Tag Archive: Old Churches

Turumba or Tarumba? When you get to Pakil, Laguna either in search of Lanzones or woodcraft or Jose Luciano Dans’ century-old paintings, you can’t miss Pakil Church — official residence of the Virgen de Turumba. But what is Turumba? That was the first question we asked Brother Erning, the Church Marshall.




Nuestra Senora de los Dolores or Virgen de Turumba


Interior Shot. Altar with 14 icons behind in separate niches, veiled in purple satin this Lenten Season.



It was Lent that Friday we visited. All 14 icons in separate intricately carved niches behind the main altar, veiled in purple satin. Brother Erning drilled us on the Turumba or Tarumba Legend and toured us around the majestic San Pedro de Alcantara Church, sometimes referred to as the Church of the Nuestra Se√Īora de Los Dolores or Virgen de Turumba. Built in 1767, the Virgen has been enshrined here since 1788 when it was fished out of Laguna de Bay. The legend goes that no one could lift the image till the parish priest came to bring it to this Church followed by locals singing and dancing in glee. The trance-like dance was called Turumba. Or Tarumba — literally meaning “natumba sa laki ng tuwa” or “tremble in great joy”. It is also the sound of drumbeats during the processions marking the feast of Turumba culminating sometime in September of each year.





Chapel of the Virgen de Turumba



I’ve done my research before coming here. But Brother Erning’s version is soooo much better. He regaled us with stories about the Virgin and brought us to this tiny, lovely Chapel where the image is enshrined. He reminded us to ask permission from the Virgin before taking any photos. Then he proceeded to tell us how a magical cloud floated over the 18th century church as US bombing squads hovered above during the Second World War. How many believed the Virgin saved the town with this miracle which inspired many to dress the Virgin’s image in intricately beaded gowns. The count to date per Brother Erning is 50,000 gowns donated by the faithful! (My earlier research pegged it at only 700) The Virgin changes gowns every 2 weeks, and each worn gown is cut up in small patches and distributed to the faithful. We were fortunate to go home with patches of these embroidered and beaded gowns.




The Corridor Leading to the Collection of Gowns Donated By the Faithful


50,000 Gowns! Only to be cut up in small patches after they’re worn.



Brother Erning is a legend himself. His love for the Virgin, this Church and his hometown is legendary. But he’s got a couple of stories which floored me. The first was how Pakil was spared from Japanese invaders who occupied neighboring towns. His story goes that the Japanese Army was not drawn to this town because of fear of being attacked by ants. Say that again? A.N.T.S. as in Lanzones ants! The other story has to do with Jose Luciano Dans’ 200 year-old painting of “Langit, Purgatoryo (or Lupa?) at Impyerno“. Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. When I asked Brother Erning why the painting depicted ONLY WOMEN in hell, his candid answer was to point out that the figures included both men and women except ……. that Dans didn’t want to be irreverent by painting men with their “hanging ornaments”. How’s that? Plausible, yes, but nevertheless a rib tickler. ūüôā




Inspired by Dante’s Inferno? This is Luciano Dans’ Langit, Lupa (or Purgatoryo) at Impyerno. Read below for a most interesting story. ūüôā


Brother Erning, the Church Marshall.



Before we left, Brother Erning brought us up the choir loft and bell tower. This time, he got us listening to some recent happenings in this church. The hit and ongoing TV series or teleserye “Juan Dela Cruz” shoots all its church and plaza scenes here. In fact, Brother Erning stars in some episodes! He reminded us to watch the next few episodes where he’s featured before we climbed down and marched out of the Church. In particular, he mentioned the scene where Juan dela Cruz battles the vampires! Really, we just love these stories and we love Brother Erning even more!




Check out that Pieta painting. Looks so much like the famous and treasured Michelangelo’s sculpture, right?


One last look at Pakil Church. Location shoot for the hit teleserye “Juan de la Cruz”.


The rural town of Pakil, Laguna. 4th stop after Calamba, Pila and Paete in a roadtrip around Laguna de Bay. Try it! Very doable for a day trip south of Manila.

It is actually named Saint James the Apostle Church. But you’d get by asking for directions to Betis Church. After all, every person in Pampanga has every reason to be proud of this historical and architectural treasure.






Huge, but it doesn’t look much from outside. And for a moment, I wasn’t sure if the 1- 1/2 hour drive from Manila is worth it. I’ve seen many photos of this 17th century church and its famed frescoes and murals but thought it could all be hype. That happens. So I braced myself not to expect much.






As we entered, we were pleasantly surprised to walk on wooden floors. Dubbed the “Sistine Chapel” of the Philippines, local artist Macario Ligon certainly didn’t disappoint. Biblical scenes and cherub paintings on the ceiling are guaranteed to give you a stiff neck while appreciating the majesty of this ceiling art. It confuses the senses whether to walk appreciating the native wood used for flooring, craning one’s neck so as not to miss the majestic “Sistine Chapel-ish” ceiling frescoes, or walking forward to get closer to the lovely and ornately-designed “retablo” of this church in Guagua, Pampanga.






Don’t miss standing in the nave and spending a few minutes there just to take it all in. Check out the baptistery on the right side, “guarded” by a statue of the Nazareno, before taking baby steps towards the altar.






The opulence strikes one with this pleasant sensation that a church as lovely as this has been spared from the disastrous lahar or mudflow from Mount Pinatubo. The neighboring town of Bacolor was not as lucky. By God’s grace, this church still stands in all its splendor so many more generations of Filipinos may appreciate this historical, cultural and architectural treasure.






