The Holy Week exodus has started, with thousands of Filipinos heading from Manila to their home provinces and popular vacation destinations around the country this Lenten Break. With the streets in the metro practically empty, this is the perfect excuse for cyclists and riders to gear up and ride to churches and pilgrimage sites. Here are a few suggestions for religious-themed rides relatively near the metro.
TEN COMMANDMENTS SHRINE AT CAMP SINAI, RIZAL
Camp Sinai in Pintong Bukawe, San Mateo, Rizal is a popular destination for mountain bikers. The view here offers beautiful landscapes that stretches from the Sierra Madre mountains, Laguna de Bay and the metro. The highlight and usual photo op is a large replica of the tablets containing the Ten Commandments of God.
Great view just below the Ten Commandments for post-ride reflections
Interestingly in 2009, this tablet, which measures 65.04 square meters was declared the biggest Ten Commandments in the world. The construction of the project was organized by Sister Grace Galindez-Gupana, a businesswoman and founder of the HalleluYAH Prophetic Global Foundation. It has since been surpassed by a gigantic Ten Commandments measuring 152.90 square meters in Dominican Hill, Baguio City according to the World Record Academy, which was also sponsored by Sister Grace.
VISITA IGLESIA ROAD TRIP
The Holy Week tradition of visiting seven (or fourteen) churches to pray the Stations of the Cross and reflect is said to have originated in Rome when early pilgrims visited seven pilgrim churches as penance. Though there are many churches in Manila you can visit, you could plan a road trip to visit churches in the nearby provinces like Rizal, Cavite or Laguna. You can do this by car, by Bisikleta Iglesia or take a Motorcycle Road trip to visit the sites. Here are some notable churches you can visit:
Antipolo: Nuestra Senora de la Anunciata. Also known as the Boso-Boso Church, this church is located in Old Boso-Boso, Barangay San Jose in Antipolo City. Originally built in the late 16th to early 17th century and damaged by an earthquake, the church has now been restored. The restoration preserved the original remaining façade of the old church with the rebuilt portions built as close as possible to the simple, sparse architecture of the old structure.
Paete: Santiago Apostol Parish Church. Founded in 1580, its stone church and convent was first built in 1646. The church has been declared a National Historic Landmark. It boasts of the artistry of the natives of Paete, known for their skill in woodcrafting, as showcased by the religious images which are all carved and painted by local craftsmen.
Magdalena: Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish Church. This church took 16 years to build and was completed in 1855. The belltower was added in 1861 and later on the convent in 1872.
Majajyay: The San Gregorio Magno Parish Church or the Majayjay Church was built by the Fransiscan order in the 18th century and used as a headquarters of the Americans during the Philippine-American War. With the gothic-looking trees in the courtyard, brick and moss-covered facade and imposing structure, it’s one of the most picturesque and beautiful churches in the area and has even been listed as a National Cultural Treasure.
Liliw: San Juan Bautista Parish Church. First build in wood in 1620, it was rebuilt in stones and bricks in 1646. This church is considered by may as one of the most captivating churches in Laguna.
Pakil: San Pedro de Alcantara Parish Church. This church in Pakil built in 1684, is one of the best preserved in Laguna. With its curlicue stonework and cherubs in the facade, it stands as a fine example of Baroque architecture.
Nagcarlan: San Bartolome Parish Church. Established by the Fransiscan friar Tomas de Miranda, it was first built in wood and later in 1752 was rebuilt with bricks and stones. Thirty years later, it was partially damaged by fire. It was declared a historical site by the Philippine government in 1938. The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, the only underground cemetery in the country, is also worth visiting.
TATLONG KRUS IN PAETE, LAGUNA
The Tatlong Krus in Paete, Laguna is another popular pilgrimage site during Holy Week. Local devotees flock to visit the three crosses that sit atop a hill along the range of Sierra Madre. While locals usually take a tricycle or hike up from the town proper of Paete to Brgy. Ilaya Norte, the jump off point to get up to the area, it’s also ideal for motorcycling.
The 10-15 minute ride up the back roads up the hill from the highway passes through some great scenery including a good mountaintop view of Laguna Bay and the town below. Don’t expect peace and quiet though, as the area becomes a camping site and picnic ground for locals in observance of Holy Week.
The Regina RICA (Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia) is another well-maintained pilgrimage site and ideal Holy Week stop. Regina Rica is located along Marcos Highway, Sitio Aguho, Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal.
The site has a giant statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, set amidst sprawling grounds where one can just stop and reflect. A set of stairs lined with sunflowers leads up to the shrine, from where one can get a good view of the Sierra Madre mountains. The 71-foot tall statue is situated amidst the 13.5 hectares of land is a lovely sight on a clear day. The whole place exudes serenity and peace.
KAMAY NI HESUS IN LUCBAN, QUEZON
If you’re in the mood for a longer drive, then the Kamay ni Hesus (Hands of Jesus) Shrine in Lucban, Quezon, about a 4-hour drive from Manila, is the pilgrimage site you should head to. Devotees climb up almost 300 steps of stairs on a hill located on the slopes of Mt. Banahaw, passing by life-sized statues depicting the 14 different stations of the cross.
The main feature is a grand 50-foot high statue of Jesus Christ with outstretched hands at the top of the hill, said to be one of the tallest statues of Christ in the country. The grounds also contains a church where healing masses are held, a Garden of Eden, and a model of Noah’s Ark with stone animals.