Visita Iglesia via the Lake Towns of Laguna

It is during Maundy Thursdays when people on Visita Yglesia make their way to fourteen churches as a Holy Week sacrifice. Fourteen churches representing the fourteen Stations of the Cross or Via Crucis. Some pilgrims would go to just seven churches since seven is regarded as sacred while others would go to as many churches as they can (ala Visita Ylgesia til you drop).

Nowadays, Visita Yglesia is no longer an exclusive Maundy Thursday spiritual devotion. Pilgrims on tour buses throng Metro Manila as well as the provinces to combine both religious and cultural fulfillment by visiting artistically and historically appealing churches at any day within Ash Wednesday up to Holy Thursday. This year we went on a pilgrimage to seven churches around the Lake Towns of Laguna de Bay beginning at Morong.

The town of Morong in Rizal can boast for having a church with a photogenic facade. Designed by Paete builder Bartolome Palatino, the church of St. Jerome was declared as a National Cultural Treasure for its unique “tropical baroque” architecture. The church has a three storey façade and an octagonal bell tower topped by a cross.

It was said that the bullet holes found along the sidewalks around the church are mementos of the fight between Katipuneros and Spaniards.

Dedicated to St. Joseph, Baras Church was completed in 1686. It has an altar and lectern made of stone which was unearthed from beneath the church. The tiles used for the restoration of the floor were taken from the ruins of Intramuros.

Listed as a National Cultural Treasure, the church of San Ildefonso in Tanay was built in 1783.  Like the other Franciscan-built churches along the eastern shores of Laguna de Bay, church is made of adobe and it’s facade is ornamented with niches for saints, floral insets and cherubs.

The five rococo retablos are the gems of the interior which dates back in the 1780s. The main retablo contains the image of San Ildefonso, patron saint of Tanay. The nave has a remarkable 200 year-old wooden Station of the Cross crafted by a man only known as the Master of Tanay.

The church dedicated to Nuestra Senora de Candelaria in the town of Mabitac sits on top of Kalbaryo Hill. It can be reached by a 129 steps from the main road.

A well whose water was reportedly to have curative powers was once on the site.  Cristobal de Mercado gave the image of the Nuestra Senora de Cadelaria to Paco in 1600. It was removed from Siniloan (a neighboring town) in 1615. The founders of Mabitac fought for the image’s permanent enshrinement to the town.

Like almost every church in the Philippines, Pangil has an image of the Virgin Mary and the Santo Nino. Except in Pangil the Virgin is Pregnant and the Baby Jesus is still unborn. The first time we saw the image of a pregnant Mary was during the Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros. The Pregnant Image of the Virgin is known as the Nuestra Senora de La O. Both images were given to the town of Panguil by  King Carlos of Spain 1764 as a form of gratitude for the hospitality of the town’s people showed to him when he stayed in the town while still a crowned prince.

One miracle attributed to the La O took place in 1974 when a six-month old flood receded after the town’s people made a nine day novena and a penitential procession of the image around the submerged town.

The Church of San Pedro Alcantara in Pakil Laguna was completed in 1767. The church is the shrine of the Nuestra Senora de Dolores de Turumba, a venerated icon of Sorrowful Mother which was seen floating in a river near Laguna de Bay.

Enshrined in the main altar is the Virgin of Sorrows. The Turumba Festival is celebrated after the Holy Week and last until October 19, which makes it the longest festival in the country. Centuries old anda (or a carriage used for bearing the image during processions) is located near the main altar.

Paete church was constructed in mid-1600s. The church we see today was the result of the 1840 renovation. Around the same time, Paete painter Jose Dans painted the image of San Cristobal on wood. During a recent renovation, an earlier painting of San Cristobal painted on the church wall was uncovered under the huge Dans painting.

The church in Paete is the most florid of the Franciscan churches built along the Laguna lakeshore, befitting to a town famous for its carvers. A stone relief for Santiago Matamoro (St. James Slayer of the Moors) on horseback is carved on facade.


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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi there…love your blog and your photos. I’d like to borrow on of the photos to feature in my recent post. I will have a link to this blog of your s in my most recent post. Thank you 🙂

  2. Very informative and great pictures. I use your blog as my travel reference. just did my visita iglesia and this articles helps me alot. Keep up the good work, more power and God bless.

