The Cebuano Visita Iglesia: & Must Visit Churches

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The Cebuano Visita Iglesia: & Must Visit Churches

Early in the 16th century, Spanish Colonists and Missionaries stepped foot in Cebu. From that point onwards, Cebu became the gateway of Catholicism and Christianity in the Philippines. Nowadays, with more than 80 percent of the population professing the Catholic Faith, the Philippines ranks number one in Asia for the most number of Catholics living in a country, and third globally after Brazil and Mexico. This makes Cebu a perfect place to do annual church visits, also known as Visita Iglesia, whenever Lenten season comes around. Give your Visita Iglesia a dash of sentimentality by holding it where Philippine Catholicism began. With that said, here is a list to help you plot your religious road trip ahead of time for next year’s Lenten season. This list is sequenced in a way that it starts from Mactan Airport and moves farther south from there as the list goes on. We deeply suggest that you arrange your flight in a way that you arrive in Cebu early morning, around 8 to 9am, and ride a taxi towards church number one.

1. ) Chapel of the Last Supper

We start at a church located northwest of Mactan Airport. The Chapel of the Last Supper is part of the National Shrine of Saint Joseph located in Mandaue City, Cebu. This church was established by Jesuits back in 1601, and it houses the one-of-a-kind “Senor De Cena”, a set of life-sized wooden sculptures depicting the Last Supper. This is a place to be for Church and History buffs.

Travel tips:

You can ride a taxi from Mactan Airport to Mandaue which will cost you approximately 130 pesos. It’s a 7 kilometer ride that will take almost 30 minutes of travel time.

2. ) Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

From Mandaue City we travel southwest to the ecclesiastical seat of the archdiocese of the island, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Dedicated to one of the early Christian martyrs, Saint Vitalis, The church was elevated as a metropolitan archdiocese back in 1934. It was able to stand the test of time because of its squat structure with walls thick enough to withstand the likes of typhoons, a trait typical of Spanish colonial churches. People visiting this place had a wonderful time strolling in the church’s refreshing gardens and awesome interiors, and they encourage others to experience the same.

Travel tips:

From the church in Mandaue, take a cab going to Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, which will cost you an estimated taxi fare of 150 pesos, with at least half an hour travel time. If you tell the taxi driver to take the Ouano Avenue connecting to Sergio Osmena Boulevard and turn right at the Legaspi monument, you can save 10 minutes as compared to other taxi routes.

For those wanting to keep the costs low, there is a jeep going to Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral that passes along S.B. Cabuhug street, on the east side of the National shrine.  Take note, however, that this route traverses Central Cebu, which would be a good opportunity to drop by SM City Cebu and get something to eat. Afterwards just ride the same jeep to Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

3. ) Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino

Just a short walking distance from the Metropolitan Cathedral stands one of the oldest churches in Cebu and the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the country, the Basilica Minore Del Santo Nino. Founded in 1565, its structure comprises of mud, hardwood, and local raw materials like nipa. It’s a marvel of architecture how this structure is almost as old as the first Spanish settlement in the country. Pope Paul VI made the church a basilica in 1965, declaring it the “symbol of the birth and growth of Christianity in the Philippines.” More than the structure itself, one of its main attractions is the Statue of the Child Jesus, one of the oldest relics in the country. It’s said to have been the same one presented by Ferdinand Magellan on the christening of Rajah Humabon and his loved one. Be ready to fall in line if you want to see it for yourself; it’s an opportunity too precious to miss.

