Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lenten Confessions and Reflections: TSS' Visita Iglesia 2011

Something sad happened to me at this time of lent; something that really brought me to tears and bothered me a lot. Though I know I am the type of person who always look on the brighter side and that I am brave enough to face every trial that I might encounter, the damage it caused had greatly affected my happy disposition and scarred my self esteem. I really wondered why these things are happening. I didn't do anything wrong to carry a burden like this. And why during the Holy Week? At first I thought that it's unfair and unbearable but after praying and receiving some help from Him through my family and friends, I came then to realize one thing: He wants me to use these problems to reflect on life and keep my faith even stronger. So when my friends asked me out to stroll around Manila and do the traditional Visita Iglesia with a little Lenten Season food trip on the side, I immediately said yes. This way, I can go on a journey of faith, repent, uplift my spirit through His blessings of good comfort food and get back what I have lost when I was down.

Our first stop for the Visita Iglesia is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, better known as the San Sebastian Church. Completed in 1891, San Sebastian Church is noted for its architectural features - the only all-steel basilica in Asia and an example of the revival of Gothic architecture in the Philippines. It has also been implausibly reputed to be the first prefabricated building in the world and more credibly claimed as the only prefabricated steel church in the world. San Sebastian Church is under the care of The Order of the Augustinian Recollects who also run the San Sebastian College. While praying after lighting few candles, God have had me realized that whatever I am going through will be nothing for through His glory, everything will be happy again and that He wouldn't give us problems that we're not capable of handling. Faith.

San Sebastian Church

Formally known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat and the house of Sto. Nino de Praga, the San Beda Chapel is located inside the San Beda College in Mediola, Manila and was built in 1925 by the Benedictine Monks, who also run the college. The chapel has a neo-Gothic architecture, similar to other 20th century churches in the country. I greatly admired its painted walls, especially the one that is on the sanctuary, which has a theme inspired by the birth of Jesus and the vaulted ceilings, depicting the 14 stations of the cross and the 16 allegories in the virtues and theology of the church. This church has taught me to be thankful for all the things that is happening in our lives, both for the good and the bad ones. Everything happens for a reason and whatever it may be, God only wants the best for us. Gratitude.

San Beda Chapel

A brief and refreshing walk along Mendiola and the streets near the Malacanang Palace will bring you to the San Miguel Church. Built in 1630, San Miguel church was also regarded as the National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels and was distinguished as one of the European Baroque churches in the country. Being in this church is exactly like being touched by an angel; or should I say angels. Imagine being surrounded not just by the Archangels but by real life, God-given angels - my dear family and friends who never failed to give me overflowing love and undying support. Through them, I feel revived and happy, always ready to face the world and its challenges. Friendship.

San Miguel Church

After a short jeepney ride from Malacanang, we arrived at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, the St. John the Baptist Church or more popularly known as the Quiapo Church. It is the home of the miraculous Black Nazarene which was said to be brought by the Augustinian Recollect Friars in 1606. Visiting this church amidst of the massive crowd surrounding it made me believe that miracles do happen and it does even in the simplest ways we could ever imagine. Whatever our problems may be, will be solved if we know to offer it all to Him and pray. We just have to put our trust to the Lord and let Him be your guide in everything that we do. Trust.

Quiapo Church

Walking through the busy streets of Quiapo with my friends also made me think that even at this very moment, God is still blessing me. He never let me went into this journey alone but instead showered me with love and laughter from my friends, making every weight of the burden lighter. With this thought in mind, I didn't notice that we have already passed Carriedo and we already reached our next stop: Sta. Cruz Church.

The Sta. Cruz Church, the home of Our Lady of Pilar, was built by the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits in 1608 as a parish for the growing Chinese immigrants in Manila who were converted to the Catholic faith. The original church was said to be damaged twice by earthquakes and was also completely destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945. The Spanish baroque style is very evident with the church's architecture and was completed in 1957. At the entrance, I was embraced by the warm flickering lights of the candles and so I did bow my head and offered a short prayer. I first thanked Him for everything that I have, that in spite of all the hardships in life, still He gives me a lot of reasons to smile. Hope.

We then walked through the streets of Chinatown and Ongpin and though we're very hungry and thirsty, we decided to visit one more church before having lunch. I already saw its bell tower from a distance and getting closer to it made me even more astonished with its old world structure and charm. Situated at the heart of Chinatown, the Binondo Church was formally known as the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish and the Minor Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. Considered as one of the oldest places of worship in the country, this church was founded by the Dominican priests in 1596 also to serve the Chinese converts to Christianity. Named after the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, who used to serve as a altar boy at this very same church and died as a martyr in Okinawa, Japan for not denouncing his religion and faith. I was surprised that upon leaving the parish, someone gave me a prayer book and a rosary. It's like God is trying to tell me not frown for what I am going through now is just a part of his great plan for me. With that thought, I smiled, looked up into the sky and prayed. God, through his countless blessings is constantly making me strong and brave, one important thing that I learned from visiting this heritage site. Courage.

