Apr 20, 2022

The Best Churches in Manila To Visit for Visita Iglesia

When Spain colonized the Philippines, it brought with it the Roman Catholic religion and practices. The spread of Catholicism resulted in the building of many beautiful churches throughout the archipelago. 

Visita Iglesia, literally “church visit,” is one of the most popular activities observed by Roman Catholics across the Philippines during Holy Week. Usually done on Maundy Thursday, Visita Iglesia is when the faithful visit and pray in at least seven separate churches in order to repent for their sins and to ask for favors from God. 

If you are planning to do Visita Iglesia this coming Holy Week, we have prepared a list of beautiful and historical churches you should have in your itinerary. 

Jorge Láscar | Flickr

Origins of Visita Iglesia 

During the Holy Week, Roman Catholics partake in the tradition of Visita Iglesia wherein they visit and pray in at least seven different churches. The purpose of such a vow is to honor the Blessed Sacrament as well as to meditate and seek penance for sins. Some even believe that personal wishes and miracles would be granted upon the completion of their Visita Iglesia. 

There are a few suggestions on how the Visita Iglesia became a practice. One says it came from the early Christian communities of the Roman Empire, who commemorated the suffering and death of Jesus in seven parts. 

Consequently, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the practice evolved into its current form of visiting seven churches. The practice spread to other cities under Rome, and then over time, Visita Iglesia finally came to the Philippines through the Spanish missionaries who first came to our shores in the 1560s. 

Wayne S. Grazio | Flickr

7 Churches To Visit in Manila for Visita Iglesia

If you don’t have the time or funds to go out of the metro during the Holy Week, these seven churches within the City of Manila are perfect for your Visita Iglesia. 

autan | Flickr

San Agustin Church 

Address: General Luna Street, Intramuros 

Located within the walled city of Intramuros, San Agustin Church is a precious relic that immortalizes both nationhood and the Catholic religion of the Philippines. Miraculously, this church was the only building that was left intact in Intramuros during the devastation of World War II. 

It is believed that San Agustin is the oldest stone church in the country, originally built in 1589. Because of its historical importance, this church was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. 

Designed and built by the Augustinians, the church was modeled after the churches in Mexico. Its interior is well-known for its hand-painted trompe l’oeil ceiling. Attached to the church complex is a museum featuring historical and religious artifacts. 

Patrick Roque | Wikimedia Commons

Malate Church 

Address: M. H. Del Pilar Street, Malate

This beautiful Baroque-style church is dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de Remedios or “Our Lady of Remedies.” It is considered as one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Manila with a long history of rebuilding and restoration. This church is one of only two churches in the Philippines with a façade that features twisted columns, the other one being Quiapo Church.  

Manila Cathedral 

Address: Cabildo corner Beaterio Street, Intramuros

It’s no surprise that we have a Roman Catholic basilica located just within the City of Manila in Intramuros. That’s because the walled city was Spain’s seat of government in the Philippines during colonial times. Today, the church serves as the prime basilica of the Philippines and the highest seat of the Archbishop in the country. The basilica is also the episcopal see of the Archbishop of Manila. 

Unfortunately, the original structure of the church built in 1581 had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current structure comes from the rebuild that was completed in 1958. This features the biggest pipe organ in the country so far. 

The Best Churches in Manila To Visit for Visita Iglesia
Fmgverzon | Wikimedia Commons

Sta. Cruz Church 

Address:  Plaza Sta. Cruz, Santa Cruz

The Sta. Cruz Church, named after the Holy Cross, is dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Pilar, also known as “Our Lady of the Pillar.” This Baroque church was established by the Jesuits sometime around the early 1600s for the growing population of the Chinese Christian converts in Manila.  

The cathedral features the image of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which was brought all the way from Spain to the Philippines. Just like the other churches in Manila, this one also suffered a lot of damage over the centuries and has gone through many repairs and construction. 

Patrick Roque | Wikimedia Commons

Binondo Church 

Address:  Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo

This minor basilica is dedicated to St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. The church was where the first Filipino Saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, served as a sacristan. Just like the Sta. Cruz Church, it was founded to cater to the growing population of the Chinese Christian converts in Manila.  

The Binondo Church was established in 1596 but transferred to another site in 1614. It was transferred to its present site in the 18th century. Since then, many improvements and reconstructions have been done to the church. During World War II, it was heavily damaged and only the stone walls and octagonal bell tower were left intact. The church was built in the 1950s. 

Einnox | Wikimedia Commons

Quiapo Church 

Address:  Plaza Miranda, Quiapo

This minor basilica found in Quiapo is dedicated to the Black Nazarene. It is also known canonically as the Parish of Saint John the Baptist. The Quiapo Church is famously known for featuring the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus Christ that is said to be miraculous. 

The Black Nazarene was carved by an unknown Mexican artist from dark wood sometime in the 16th century and then brought to the Philippines in 1606. Just like the other churches in Manila, the Quiapo Church also features Baroque-style architecture. 

