For the past few years, we had been doing our Visita Iglesia, or the practice of visiting seven (or more) churches during Holy Week to pray and meditate on the Paschal mysteries, around Metro Manila. We have visited various historical and new churches in Manila, Quezon City, and just last year, Makati.
This year I planned for us to visit churches in a nearby province. We decided on Bulacan. These are the seven Bulacan churches we visited yesterday Good Friday:
1. NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE DIVINE MERCY
We exited NLEX from the Marilao exit (no. 23). I just followed the road up to the dead end, then turned left. Not long after, the traffic already got very heavy and we were just inching along. I turned right when it pointed to the parking area. There was a very long queue of cars as well. Parking was P20 for a car. Luckily, it was not too difficult to find a parking spot on the field.
2. OUR LADY OF LOURDES GROTTO CHURCH
From Divine Mercy, the Grotto is still quite a long distance away in Tungkong Mangga. There was a Savemore near the corner of the main road where you should make a right turn. It is still quite a distance from the turn, but the road just went on straight until there was a road block. Luckily there was still space in the parking lot near the road block. It was already 12 high noon and very hot when we got down to walk to the church.
I was very excited to visit this church because it was said to be based on the actual church of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. However when we got there, it was very disappointing to see that people have littered trash all over the grounds and these have not been collected yet. There were a lot of market stalls selling food, clothes and other dry goods lining the road going to the church and even in the church patio. After saying our prayers inside the church, we did not stay anymore to look for the actual grotto and just walked back to our car.
3. ST. ANDREW KIM CHURCH
From Grotto, we found ourselves back to the main road heading back to NLEX. We took a lunch break at the Hidden Sanctuary Resort restaurant, which unfortunately had very slow service so it was already about 2 pm when we left. There was a bit of a detour fronting Divine Mercy church, so it was not easy to get our way back into the main road. We crossed NLEX over to the other side and went along the service road. We just followed this road all the way till it reached McArthur Hi-way, with a McDonald's right at the corner.
We crossed the intersection to the other side and saw this church on the right side. This was the St. Andrew Kim Parish Church, which was surprisingly unfinished. We said our prayers and looked at some of their historical displays outside depicting the history of St. Andrew Kim, a Korean priest and martyr who stayed in Lolomboy before. There is a shrine further along the road, with an ornate chapel and pagoda with an Oriental motif. This was a very peaceful, serene area with a quiet lake beside it.
4. ST. MARTIN OF TOURS CHURCH
From St. Andrew Kim, we drove back to McArthur Hi-way and turned left. We crossed over a big bridge. To go to the St. Martin Church, I was told to turn left at a 7-11. I just followed the road in and finally saw the church. We parked at the side of the church since the front area looks narrow.
When we got inside, we were lucky to be just in time to hear their church choir singing "Pananagutan" and "Tell the World of His Love." It was a very moving performance. This is one of the oldest churches in Bulacan, dating back to the 1600s. This is the church where the Holy Cross of Wawa, of the Pagoda Festival fame, is enshrined.
5. ST. LAWRENCE THE DEACON AND MARTYR CHURCH
We got back to McArthur Hi-way and continued to the next town of Balagtas. The St. Lawrence Church is located on the right side of the road just behind the Balagtas Municipal Hall. Its history goes back all the way to 1598, though the facade we see now looks modern already because of repeated renovations.
6. ST. ILDEFONSE CHURCH
From McArthur Hi-way, we went on to the next town of Guiguinto. St. Ildefonse Church is a small church located on the left side of McArthur itself, before a bridge. There is a school located beside it. Though it looks modern now, this is is also a very old church with a history dating back to 1691.
7. NATIONAL SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA
I had wanted to go on to the next town of Malolos, but it is already about 5 pm and the kids were tired. So I turned back and returned to Manila also via McArthur Hi-way. For our final church to visit, we decided to stop by the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela, a city that used to be in Bulacan, but had been included in Metro Manila since its inception in the 1970s. I have heard of this shrine for a long time, but this is the first time I have actually seen it.