Holy Week in the Philippines has two faces: pious Catholics repenting for their sins through a plethora of sacrifices and modern citizens taking advantage of the long break to go to the beach and enjoy the sun. Since I have all summer to soak up in the sun, I decided to go the pious route this year and do some, if not all, the activities expected of the practicing Catholic during the Lenten season. I have decided to visit Davao churches with my family this year.
Visita Iglesia is a religious tradition observed by Catholics. People visit at least seven churches during Holy Week, usually on Maundy Thursday. Since we have other things planned for the entire week, we decided to do Visita Iglesia on Palm Sunday.
Visita Iglesia The Filipino Way
The Philippines is the largest predominantly Catholic country in Asia, followed only by East Timor (Timor Leste). Spaniards colonized the country for more than three centuries. As a result, Filipinos have embraced Catholicism and to this day practice the traditions by heart.
While the normal Visita Iglesia requires visiting seven churches, very pious Filipinos visit 14. Some recite the 14 Stations of the Cross in each while others do so in just one church. If done on Maundy Thursday, each visit involves praying before the Blessed Sacrament. In some cases, people give offerings to every church.
For Filipinos living overseas and for those who cannot make the trip to churches, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines created a portal called Visita Iglesia Online.
Seven Davao Churches
We visited Davao Churches that were personally significant to me. Since it was Palm Sunday, there was little opportunity to recite the 14 Stations of the Cross, much less pray before the Blessed Sacrament. But we had a spiritual experience nonetheless.
We visited the following churches:
St. Joseph the Worker Parish
Location: Km. 11, Sasa, Davao City
St. Joseph the Worker Parish is a beautiful marble church surrounded by trees. It is one of the first Davao churches that renovated its main building to include air-conditioning. In recent years, the church transformed into a stunning piece of architecture. This may well be a tribute to its patron St. Joseph who was himself a carpenter.
Location: J.P. Laurel Avenue, Davao City (fronting SM Lanang Premier)
This is the only one among Davao churches that does not belong to a parish. The Discalced Carmelite Nuns run the quaint church and they live in the convent adjacent to it. Carmelite Monastery’s church building is simplistic in design though the altar is quite intricate and there is a choir loft at the narthex. Outside are gardens with images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Mary, and Saint Therese.
Location: J.P. Laurel Avenue, Davao City (fronting Abreeza Ayala Mall, Seda Hotel)
Formally known as the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish, this church is one of the most popular of all Davao Churches. Perhaps it is because of its accessibility (one jeepney ride from most points in the city) and maybe it’s popular because a lot of locals are devotees to the church’s patron. The small chapel at the back houses the Blessed Sacrament.
Sta. Ana Cathedral
Location: Sta. Ana Avenue, Davao City
Sta. Ana Cathedral is one of the oldest Davao churches. The parish recently renovated the church. In a bid to increase church attendance, they added air-conditioning like St. Joseph Church. Sta. Ana Cathedral is especially popular among brides because of its long aisle with interesting floor patterns and vintage chandeliers.
San Pedro Cathedral
Location: San Pedro Street, Davao City (fronting Sangguniang Panglungsod, Davao City Hall)
San Pedro Cathedral is a stone church with a shape that resembles a gargantuan ship. The interior is elegantly designed with stained glass images of biblical scenes; its altar is intricately laden in gold with statues of saints which reminds me of the altar of Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu in Cebu City. San Pedro Cathedral is the busiest among Davao Churches, with Sunday masses celebrated every hour from dawn until dusk.
San Pablo Parish Church
Location: Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City
San Pablo Parish Church or St. Paul Church is another church that features simplistic design. The church is airy with wooden fixtures dominating its altar. Outside the main church building is a musical bell tower, considered to the tallest the city. Within the church compound is the office of Davao Catholic Herald, the oldest Catholic publication in Asia.
Sto. Nino Shrine
Location: Shrine Shills, Matina, Davao City
Simply known to most locals as Shrine, this is of the Davao Churches that are very hard to get to. It is perched on the hilly area of Davao’s southern parts so most churchgoers need a personal vehicle or else take a cab or hire a tricycle. I would not advise the trike. This church is perfect for meditation since it is surrounded by mango trees and a wide expanse of Bermuda grass-laden grounds. Jack’s Ridge is right in front of this Davao church.
These Davao churches are worth visiting even when it’s not Holy Week. Whether you need a spiritual experience or you just want to marvel at the architecture, these churches definitely fit the bill. This Lenten season, take the time to reflect. After that, you can go to the beach, beach, beach!