Expect heavier traffic despite the Holy Week stasis, with almost everyone flocking to their places of worship of choice for the Catholic faithful's concept of excursion on Maundy Thursday aka Visita Iglesia. It's that time of the year again when people visit more cathedrals (usually seven) in a single night than the other 364 days.
Not too long ago, FHM planned a bicycle route for the same purpose, which consisted some of the more familiar churches around Metro Manila. We decided to raise the bar for our bike-riding readers with an updated Visita Iglesia itinerary, featuring parishes from the province of Bulacan.
Start limbering up for this edition of the religious road trip.
STARTING POINT: Grotto Church, Sta Maria
Photo by Provincial Government of Bulacan Online
We begin at the highlight of the trip, whose main draw is a mock hill calvary that has the same effect as The Passion of the Christ. It's not hard to understand why this Lourdes Grotto (France) replica is teeming with devotees during Holy Week.
FIRST STOP: San Lorenzo Church, San Jose del Monte
Under the watchful eyes of the first Filipino saint and martyr, the place of worship located at Pleasant Hill Subdivision was formerly a sub-parish of St. Peter Parish, Tungkong Mangga. In 2004, its quasi-parish status was changed to full-fledged classification.
How to get there: Head west to Daang Barangay, then north to Fabian Cadiz Road. Continue further until you reach San Ignacio Street, and San Lorenzo Church (left) will only be 500 meters away.
SECOND STOP: St. Michael Parish
The name was taken from the leader of the seven archangels, who is also recognized as guardian of Marilao. This barn-style Baroque parish is considered a must-visit because of the relic of the Apparition of Saint Michael in Italy.
How to get there: From San Ignacio St., head south until you reach M. Villarica Road, then turn right. Head southwest via M. Villarica road until you reach San Miguel Street then turn left.
THIRD STOP: St. Francis Assisi Parish Church
St. Francis Assisi is one of the oldest structures in the region, founded in 1578 by the first batch of the Franciscan priests to set foot in Philippine soil. The bell tower, connected by a large arch bridge to the church, is said to be one of the two of its kind.
How to get there: Go straight before turning right at Zulueta Road, then left to Sandico Street. Head south for 350 meters until you reach Daang Saluysoy Road. After 1.4 kilometers, keep right to Abacan Street. Continue further for 450 meters and pass through Meycauayan City Bridge, before turning right at Pacheco Street. Proceed to Marcos Ira Street, then turn right again.
FOURTH STOP: St. Joseph the Worker Parish
Initially made of light materials, the stone construction only started almost a decade after erection (1751, then 1842). The remaining part of the original edifice is the bell tower after the remodeled parish had been burned down three times.
How to get there: Return to Pacheco Street until you reach the North Diversion Road, then turn left. Traverse 6.8 kilometers to Balagtas Junction, before turning right to Bantayan Street. Head east until you reach St. Joseph the Worker Parish.
FIFTH STOP: Barosoain Church
The site of the First Philippine Republic (also called "Cradle of Democracy in the East") bears historical significance among locals as symbol of independence. This was how most churches looked like during the Spanish rule.
How to get there: From the church, head northwest before turning right at an unnamed road leading back to North Diversion Road. Continue northwest for 14 kilometers (seriously) then exit to McArthur Highway, where you'll take another 4.3 kilometers to Fausta Road. Turn left, then right to Lucero Street, before another right turn to Primero de Junio. Make a left turn to Enriquez Street, and Barosoain Church (left) will be a mere 110 meters away.
FINAL STOP: San Isidro Labrador Parish Church
It was christened as such in honor of the patron saint of the farmers, which is also the old name of the municipality. San Isidro Labrador is the perfect culmination with a long procession that sees more than a hundred floats in motion.
How to get there: From Enriquez Street, head northwest to Paseo del Congreso Street and continue further for 1.1 kilometers. Once you pass through McArthur Highway, you'll reach A. Mabini Street for another 3.7 kilometers. Upon arriving at Barangay Barihan, the route will lead to Gov. Padilla Road.
After three more kilometers, you'll pass by St. James Parish Church (possible side trip) before turning left to an unnamed street and heading northeast to Reyes Street, where you'll make a right turn. Ride 750 meters until you reach Plaridel Bulacan Bridge, before turning left and heading northwest. You'll reach a junction after 650 meters, then traverse the left path for another 650 meters to Pulilan Regional Road. San Isidro Labrador (right) will be 1.6 kilometers away.
Special thanks to JC Bautista