Monday, February 26, 2018

Take the TPLEX for Your Next Visita Iglesia

Holy Week is fast approaching. And this usually involves, for a lot of Filipinos, a form of Visita Iglesia (also called the Seven Churches Visitation). (If you are not familiar with it, this pilgrimage involves visiting seven churches on Maundy Thursday. To check out the history behind this practice, check out the Wikipedia link here.) And to easily travel from one church to another, a group of friends and I took the TPLEX to see if we can accomplish such a feat.

The first on our list was the Church of Padre Pio. This church is just starting out and its quite apropos that we began our journey here. The church is not yet finished yet you can see the pride in the faces of the people taking care of it. They beam with pride when they talk about the accomplishments that they were able to do in the past year alone.

Next up was Our Lady of Manaoag. Aside from its beautiful architecture, Our Lady of Manaoag has a museum where you will be able to see centuries old images of saints and old gowns and dresses used to dress up the image of the Lady of the Church. It also has a lot more artifacts that were used when the country was still a Spanish colony. This church is considered one of “the greatest Marian pilgrimages in the Philippines.” It was also bestowed the title of Minor Basilica so any Catholic devotees should have this on their list.

If you want to see official replicas of the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello, then a visit to a small, very unassuming church should be on your list. The Immaculate Conception Parish Church of Nampicuan houses such two Holy Relics. We were told that the church parishioners prayed two thousand Hail Marys so that their church will be the recipient of said Relics and the town of 20, 000 people celebrated when their prayers were answered.

The Church of Nampicuan not only houses two Holy Relics, but it also has a small chapel where it has, on its altar, the bones of nine Saints. Really, this church is my favorite in this particular road trip.

The next on our list was the Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. This is a beautiful church and is considered the “Wedding Capital of Tarlac”. It houses the bones of St. Therese making this a Holy Destination for devout Catholics. And being a wedding capital, if you ever decide to have your wedding rights performed there, then you can take advantage of one of the church’s halls. You see, they rent out said hall to wedding receptions so that, after the wedding rites, you just need to walk about a hundred steps and you’re already where the dining and the dancing will be done. You won’t have to drive anymore and you won’t have to worry about where to park your car for a second time!

The last church we visited was the Parish of St. Josemari Escriva. The church has a gold motif and the architecture is really wonderful. This church also has a painting on the wall of its small chapel that depicts country life in Tarlac. I was greatly fascinated by that.

Unfortunate, we were not able to finish all seven churches but it was because of two things. Okay, several things…

One, we were so fascinated by the churches that we really took our time photographing the architecture, the artifacts, the churches’ surroundings…

Then, we visited a swordsmith, Blade Culture International. Yep, one that makes blades! The company sells commissioned swords like the kinds used in Hollywood movies and TV shows. They actually do not sell locally in bulk, but if they have extra pieces, you might get lucky and get a piece of sword that’s actually designed for, say, Braveheart... The company also plans to put up a museum where they plan to showcase the swords they have already made. Oh, for future blade smiths out there, the company also gives certifications when you train under them. Time to bring out the inner “Panday” in you!

You can contact Mr. Renando De Guzman of Blade Culture International, through their website, for details.

Also, when we got hungry, we went to Ruperto’s for lunch. We enjoyed the food so much that we lingered longer than we planned! I especially liked the garlic longanisa! And I think I’m not alone in that... Ruperto’s is not only a restaurant, though. If you get tired from your Visita Iglesia and decide to not go back home immediately, then Ruperto’s has rooms for you to stay overnight. Or two!

Finally, one other place we visited was a place where oils from ylang-ylang flowers (scientific name: Cananga odorata) are extracted. We learned that there are three extractions done and the first, second and third extracts have their own specific uses. And then, after the tour of the extraction facility, we went to the gift shop where we got ylang ylang products like perfumes, lotions, hand soaps, car fresheners, etc. I love visiting places like this and I love it even more that this venture has the full support of the local government, particularly from the town mayor of Anao, Mayor Betty Lacbayan.

So, all-in-all, despite not being able to go to seven churches, this road trip had been a success thanks in part to the efforts of our tour guides. They made sure that this road trip would be a worthy one and they showed a lot of patience when the group sometimes (ok, a lot of times) exhibited our “kakulitan”... Also, getting on and off TPLEX easily afforded us the opportunity to travel to places that would have been difficult if the expressway hadn’t been there. So, on your next venture north, especially this coming Holy Week, consider using the TPLEX and the trek would be a lot easier and safer.

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