  3. I am from Quezon Province buthave stayed in Mabitc since my marriage to a mabitakenio in 1958
    Since then I learn to love this place especially the Patron saint Nuestra Senora de Candelaria which is also patron saint of all mother.
    i becme very active in the church since Fr. Mike Almosa organized the Catholic Womens League in 1970 in Which I belong to the first 7 members Fr. Almosa recruited to organized the First CWL in Mabitac our task is to healped the Parish Priest i all the project he want to help the Church.
    Thank you there are people like you that write about the Baybay churches that can be visited during the Holy week.
    I hope you write again about our Church that is undergoing some construction through the help of our new Parish Priest the young and energetic Rev, Fr. Lauro Ramos III.Please invite the people to visit our Parish for their VISITA IGLESIA and help us build our church!

  4. God is always there to give us strength, to keep going, to remind us that we should stay in faith for him, for he knows what is good for us…

  5. Hey,yours is my favorite blog. I’m using this in my homeschool. It’s also my travel guide. Thank you for your hard work and beautiful pictures.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this, being from Pakil, Laguna. The quaint little towns on this part of Laguna are often overlookd by their counterparts on the south, but if you really want to capture provincial life so close to Manila, these part of Laguna is the place to be, Mabitac, Siniloan, Famy, Pangil, Pakila, Paete. And great churches too! The one in Mabitac with the steps is on of my favorite churches ever and the one in Paete.

    • Likewise Jenn. I fell in love with the towns on this part of Laguna, particulary Paete, Pakil and Panguil. I am living in Quezon City however, I frequently visit these towns and have found friends there.

  7. Thank you for sharing Dandell. The information has been corrected.

  8. A very interesting article…thanks for including our small town(pangil) in your blog…i hope that you will include it again in your blog…i just want to make it clear that the image of the virgin mary that enshrined in our town is “Nuestra Señora De La O” and our Patron saint is Our Lady’s Nativity…you conbined the name of our patron saint and Nuestra Señora De La O, so you arrived at Nuestra Señora De La Natividad… but nevertheless, i appreciated your blog very much,
    thank you…i hope you will include the picture of our santo Niño…

  9. Dear Sir,

    Prince Charles (future King Charles IV)definitely did not visit Panguil in 1764. At that time, France and Spain were involved in the Seven Years War and as result the British occupied the Philippines from 1762 to 1764. Although the war was terminated by the Peace Treaty of Hubertsburg (1763), the British did not leave the country until 1764, when the news reached that the war was over and Philippines was restored to Spain.


    Cambridge Modern History (
    Oxford Encyclopedia of History

  10. I never read in history books that Charles IV of Spain visited Philippines when he was a Crown Prince. Charles came to this world in 1748 and I doubt that his Father Charles III would allow him, at the age of 16, to travel
    a great distance from Spain. At that time, the House of Bourbon was on the verge of extinction. Most of the children died young and the first male was an imbecile and removed from line of succession.

    Nevertheless, I have to confirm this event with Blair and Robertson.

  11. Dear Sir,

    Please check the Catholic Directory of the Parishes
    of the Philippines.The Patron Saint of Pangil is the Nativity of Our Virgin (September 8) and not the Nativity of Our Lord (December 25).An Amateur Historian made the same impression that the town fiesta was Nativity of Our Lord, but this was really erroneous.I could verify this because I had personally asked the former Bishop of San Pablo.

    I find it strange that you have mentioned that the iconography of the Virgin is pregnant.

  12. When I discovered the beautiful scenery when traveling to Laguna via the East Road Estan, it became an obsession for me to learn about the lakeshore towns surrounding Laguna de Bay.

    Glad to hear from you Estan.

  13. the laguna lakeshore towns are really very interesting when it comes to religious built heritage. its not too far from manila and it showcases our rich culture and faith.

  14. I’m glad the you liked my article about churches around Laguna de Bay Abagie. Pangil is an interesting town and there is more to write about it.

    I hope to learn more in my next visit to the town of Pangil as well as other towns of Laguna. Thanks for dropping by. Hope to hear from you again.

  15. Your article is very interesting. I am from Pangil and thanks for including our small town to your list and for providing informations about our church.

    I am looking forward to spend Holy Week back home soon!

  16. Churches I’ve featured on this part of Laguna are mostly untouched since the turn of the century Sidney. And it’s good to know that there are strong effort in preserving them as well as old traditions inspired by these churches.

    I’ve received your email about Mount Banahaw. I’m still in the process of planning and inviting people to go with me. The information you’ve sent me is very helpful. Thank you Sidney.

  17. I love those old churches and quiet towns in Laguna.
    Nicely captured.
    I hope you got my email about Mt. Banahaw.

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