visita Iglesia. A custom of visiting a number of churches during Holy Week (usually 7 or 14, corresponding to the number of the Stations of the Cross), mostly practiced by Catholics and the devoted. Sometimes coupled with readings of the Stations of the Cross.
While I am not part of this population of devoted Filipino Catholics, I am fascinated by the tradition. Visita iglesia is also part and parcel of the general fasting custom during Holy Week. Although we don’t practice it in my family, it’s difficult to overlook the practice in the predominantly Christian Luzon. Last year though, Mama and I had an impromptu visita of sorts, one that grew out of a longing to stretch our legs during the reprieve of that short vacation, and perhaps even the promise of a disguised adventure. The itinerary wasn’t fashioned after a particular plan — we just walked until we got to the churches. Of course, I had to rely heavily on Mama’s knowledge of the streets of Manila. The map of Manila in my head consists primarily of puzzle pieces of memories of restaurants, fleeting streets and facade from when we still had our old van.
I have a love/hate relationship with Manila. I love it because it is grand. I hate it because it is sordid. Manila is generous with empty promises, but I think this should be saved for another post.
For something that wasn’t planned, we ended up with a pretty “organized” way of visiting Manila’s landmarks. The reds indicate the paths we took on foot, the blue those times we took the jeep. We walked approximately 2-3km around Manila that day. While each step Mama took was dedicated to her memories of Manila, to the strengthening of her weakened leg, and to her faith, I for one kept firm conviction on my ability to pass unnoticed with a camera in hand. I was aware we were easy targets for anyone. Fortunately, crime rate in Manila (and possibly the entire Philippines) is directly proportional to events and occasions of national interest. Still, I did learn something from this walk: even though the streets of Manila are dangerous, there is still room for faith, in all its levels of meaning. And having faith in a place where few are willing to give it has its rewards:
I think this was also the first time I saw and walked the streets of the famous Escolta St. of old Manila, the busiest thoroughfare back in the day. I always had the impression it would be grand and wide. I guess I was just born half a century too late.
The Ongpin leg of the walk should definitely have a part two!
The complex and much criticized edifice of the City Hall of Manila is worth talking about in another post!
I should have taken a better shot of the San Agustin Church. I remember not being able to find a good angle with all the people walking around the square.
Here’s the original post in Filipino. It was my 21st birthday then :) That walk led to two more photowalks around Manila — the second one with walking/photo buddy Sab, and the third and last one of that year to catch a particularly colorful weekend on Manila Bay.
Just this April I had a space-time walk “around” Manila, thanks to Sab. We went with one of Carlos Celdran‘s barter tours of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, focusing on the rise and fall of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. It was a 2-hour historical chismis on a national scale. I’m looking forward to another barter tour! In the meantime, Manila still has a lot of secrets I’m all too happy to witness.