Combining Visita Iglesia, the Holy Week tradition of visiting seven churches, and the sport of biking is a unique way to mix faith and fitness. While most tourists would prefer to visit churches by motorized transport, there’s something about pedaling your way around under the heat of the sun that makes visiting churches feel like an actual sacrifice or penance rather than just sightseeing by car.
“Bisikleta Iglesia” held last April 8, 2017 took us to seven beautiful and historic churches, spanning more than 52 kilometers of rustic roads in the towns of Balete, Lipa, Malvar and Talisay in Batangas. The annual event, organized by Lima Park Hotel, attracted over 140 locals, domestic tourists and foreigners, and cycling enthusiasts.
“Running Priest” Fr. Robert Reyes, who is known for using sports to express his faith and advocacies, led the fourth edition of the event. He cycled along with everyone and shared meaningful messages for the Lenten Season as we completed the 14 stations of the cross across the seven churches.
For those who are interested in embarking on their own pilgrimage and heritage tour of Batangas (whether or not by bicycle), here’s a look at the churches you can visit:
Sto. Nino Parish Church in Marawoy
Our first stop was the Sto. Nino Parish Church in Marawoy, also referred to by the locals as a “Wedding Church” because of its popularity among couples planning to get married. It’s a modest and somewhat modern-looking church, typical of those you find in small towns.
Sacred Heart Chapel in Marian Orchard
Set among blooming gardens and European-inspired architecture, the Marian Orchard is a beautiful pilgrimage site found in Brgy. Malabanan, Balete, Batangas. This was my favorite of all the sites we visited. It was a fun, breezy downhill going to the site, which meant cycling back to the highway and the next church involved a very long and tiring uphill climb.
NOTE: Visitors can enter the Marian Orchard prayer park for a minimum donation of P50.00 pesos, which is applicable to residents and non-residents of Lipa.
Divino Amor Chapel-Redemptorist
The third church was the Divino Amor Chapel-Redemptorist in Lipa City where devotees of the Our Mother Perpetual Help gather. This is one of the 61 parishes under the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lipa.
Parish of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace
Known as “Mediatrix”, this religious site in Lipa is known to Marian devotees. The name Parish of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace was chosen by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles in reverence to the Carmel Monastery Chapel in which the Blessed Mother allegedly appeared several times in 1948.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Monastery
Known to Batangueños as simply “Carmel,” this church is famous for unexplainable events and miracles. In 1948, the Blessed Virgin Mary supposedly appeared before Carmelite nun Teresita Castillo. This church features some beautiful stained glass windows.
Metropolitan Cathedral of San Sebastian
The largest church we visited during the tour was the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Sebastian or more popularly known among locals as the “Lipa Cathedral.” This church, which serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Lipa, features a grand baroque designed pipe organ, roman inspired paintings on walls and ceilings, and a bell tower.
Parish Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
The seventh and last church we visited was the Parish Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, which features a modern American architectural design named after St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Getting here involved another long uphill road and it was around noon at this time requiring a lot of effort to finish the route. My legs were really burning up by the time and I was struggling just to get here.
BONUS: St. Padre de Pio
This wasn’t included in this year’s biking route, but if you still have the energy to bike or are traveling by car, the National Shrine of Saint Padre de Pio in Sto. Tomas, Batangas is also worth a visit. This church, which features a Filipino tropical design, is one of the most unique looking churches I’ve seen in the country.
The roof of the church is shaped like a giant salakot (wide-brimmed hat used by farmers and fishermen) to remind the faithful of how God protects from all evil and harm just as a salakot protects farmers and fishermen from rain and heat of the sun. The structure uses a combination of wood, stone, bamboo and sasa. This church was previously included in previous editions of Bisikleta Iglesia as the last Church before heading back to Lima Park Hotel.
Biking around to churches instead of traveling by car may take a lot more effort, but it’s a unique way to combine sightseeing and pilgrimage. Aside from the Holy Week intentions, biking is a great way to get fit and take care of the environment. In 2016, cyclists saved up to P12,000 worth of gasoline. This is something cycling enthusiasts can consider doing this Lenten Season, not just in Batangas, but in different parts of the country. Check out this post by Outside Slacker for reasons to try it and general tips on how to do your own Bisikleta Iglesia.
WHERE TO STAY IN BATANGAS: Lima Park Hotel
To maximize your visit of churches in the Batangas area, you can stay overnight the day before in any of the towns of Batangas. Lima Park Hotel, on the boundary of Lipa and Malvar, is a good place to base. Located about 65 kilometers south of Metro Manila, Lima Park Hotel is accessible via the South Luzon expressway connecting to Southern Tagalog Access Road (STAR) toll, roughly 2-3 hours away (depending on the traffic in Manila).
For cyclists who want to bring their own bikes to explore nearby areas, the hotel provides secure parking facilities and bike storage. Aside from visiting churches, you can also bike around to different natural spots around Batangas. The town of Balete is a good biking destination for both enthusiasts and professional bikers, with various cyclinr routes and challenging uphill and downhill roads. The Taal Loop, which starts and ends in Lipa City, is a particularly scenic 115 kilometer-long biking route with an elevation gain of 950 meters.
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Lima Park Hotel, Lima Technology Center, Malvar, Batangas, Philippines
- Tel: (043) 981-1555, Fax (043) 981-2555
- Mobile: 0917-5042385, 0925-5042385
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.limaparkhotel.com
- Facebook: Lima Park Hotel