Last Good Friday, Chris and I decided to continue one of their family’s traditions of visiting and praying in the seven churches or what they call ‘coches noches’ (i’m not sure if I named or spelled it right, though).
We started with the farthest one (two long worthy jeepney rides), which is the Miag-ao church, and I was so amazed with its architecture and the way it was preserved. I’ve seen a lot of old churches in Luzon particularly those in Bicol, Quezon, Laguna, Cavite, Mindoro and Batangas (thanks to my hobby of being lakwatsera and being history fanatic and to my history and art classes in UPLB), but I’ve never seen anything like this one yet.
The color is yellowish unlike the terracotta color I’m used to seeing in other churches. It also has a mystic effect on me because upon seeing it, I think I just stood in front of the chuch in awe for a couple of minutes when I suddenly remembered our purpose of going there. No, definitely not a field trip although it came as a bonus, but a meaningful contemplation about God’s love.
Inside the church, I was amazed with the number of people doing the station of the cross and they were all families. Bad thing, we don’t have a copy of the Way of the Cross, so we just skipped it. And compared to other churches, there were no vendors in the church’s vicinity (there were only two and those were across the street). That made our visit there more solemn.
Next stop, Guimbal church. I already visited that last year but there was an undergoing construction and it’s not as beautiful as what I remember it. Or maybe I’m just really biased with things that are old and well-preserved because it reminds me of old ways and old times. I love the air and the smell of old churches. Unlike the first, this one was crowded with vendors. Not really a good thing, in my opinion, but thanks to it, we were finally able to buy a copy of the Way of the Cross and just decided to do it on the seventh church.
Then we went to Tigbauan church. From the outside, it looked as if it was another victim of Mr. Boysen but upon stepping inside, wow – it is one big surprise. Every inch is a work of art. All of the images of the saints and the pictures in each station were mosaic. It was really breathtaking. I can only imagine the hard work and the passion and the dedicaton of those that were behind it.
Then we headed to Oton church. The inside was painted blue and white. Then Villa Arevalo church. And the Molo church and finally, the La Paz church where we did the Station of the Cross. We opted not to go to the Jaro church anymore since we attend and hear mass there regularly.
We started in the morning and it was almost 3pm when we finished. Yes, it was super duper tiring. We were walking under the heat of the sun and we were waiting for the jeepneys for so many minutes because there were only few PUJs operating on those towns but the experience was something attached to my heart that I never felt those things while we were doing them.
It’s really touching to see families doing those things together. I’m teary-eyed everytime we’re already inside the church because I can only wish for it. I’m more than happy because I realized, religious traditions are very alive in Iloilo unlike in some places where families think of Holy Week as the time to go to the beach. I admit I was once guilty of that and now that I am enlightened, I wish I were with my family, too, and we’re all enlightened the same way.
One thing I missed doing with my family, though, is the Pabasa, which we used to do every Holy Week in my mom’s hometown in Bicol, which is one thing I’ve never seen here.
To wrap this up, after visiting those seven churches, here are the things I’ve been reminded of:
1. Love for God and Love for our Neighbors.
No matter how much we think we’ve sacrificed, there is still no greater sacrifice than what God did for us so the simplest way to show our appreciation is to share that love to others.
2. The family that prays together, stays together.
Our family is God’s greatest gift. They are our constant companion no matter what and our constant source of comfort and love be it good times or tough times.
3. Visiting church feels like coming home to your home sweet home.
You talk and you’re sure you’re being listened to. Even when you don’t talk at all, you know in your heart, you’re being understood and you’re still being loved.
One sad realization, though, based on my observation … as the church nears the City, the solemnity and the respect of the people for it as the house of God lessens. There were even vandals on some of the churches we visited. Maybe we all have to remember, church is like a mirror and it reflects the kind of people who dwells in it.