Asolrac1 | Wikimedia Commons

San Sebastian Church 

Address: Pasaje del Carmen Street, Quiapo

The San Sebastian Church, also known as the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, is also known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Completed in 1891, this church is renowned for its architectural style of Gothic Revival. It was built with prefabricated steel parts from Belgium and is considered as the only all-steel church in the whole of Asia. 

The church has been included tentatively in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Philippine government has also declared this church as a National Historical Landmark in 1973. 

wanderlasss | Flickr

Other Historical Churches Around the Philippines 

If time and budget allow you to travel around the country for the Holy Week, the country is teeming with beautiful, historical, and sacred churches for you to visit. Any one of them is sure to make your Visita Iglesia more meaningful. 

Northern Luzon 

  • Calasiao Church, Pangasinan 
  • Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte 
  • Santa Maria Church, Ilocos Sur 
  • Bantay Church, Ilocos Sur 
  • Bacarra Church, Ilocos Norte 
  • Sarrat Church, Ilocos Norte 
  • Our Lady of Piat Church, Cagayan 
  • San Jose de Ivana Church, Batanes 

Central Luzon 

  • Betis Church, Pampanga 
  • Barasoain Church, Bulacan 

Metro Manila 

  • Pasig Cathedral, Pasig 
  • Church of San Juan del Monte, San Juan 
  • Parañaque Cathedral, Parañaque 

Southern Luzon 

  • Taal Basilica, Batangas 
  • Tayabas Church, Quezon Province 
  • Daraga Church, Albay 
  • Paete Church, Laguna 
  • Liliw Church, Laguna 
  • Pakil Church, Laguna 
Allan Agcanas | Flickr

Central Visayas 

  • Baclayon Church, Bohol 
  • Santo Niño Basilica, Cebu City 

Western Visayas 

  • San Sebastian Cathedral, Bacolod City 
  • Santa Monica Parish Church, Panay Island 

Eastern Visayas 

  • Miag-ao Church, Iloilo

Mindanao 

  • San Salvador del Mundo Church, Caraga 
  • Tamontaka Church, Cotabato City 
  • Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, Dipolog City 
  • Jimenez Church, Misamis Occidental 

Holy Week in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Religion and faith play a pivotal role in the life of most Filipinos, who put great importance on ceremonies, rituals, and traditions. Needless to say, celebrating Holy Week during the COVID-19 pandemic had been difficult.

The Philippine government, through the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Diseases) restricted churchgoers from visiting churches and attending other religious gatherings during the lockdowns that happened in the past two years. As a reaction, churches across the country resorted to holding online masses and even Visita Iglesia for devoted followers to watch from their homes. 

Fortunately, ever since the number of COVID cases dropped significantly, the government has eased up on restrictions, allowing religious gatherings to happen once again. Restrictions on travel have also been lifted, right on time for the Holy Week this year for those faithful devotees who wish to travel around the country for Visita Iglesia.  

Other Houses of Worship in Metro Manila 

The Philippines has a diverse background as a result of being home to different ethnicities, cultures, and religions. Thus, other notable houses of worship have been established. In Metro Manila, here are some of the most popular ones: 

Iglesia ni Cristo Central Temple

The INC Central Temple, also known as Templo Central, is the largest house of worship of the Iglesia ni Cristo in the world. Impressively, it is also the world’s third largest church and Asia’s largest church ever built, capable of accommodating up to 7,000 people. 

Address: 1 Central Ave., New Era, Quezon City, 1101 Metro Manila  

Patrick Roque | Wikipedia

Masjid Al-Dahab

The Muslims make up about 11% of the Philippines’ total population. There are several mosques in the country, and one of the most notable is the Masjid Al-Dahab, also known as the Golden Mosque, in the Quiapo district of Manila. Masjid Al-Dahab is considered the largest mosque in Metro Manila. The beautiful building is well-known for its bright golden dome incorporated with Middle Eastern structures and color palettes from different ethnicities in Mindanao. 

Address: Globo de Oro Street, Quiapo, Manila, 1001 Metro Manila 

Patrick Roque | Wikipedia

Seng Guan Ssu Buddhist Temple

The Chinese have been in the Philippines for centuries, passing down cultural and religious relics generation after generation. Buddhism has been a top religion of the Chinese, so you can expect a number of temples within Manila. The most prominent one is the Seng Guan Temple in Tondo. Inside this temple, you can find elements of Stupa, urns holding the ashes of prominent Buddhist personalities, several meditation quarters, and some shrines.  

Address: Narra Street, Tondo, Manila, Metro Manila 

Gigie Cruz | Wikipedia

Beit Yaacov Synagogue

Though the Jewish community is quite small (only in the hundreds) compared to the other religious groups in the Philippines, it nevertheless exhibits the same level of passion and faith. The one and only synagogue in the Philippines is located in Salcedo Village in Makati. The beautiful complex is fitted with a large function room, a kosher kitchen, library, classrooms, offices, and a mikvah. 

Address: 110 H.V. Dela Costa St., Makati, Metro Manila

If you have taken your vow of doing Visita Iglesia during Holy Week, be sure to keep this guide in mind so you can visit the most iconic churches in Manila and the rest of the country. Read more about historical architecture in the Philippines and other useful guides here at enta.ph

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