Travel tips:

Depending on where you booked your hotel reservations, this is a good opportunity to get settled in your respective hotel rooms, since you are in the city proper. From this point onward the journey goes farther down south, so it’s best to lighten up the load as you continue onwards.
Here is a list of hotels along the stretch of Dalaan Osmena, a street north of this place that is adjacent to commercial establishments like malls, hospitals and convenience stores. The price ranges of the hotels in this list will not exceed 1500php per night, so as to keep your budget to a minimum without compromising convenience:

HotelPrice in PHP
Cebuview Tourist InnApproximately ₱ 830.00 per night
RF SuitesApproximately ₱ 707.00 per night
Pacific PensionneApproximately ₱ 892.00 per night
Pillows Hotel CebuApproximately ₱ 1277.00 per night
Gran Terra SuitesApproximately ₱ 834.00 per night

4.) St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish

Photo by: Kabyahe
Further down south 40 kilometers from Cebu City stands the second oldest church in Cebu, St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, also known as Carcar Church. Its construction started in 1859, and its structure shows influences of Greco-Roman and Byzantine architectural styles. Its ceiling is adorned with vibrant orange and blue tiles, and its two square-based bell towers are capped by onion-shaped domes.

Travel tips:

There are buses from Cebu City going south towards Carcar and Sibonga areas. From the Basilica in Cebu City to the Saint Catherine of Alexandria Parish, it will cost you around 50 pesos in bus fares.

5.) Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar AKA Our Lady of the Pillar

Photo by: Market Manila
Following the eastern coastline of Cebu further south lie the municipality of Sibonga, and there we will find the Nuestra Senora del Pilar church, also known as Our Lady of the Pillar. Erected in 1881, it was dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar, the patron saint of Spain and all Hispanic peoples. What set this church apart from the rest are its pre-war frescoes depicting different biblical scenes adorning its ceiling. Stories like the biblical creation and the seven sacraments are displayed for the people to see, masterfully painted by Cebuano Artist Raymundo Francia in 1924.

Travel tips:

From Carcar church, take a bus going further down Sibonga, the road following the coastal highways until you reach the Church of Our Lady of the Pillar.

6.) Simala-Lindongon Church

Southwest from the Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar stands a castle-like structure called Simala-Londogon Church, also known as the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist or the Shrine of the Miraculous Mama Mary. It was built by Marian Monks from Pampanga in 1998, and its theme lies heavy on miracles granted with help from the Holy Mother’s intercession. People with varying degrees of need visit this shrine; some needing help for their board examinations, while others in deep need of divine intervention. Inside you can find lit candles of different colors, each representing certain prayer requests. A testimonial wall is also displayed, showing letters of gratitude and thanks to Mama Mary, others leave actual medals as proof of their achievements.

Travel tips:

The Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar and Simala shrine are relatively close. Take the bus following the coastal road going south and get off at the San Roque Chapel. Get a tricycle or a “habal-habal” if you’re alone, and follow the Mama Mary Sanctuary road west to Simala Shrine.

7.) Saint Michael Parish Church

Finally there’s the Saint Michael the Archangel Parish church, located further down south in Argao 67 kilometers from Cebu City. This baroque rococo designed church was built around the late 1700s. Appropriate to its namesake, this church has been a refuge for villagers seeking sanctuary from Moro raids in the 18th and 19th century. Inside it you can find 3 life-sized figures of the three main archangels: Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Much like the Church of Our Lady of the Pillar, this church’s ceiling is adorned with frescos depicting the life of angelic beings, made by none other than the same painter Raymundo Francia, partnered by an unknown artist from Bohol.

Travel tips:

Take a tricycle back to the coastal highway and hail a bus going further south to Argao. The Saint Michael Parish church is set near the eastern coast so keep your eyes locked eastward.

As you can see from the route above, the whole journey generally follows the eastern coastline of the bigger island of Cebu, keeping the sea within your view. This set of churches as a whole provides you with a celebration not just of faith and spirituality, but also of history, art and architecture. Faith is something not just to believe, but to experience. So give these churches a visit and experience for yourself.

Plane ride (Manila to Cebu back-and-forth) ₱ 4,000.00
Plane ride (Manila to Cebu back-and-forth) ₱ 4,000.00
Hotel Accommodations (one day stay) ₱ 1,200.00
Commute allowance (with contingency allowance) ₱ 1,000.00
Baseline total amount ₱ 6,200.00
Keep in mind that Habal-habal prices are at the mercy of the drivers and can go up to exorbitant amounts, so only take that option if you have no other choice. By experience, a budget of 10,000 php is enough to keep you afloat on a regular trip to Cebu.