Thursday, April 17, 2014

Departures from my Traditional Maundy Thursday...

Loreto is full of people following the stations of the cross
Loreto Church in Sampaloc
It is a quiet Thursday.  The streets are almost empty as most Manila dwellers retreated to the provinces. It is again ideal to go around as there is almost no traffic.  I was thinking if it would be easy to follow our traditional yearly Visita Iglesia route.

Faux-gothic of San Beda

St. Jude Church
This year there will be a change.  Ever since I could remember, I perform Visita Iglesia along with my family - my parents and my siblings. When my Mom died I still managed to go, probably not with the whole family, but at least with my dad and a sibling or two. But this year that my Dad is gone. It seems Maundy Thursday is not anymore a family day for me and I am to go on my very first Visita, alone. Honestly I was dreading it at first, but somehow I found it more relaxing and contemplative.  For one I could take my time, and follow a route that I like and enjoy. 
The station of the cross murals at San Beda are outdated but very beautiful
I chose to go on a route where I could mostly walk.  I decided to start with Loreto Church in Sampaloc.  From there I was thinking i could proceed on foot to four more churches: San Beda, St. Jude, San Sebastian and Quiapo.  I got my stations-of-the-cross prayer book at hand, starting four stations at Loreto, and going through to two or three with the succeeding churches. I was almost finished with 12 station when I got to towering steel San Sebastian church.

The barrel vault of San Beda
The modern lines of St. Jude
The walk from Loreto to San Sebastian was surprisingly manageable for a couch potato like me. Though I was alone, the streets had a festive feel as there are numerous people doing Visita Iglesia along side me.  They were also enjoying themselves as they squeeze in a group shot or selfie.  Of course I could not help myself occasionally bringing out my phone camera, especially while admiring the architecture of the churches.

After San Sebastian I decided not to walk to Quiapo, but instead take a cab ride to Manila Cathedral and San Agustin.  But upon reaching the Intramuros walls, there was unfamiliar Holy Week traffic. My cab driver pulled back to try another route but that also was clogged.  After a few minutes of waiting behind the slow cars, my cab went a final U-turn and head back to the Sta Cruz area.  
I think it is already obvious that this is my favorite church - San Sebastian.

The brick-laden Sta. Cruz Church
My 5th church became Sta Cruz Church.  It was where I finished my Station of the Cross, as the cross markers where conveniently located outside of the church building.  I sat at one corner where I made my contemplative prayers, amidst other church-goers but minus minding if any of my companions are waiting. I realized that part was alsoin a way stressful.

Offered a couple of colorful prayer candles
I leisurely walked through a more crowded street - Carriedo to find myself going to the church I was supposed to visit at no. 5 - Quiapo.  It seems destiny really wanted me to visit this church.  I lighted a few colorful candles and said thanksgiving prayers, but could not stand the crowds.  I decided to leave Quiapo after a short prayer to head to my last church.  The underpass was closed for renovation.  I had to walk under Quezon Bridge and pass through the handicraft stores - a feast for the eye. 
The ever crowded church of Quiapo was still very commercially busy
Lourdes Church
My last church was Lourdes Minor Basilica, where my family traditionally start our Visita Iglesias. I could not finish my own route without passing through Lourdes, which was also my Alma Mater.  We usually finish the stations here before going to the other churches where we make shorter prayers.  This time around I was done with the prayer book and lit only a few candles.  It was different but nevertheless still done somewhere familiar.  I planned to passby my favorite puto-bungbong stall but in the end got suman and kalamay instead - another stereotype departure.  I dipped both treats in a bowl of sugar, after a tiring but self-discovering Visita Iglesia.  I realized I will be starting new traditions in the years following this one!

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