Lent is an important time for our primarily Catholic nation, and Manila residents need not go far to take part in the tradition of Visita Iglesia.

Part of the Department of Tourism’s thrust towards faith tourism is a partnership with the Intramuros Administration where the old center of Manila will take center stage: this year’s Lenten activities will take place amid baroque churches and fortified bulwarks.

Seven churches in Intramuros will serve as stops for Maundy Thursday (March 29)’s Visita Iglesia, and will be open to the public from 8 in the morning to midnight. This is the first time that these churches will all be open to the public since World War II, allowing us to follow the footsteps of our Spanish era ancestors.

The seven churches are:

The Manila Cathedral

Built in 1571 at the center of Intramuros, the episcopascal seat of the Manila Achbishop has hosted three papal visits: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.

San Agustin Church

This Baroque church was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993, and is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.

San Ignacio Church

Photo Wikipedia

This Jesuit church was completed in 1899, and houses the Museo de Intramuros.

Guadalupe Shrine

This small shrine is located inside Fort Santiago, where national hero Jose Rizal spent his last days.

Knights of Columbus Fr. Willmann Church

Located inside the Knights of Columbus building, the church is named after the first district deputy of the organization in the Philippines of this Catholic fraternal service organization.

Lyceum of the Philippines University Chapel

This chapel is seated within the Lyceum of the Philippines University Manila campus, a school founded by Dr. Jose P. Laurel, who eventually became the Philippines’ third president.

Mapua University Chapel

Photo Wikipedia

This chapel is seated within the Mapua University campus, and manages to keep its old school charm in a school known for its information technology courses.

Other activities

General Luna Street will also be the site for the Via Crucis, more commonly known as the Stations of the Cross, from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday (March 31). Follow the last days and sacrifice of Jesus Christ with images that were supplied by the San Agustin Museum through the Vatican II‑sanctioned New Way of the Cross.

Martir sa Golgota, a modern take on the classic Cenaculo plays, will also be staged along General Luna street, in front of Palacio del Gobernador, by the Tanghalang Sta. Ana, and directed by seasoned performer and Tanghalan president Lou Veloso. Catch the play at 7:30 p.m. on Maundy Thursday.

The Department of Tourism estimates that there will be at least 500,000 local and foreign tourists on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. To facilitate traffic within Intramuros, General Luna will be closed to traffic, while there will be ten parking areas provided to the public. There will also be guards, water stations and vending sites stationed along the way. The Red Cross van is stationed in front of the Manila Cathedral, at Plaza Roma. There are portalets stationed at the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church.

Opening up Intramuros for Lenten activities is only a part of the DoT’s endorsement of faith tourism. With our rich history steeped in folk Catholicism, pre-colonial beliefs, Islam, and various practices taken from trade with nearby nations, our country has a lot to offer when it comes to the fascinating topic of religion and belief.-LDG