Every Holy Week, many Filipinos take the chance to travel or relax for a whole week. But for devout Catholics, it is the perfect time for prayer and Visita Iglesia. The Philippines is ripe with religious destinations. Around Manila alone, pilgrims can visit beautiful churches and shrines to do their Stations of the Cross. If you’re still unsure where to go for your yearly Visita Iglesia, these destinations can be easily reached from the metro.
Religious destinations in the Philippines outside Metro Manila
1. Monasterio de Tarlac, San Jose, Tarlac
Image credit: Monasterio de Tarlac
Located at Brgy. Lubigan San Jose, Tarlac’s Eco-Tourism Park, Monasterio de Tarlac was constructed to serve as a hermitage for monks. Now, it also stands as a popular place of worship for Catholics. The church’s proud white façade is a welcoming sight after a long journey to the province.
There’s also a 30-foot-high statue of the Risen Christ, which is reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.
2. Kamay ni Hesus Shrine, Lucban, Quezon
Image credit: JaneGalvez.com
Kamay ni Hesus Shrine located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in Quezon is not just known for its towering 50-ft statue of the Ascending Christ. Its 305-step grotto with statues of the Stations of the Cross is also equally revered among Catholics. Many Catholics go to this church for the healing masses led by healing priest Rev. Fr. Joseph Ayala Faller.
For those looking for a spiritual retreat, the construction of Noah’s Ark near the church provides sanctuary and guidance to lost or tired souls.
3. National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Marilao, Bulacan
Image credit: Ramon FVelasquez
Many pilgrims find healing in the flowing water found at the basement of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan. The shrine also has life-sized Stations of the Cross statues, perfect for conducting Visita Iglesia.
The shrine also boasts the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Grotto of the Resurrection and the Little Poland Museum, which depicts the life of Pope John Paul II.
4. National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo, Rizal
Image credit: Ramon FVelasquez
Also known as the Virgin of Antipolo, the statue of the Black Madonna is a wooden image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, brought to the country in 1626 aboard the galleon Almirante. The 17th-century image started attracting devotees in the 19th century and is believed to be miraculous. Even during the construction of the church, the statue would mysteriously disappear and would be found on top of a tipolo tree. The statue has been temporarily placed in Cavite and even brought back to Mexico a couple of times, before settling in its permanent home in Antipolo, Rizal.
5. Tatlong Krus, Paete, Laguna
Image credit: Lakbay Diwa
On the peak of Mount Humarap in Paete, Laguna, you’ll find three tall white crosses, with a majestic view of a small town and Laguna de Bay behind it. It’s one of the more well-known religious destinations in the Philippines. Pilgrims can reach Tatlong Krus after a small climb up the hill. They will also pass by the Matabungka Falls along the way.
As the crosses are also seen from the town, it’s a popular landmark of Paete, a town known for the artisan craft wood carving.
6. Pink Sisters Convent, Tagaytay
Image credit: Marge Espenida
Named after the nuns wearing pink habits, Pink Sisters Convent in Tagaytay is popular among pilgrims. Nuns take turns praying in front of the altar, so there’s always a sister praying 24/7. Visitors can submit prayer requests through a dropbox.
For those intending to attend a mass, check out the schedule of their liturgical services.
7. Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan
Image credit: Judgefloro
A well-known religious and ecological destination in Bulacan, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is a replica of France’s Lourdes grotto. For faith seekers doing Visita Iglesia, the 14 Stations of the Cross are depicted through life-sized statues at Calvary Hill. There’s also a Rosary Hill featuring 155 large beads, and a natural spring known to have healing powers is located below the Our Lady statue.
8. Regina Rica Queen of the Holy Rosary, Tanay, Rizal
Image credit: Ryme26
The astounding 71-foot-tall statue of the Queen of the Holy Rosary is a sight to behold once you enter the compound. Devotees flock to the 14-hectare sanctuary managed by Dominican sisters to pray, contemplate, and see for themselves the bigger-than-life statue of the Queen. The place of worship has a waterfall, a creek, and an estimated 10,000 trees, helping devotees commune with God and with nature.
9. Monte Maria Shrine, Alfonso, Cavite
Aside from the Marian shrine itself, the relocated Monte Maria site in Alfonso, Cavite has frequent pilgrim visits because of the mass of the healing priest Father Fernando Suarez. Though the construction is ongoing, it is still a popular place of worship for the sick and persons with disabilities.
10. Banal na Bunduk Dalan Ning Krus, Mt. Arayat, Magalang, Pampanga
Image credit: Banal na Bunduk, Dalan ning Krus
Banal na Bunduk Dalan Ning Krus, or Holy Mountain Way of the Cross, sits at the foot of Mt. Arayat. Life-sized statues depicting the 14 stations of the cross lead the way to the mountain summit. Devotees who seek to pray and sacrifice can consider this destination.
Religious destinations in Visayas
11. Basilica del Santo Niño, Cebu City, Cebu
We can’t forget the oldest church in the Philippines when discussing religious destinations. The first Catholic baptism in the Philippines happened at the site where Basilica del Santo Niño stands today. The Cross of Magellan, an important monument to Roman Catholic Filipinos, marks where this historical event took place.
12. Baclayon Church, Baclayon, Bohol
Numerous earthquakes and typhoons have struck Baclayon Church throughout its history. But for locals, the resiliency from this church fuels its locals to remain faithful. After what it went through, Baclayon Church remains beautiful and strong, which is why it is one of the most inspiring religious destinations in the Philippines.
13. Trappist Monastery, San Miguel, Jordan, Guimaras
The Trappist Monastery in Guimaras has always been a place of peace on the humble island province. Monks and nuns around the church are always attentive to visitors who wish to confide anything for any reason. They also have dedicated spaces for self-reflection and meditation in the area.
Religious destinations in Mindanao
14. Christ the King Cathedral
One of the strangest but definitely majestic religious destinations in the Philippines is Christ the King Cathedral. This cathedral stands out because of the modern architecture it possesses since it looks like a very unique castle from afar. Sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross are also present on its grounds for pilgrims.
Bonus: Crucifixion Re-enactment, San Fernando, Pampanga
While most devotees settle with joining processions, attending masses and spending hours praying, some chose the more painful path of re-enacting Christ’s crucifixion.
Most men join this practice every Good Friday. They say that they do it as a sign of their gratitude to God or as a form of sacrifice. Though the Catholic Church doesn’t endorse it, the participants have an unshaken resolve to do it every year.
What are your plans this Holy Week? Be a Catholic or not, these spots are good destinations for a relaxing long weekend.