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Withdrawing from the noise and the banalities of city life has become the mantra of the modern Lent devotee that traveling to Philippine destinations can be deemed as one way to the path of enlightenment.
For both the devout and the not-so-religious, Holy Week means offering prayers in churches, fasting, and countless other practices that are believed to cleanse the soul. However, modern times have paved the way for more unorthodox practices that, though not anymore aligned with the traditional doctrines of worship, are construed as valid ways to reflect and demonstrate one’s faith in God.
The Lenten season has come to signify more than the complex sacrificial rituals; more and more people equate it with finding some quiet time away from the noise and the petty moral corruption of the world.
If you’re looking to retreat away from home, these provinces are perfect for some spiritual awakening:
Batangas is mostly known for its undulated mountains and lush expanse of greeneries, inviting people to commune with nature. But more than finding solace in the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings, one can also take refuge in the confines of a church, which Batangas has plenty of.
For one, there is San Sebastian Church in Lipa City that boasts a Romanesque aesthetic and Augustinian roots. The largest Catholic church in Asia—Basilica de San Martin de Tours, commonly known as Taal Basilica—sits atop the hilly terrains of Batangas, particularly in the old heritage town of Taal.
The province is also home to several art museums like Marcella Agoncillo Museum, Don Apacible Museum, and Goco Ancestral House, as well as other Spanish-style ancestral houses that line the old town’s cobblestone streets.
A mecca of pine trees and glorious woodlands conducive for meditation, Baguio is one place that one can leave feeling more enlivened than when they arrived. Notable places like Camp John Hay Ecotrail, The Botanical Garden, and The Pine Trees at World Park can help you recharge and reconnect with yourself. Riding horses in Wright Park is also one of the top activities to do when in Baguio; but if you are low on budget, a simple walk, jog, or bicycle ride around the entire stretch of Burnham Park will help ease your mind and invigorate your spirit.
Art therapy is just around the corner, too, with the Ili Likha Village along Assumption Road. A melange of artworks from local Baguio artists and craftsmen fill every corner of the place, along with several small restaurants.
Just an hour away from the urban enclave of Metro Manila is the city of Antipolo, which has long been hailed as the “Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines”. Every day during Holy Week, people flock to The Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Antipolo Cathedral) to pray and worship.
This is also the destination of what people refer to as Alay Lakad—a penitential walk for a cause where devotees travel on foot from Quiapo Church. Another Lent-related activity in Antipolo is a visit to the majestic Via Dolorosa White Cross. The Via Dolorosa is just one tricycle ride from the Antipolo Cathedral, and the trek up the White Cross can be tiring as one has to pass all the 12 Stations of the Cross with life-size monuments depicting the journey and ascension of Jesus. After reflecting in the Via Dolorosa trek, one can eat a bountiful meal and take a refreshing bath at the Hinulugang Taktak, which is also close to the Antipolo Cathedral.
Baliuag in Bulacan has one of the longest Holy Wednesday and Good Friday processions in our country. Grand carrozas that are locally crafted and designed are paraded all over the town as the massive crowd of devotees and tourists join the procession. The town of Marilao, on the other hand, is frequented by people who want to reflect in the hallowed grounds of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.
In other towns of Bulacan like San Miguel, people commune with the divine through a holy pilgrimage in the Banal na Bundok, where the 12 Stations of the Cross are situated. Other places of worship are scattered all over the province like the Grotto Shrine in San Jose Del Monte City, as well as the crucifixion site in Barangay Kapitangan in Paombong where it is said that at least five faith healers have themselves nailed on wooden crosses as an act of penitence.
Bicolanos are particularly known as one of the most religious ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines, so it is no wonder that the province of Camarines Sur is one of the best places for the annual Visita Iglesia. Devotees can make their first stop the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, the biggest church in the Bicol region. Another notable church to visit is the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, which is the new home of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Other prominent churches are in the town of Calabanga, such as the Our Lady of La Porteria Parish Church built in the 16th century; and the beautiful Quipayo Church, which is one of the oldest brick churches in the country and has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
This Lenten season, may you find peace and that much-needed spiritual boost wherever you choose to spend the season.
Sources: Tripzilla, When in Manila
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