Visita Iglesia: The Best Old Churches to Visit in Manila

I have always been fascinated with old things, buildings most especially. So when we decided to undertake a Visita Iglesia for the first time, old churches within Metro Manila is the definite choice. That, and the fact that we are originating from Mandaluyong City. We found these churches to be the most interesting.

Post Office building

Completed in 1891, Basilica Minore de San Sebastián, better known as San Sebastian Church is the only all-steel church in Asia.

I was in awe when I saw the facade of this church. More so, when we entered the basilica, it felt like being transported to Europe. After all, it has been said that Gustave Eiffel was involved in designing this structure.

The addition of some modern fixtures and cheap looking decorations were an irritant but not enough to distract you from the church’s magnificent interiors.

Popularly known as Quiapo Church, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is most reputed for the Black Nazarene (a dark statue of Jesus Christ), which many claim to be miraculous.

I have passed by this church many times before and it was my first time to see how it is on the inside. With such a magnificent edifice, I had big expectations. Those expectations were crushed.

Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, better known as Binondo Church, it was built to manage and serve the Chinese converts during the Spanish occupation.

Like many other structures in Manila, the church has suffered great damage during the Second World War and only a portion of the bell tower has survived. The church has been rebuilt many times since then.

After a quick lunch at the oldest Chinatown in the world, we decided to walk towards our next destination while taking in the views of old Manila.

There are still several intact old buildings along Pasig river. I can only imagine how it must have been then. Dreams of riding a gondola in Venice came to mind.

The Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, informally known as Manila Cathedral, is the highest seat of the archbishop in the Philippines.

I think I was fourteen when I last visited this place and I was really looking forward to seeing the central nave. Too bad the cathedral was closed during our visit.

Another highlight for me is visiting one of the four churches in the Philippines designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a personal goal to see all four. I’ve been to the San Agustin Church of Paoay and had a failed attempt at visiting Sta. Maria Church; which, of course, I have blogged about.

San Agustin Church

There was an on-going mass during our visit, so taking photos of the elaborate trompe l’oeil (new word learned from Wikipedia) ceiling is out of the question.

The facades of the next two churches we visited aren’t as well lit. Having no proper camera, we were not able to take any decent photos.

Our Lady of Remedies Parish or Malate Church is one of the oldest churches in Manila outside of Intramuros. The shrine is dedicated to  Nuestra Señora de Remedios, the patroness of labor and child birth. Unlike most old churches, Malate church has no separate belfry.

It was late in the evening when we reached the last church in our list, the Parish of the Lady of the Abandoned, known by most as Sta. Ana Church. I was not able to appreciate the beauty of this church as the facade had no lighting whatsoever. The inside of the church is also very unassuming, like a restoration gone bad (an issue that many old structures in the Philippines face).

Visita Iglesia has been a long standing tradition in the Philippines. The only knowledge I have of this practice is to visit seven different churches and offer a prayer at each one. I am embarrassed to admit that I only learned after (through Wikipedia) that you need to pray the Stations of the Cross (dividing the Stations amongst the churches). We all have to start somewhere, right?

Pasig River

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