Met up with my friend E and without much planning, decided we make good use of our time together while waiting for her son to get off summer school.¬† That’s from 10am till 2pm, if you wanna know.


Almost instantly, we agreed we should check out the Pasig River Ferry at the  Guadalupe Ferry Station where we can take the ferry ride to Escolta, or all the way to Plaza Mexico in Intramuros. But alas,  the station was closed as we unhappily learned the ferry company has ceased operations. Shoots!


Not easily discouraged,¬† we mapped out another plan.¬† Something in keeping with the Lenten Season.¬†¬† From under the Guadalupe Bridge where the Ferry Station is located, we drove back up to EDSA southbound and took the right at the corner where you’d find Loyola Memorial .¬† This street goes a few hundred meters down to Nuestra Senora de Gracia or Guadalupe Church. ¬†Foundations laid in 1601, construction completed by 1629. ¬†I have once attended a wedding here, and was not disappointed with how beautiful the Church is just past midmorning.



From this nearly 400 year-old Church in Guadalupe, we drove down to J. P. Rizal Street all the way to Sta. Ana, Manila.   We passed what used to be the Sta. Ana Race Track,  until we found the Church of the Abandoned.  I have passed this Church many times before,  always referring to it simply as Sta. Ana Church.  Never realized it ranks among the oldest churches around Manila.   At this hour,  there was hardly any crowd inside this  17th century-Church , more so in the adjoining halls of the church where they kept religious statues of a few saints.  We even ventured up the stairs, but was gently reminded that the convent is not open to the public.



Driving further west towards Paco, Manila, we visited the Paco Church and Cemetery only to find it closed.  Today is a Tuesday and Paco Park Complex is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.   From outside, it looks like your mini-Intramuros as the Park is closed in by this  ancient wall.   No wonder this Church is a favorite wedding  as well as concert venue.    Never mind that it is also a cemetery!  After all, it has a distinguished list of VIPs interred in its park grounds.  No less than the national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal was buried here until 1912 (errr, did you know that?) , and so with the martyred priests Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, more commonly referred to as Gomburza.




From Paco Park,¬† we decided to have lunch at Aristocrat which is right beside the Malate Church.¬† But not without a quick visit to the San Andres Market where we found fruit stalls after fruit stalls of mangoes – yellow ripe, unripe green, smallish “supsupin” mangoes, Indian mangoes – along with racks of chicos, durian, dalandans, honeydew melons, watermelons , turnips, bananas, sweet potatoes, etc.¬† I even bought myself a glass of halo-halo (ice shavings with various sweetened fruits like bananas, sweet potatoes, garbanzos, beans, jackfruit, mixed in with ube yam, leche flan, gelatine,¬† sago and milk) for only 20 pesos.¬† What a refreshing drink, and all for just half a US dollar!¬† The same stall even offers hot chocolate and coffee for 5 pesos. Dirt cheap!¬† I shared the halo-halo (literally meaning “mix-mix”) with my friend E as I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for my bbq lunch at Aristocrat.



Aristocrat was doing brisk business by the time we got there.¬† Well, it’s noon time, but the waiter there says they get this crowd daily.¬† For me, Aristocrat (and another established chain restaurant Max’s) is a great “equalizer”.¬† Nothing fancy here, just plain good old barbecue and local dishes.¬† You’d be fine to allocate 200 pesos per head for a good meal. And it draws a big crowd from all sections of society.¬† From a table occupied by a group of students, another by working men and women out on a lunch break, to a group of nuns and yet another group of balikbayans (literally “back to country” Filipinos) having this comfort food.¬† It is always a yummy meal here in Aristocrat, and it won’t burn a hole in your pockets too.



And so, on full stomachs we crossed the street to visit the Malate Church. ¬†Built in 1588 originally as an Augustinian Friar Building, it withstood a number of earthquakes and the February 3-17, 1945 Battle of Manila which left nearly the entire Malate area flattened, with thousands dead from the shelling from American forces and burning from Japanese occupiers. ¬†This centuries-old church was left charred and roofless, and reconstruction began soon after the end of World War II. ¬†At the time we visited, absolutely no one was inside the Church.¬† All quiet and peaceful . A fitting final stop for our attempt to “waste” four hours around Manila. ¬†Call it the final part of our 7-church Visita Iglesia. ¬†Having done Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church last week and San Sebastian Church much earlier (hmmm, that last one ¬†shouldn’t count, really), and 4 today (Guadalupe, Sta Ana, Paco and Malate), ¬†I have completed the mandatory 7 Churches for the Visita Iglesia. ¬†But there is this weekend when I plan to visit Binondo , Santa Cruz and Quiapo. ¬†Now wait, that makes 10! ¬†And I am still agonizing whether to include Tondo Church or not. ¬†We’ll see………….no harm in visiting a dozen churches. ¬†Especially churches loaded with history! So , next time you have an extra 4 hours to waste, ¬†why not put it to good use and learn bits of history while doing your spiritual duty?


And if you do have more than 4 hours, ¬†you can cross Roxas Boulevard ¬†from Malate Church and stroll along the Baywalk and wait for the lovely Manila Bay sunset. ¬†Who knows? ¬†You may even work up an appetite again and head back to the Malate Church Square and this time, try the Max’s Fried Chicken just across Aristocrat. ¬†Both are institutions in the Philippine dining scene, so don’t miss them. ¬†Not to worry, you can enjoy budget meals in either one of these 2 eating places, and live to go back again and again.