Binondo Church

From Binondo, we rode a tricycle and headed straight back to Chinatown to eat a light lunch at Wai Ying Restaurant. Since it's lent, I decided to eat light and avoided pork meat. I had Hakaw (prawn dumplings) and Soy Chicken, for drinks, the phenomenal Wai Ying Lemon Tea and Milk Tea. Hakaw or hakao is a soft dumpling with shrimp or prawn inside. It has a translucent steamed wanton exterior and some soft-cooked egg dough and shrimp interior. It's very mild in taste, perfect with the chili soy and calamansi sauce.


If you're looking for the traditional Soy Chicken, go to Wai Ying Restaurant and you'll never be disappointed. I love the tasty Chinese-style chicken meat that is roasted to perfection and the flavorful soy sauce that greatly complements the juicy white meat and steaming hot rice.

Soy Chicken Rice

True to what I've heard about the Wai Ying Cold Lemon Tea, it was made from freshly brewed tea with just the right sweetness of honey and citrusy, fresh lemons that you have to crush with a spoon to gently flavor your drink and get that distinct lemon taste. What makes this drink a hit thirst quencher is the shaved ice that you can spoon out to get that extra refreshing experience - perfect to beat the summer heat!

Cold Lemon Tea

I also fell in love with their Cold Milk Tea. It was very delicious with the right balance of sweet and bitter, black tea-like taste. I can't get over how the milk, when combined with the tea, creates a concoction that almost tastes like a creamy caramel or arnibal in Filipino. Just like the lemon tea, it is also served with shaved ice making it more refreshing.

Cold Milk Tea

After eating, I thanked God for these blessings and for giving us a chance to be gathered again and share these great tasting food. We rested for a while, freshen up a bit and then headed straight to our next church to visit. Next stop, The Manila Cathedral.

The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, formally known as the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is the ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Manila. It has been destroyed and damaged by fires, typhoons and earthquakes, yet over the years it was also continued to be rebuilt until it became a minor basilica. It's actually one of the historical churches that went numerous restorations and a great proof of our country's rich culture and history. What I love about this church is its majestic main facade that is graced by statues of saints sculpted in Roman travertine stone (the old ones are originally made of molave wood). These saints are namely, St. Rose of Lima, St. Jacob the Great, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Francis Xavier, St. Polycarp and St. Anthony Abbot. As I entered the main entrance, I was amazed by its Neo-Romanesque architecture and the details given to every part of the church. Inside, I silently prayed and thanked Him for giving me a positive outlook and cheerful demeanor inspite of the things that are happening and that I will continue to be a blessing to others and share the great things He blessed me with. Kindness.

Manila Cathedral

Also inside the historic walled city of Intramuros is another world heritage site and the oldest church still standing in the country, the San Agustin Church. One of the famous Baroque churches in the Philippines, this is under the auspices of The Order of St. Augustine and has also survived a lot of calamities and natural disasters. It also hosts an image of Our Lady of Consolation and was famous by it beautiful interior, ceiling and walls, all with intricate and magnificent trompe l'oeil mural. We were really amazed by this church and so we stayed for a while and offered again a little prayer. I wholeheartedly thanked Him for refraining me from despair and for giving me the ability to confront fear especially in times of uncertainty and intimidation. I humbly asked for His continuous guidance and blessing for my friends and family. Humility.

San Agustin Church

We ended or Visita Iglesia in another Baroque-style church which features a small park near Manila Bay, no other than the Malate Church. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies, the patroness of childbirth. Also, this church houses in its main altar an image of Our Lady which was brought by the Spaniards in 1624. It was built also by the Augustinians and was considered as one of the oldest churches in Manila outside Intramuros. In this church, though tired and hungry after that whole day of walking, I wholeheartedly raised it all to Him and offered all these sacrifices for His glory. These are nothing compared to what He did for mankind. I am forever grateful for this wonderful day of faith. Sacrifice

Malate Church

As I end this blog about my journey of faith, let me share you guys this verse that greatly moved and inspired me:

"For I know the plans I have for you", says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

So, whoever you are reading this blog right now and whatever problems you might have in your life, don't forget to pray to Him for He's always ready to listen. Always remember that God loves us and that He's got a better plan for you and for me. Now, The Strolling Spoon doesn't just walk with a happy tummy but also with a strong faith and a hopeful mindset. Happy Easter everyone!

Like me on Facebook to see the other pics for this TSS' Visita Iglesia 2011: The Strolling Spoon

Credits: Special thanks to my dear friends namely Gideon Ian Grefalda and Danyoela Mapagu-Grafalda for allowing me to use their shots for the following churches: Quiapo Church, Sta. Cruz Church, Binondo Church and the Manila Cathedral and to my best friend, Bherry Fortuna for allowing me to use your camera for some of my shots, most especially the food shots. To Cj Carreon, Yedy Calaguas, Chrissie Adriano and Raemon Santos for being such great good friends and company! ^__^

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