I asked a Mexican student here how the letter ‘s’ in words like ‘iglesia’ is enunciated. Is it like how my History teacher in college would as in /iglethia/ which I still find funny? Or the more phonetic /iglesya/? I breathed a sigh of relief when he said the latter. I could not bring myself to say /inthithuthion/ or /tholuthion/! But he warned me it’s Español de Mexico and not Español de España. This I shall not forget.
I will not be prejudiced against how the letter s is enunciated by the Spaniards. We all got options, and it’s all a matter of preference. I’m for the sibilant, or however you call it, /s/.
And so a couple of friends, B, and I went for a visita iglesia on Holy Thursday. It was my first. The idea is for one to visit as many Roman Catholic churches as he can and to pray the fourteen Stations of the Cross, ideally a station for each church. Doing so was a tall order so we settled only for eight churches. Still a feat considering the traffic, long ride, heat and humidity, and the crowd of Catholics who were to express their faith by doing their own visita iglesia. We went around Bulacan, a province north of Manila.
The altar of the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace in Barangay San Vicente, Sta Maria, Bulacan. It has this other-worldly feel because the image of the Virgin is outside the church which can be seen from the inside through a clear glass panel.
Bas reliefs of angels found in a church museum beside the Diocesan Shrine of Mary, Mother of Eucharist and Grace. One would also find relics of saints and other icons in the museum, which despite the limited space was able to enthrall (this word sounds awkward here) me with the sculptures and paintings that were, more than being religious, curious.
The belfry and facade of Inmaculada Concepcion parish church in Sta Maria, Bulacan. Outside, while waiting for the mass to finish, we ate fish balls and boiled corn. I may be mistaken, but one of our friends mentioned that beside it is a shrine for a saint whom people who are unable to walk pray. Those who were able to walk again offered their crutches to the saint.
Interior of Sta Rita de Cascia parish church in Guiguinto, Bulacan. This year’s Holy Thursday was unusually solemn because according to that same friend of ours in the previous years there were children hoisted a la Cirque du Soleil on the ceiling of the church portraying different scenes in the Christ’s Passion.
There was power black-out when we reached this church of Santissima Trinidad in Malolos, Bulacan. I found this the most modern-looking among the churches we visited. I failed to comprehend, however, the symbolism behind the glass stained eye-in-a-triangle (Eye of Providence) image.
Among the churches we visited, the Barasoain church or the parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is the most historic. It was found on the 10-peso note that is now out of circulation.
The cat was nowhere to be found.
The National Shrine of St. Anne found in Hagonoy, Bulacan. There’s a waterfall inside!
The Santa Isabel church in Malolos, Bulacan is nothing short of spectacular. But after having gone through six churches, it seemed quotidian although it truly was not. This was where I prayed the 9th Station, stuttering.
And finally, the Immaculate Conception (Major Seminary). Our last stop. The seminarians prepared well the three churches in the area for the visiting faithfuls — the paths were lighted, there were priests ready to hear confessions, and seminarians guided people around.
The exercise showed us one of the many things Filipinos would do to express their faith, the beauty of Philippine churches, patience, valuing the company of friends, and for me, the importance of taking part in this communal Catholic exercise once in a while.
I look forward to the next visita iglesia or iglesya (but definitely not /iglethia/).