Lakbay Pamilya 2018: Seven Churches In Rizal And Laguna
Lakbay Pamilya is the Visita Iglesia version of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal National Shrine Parish (OLMMNSP) conducted during the season of Lent. "The essence of the Visita Iglesia devotion is to visit and pray in the holy presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament."
The first Lakbay Pamilya was held in 2017 in Quezon and Batangas. For its second year, the OLMMNSP parishioners journeyed together as one family to seven churches in Rizal and Laguna on March 10, 2018.
More than 300 pilgrims participated and were accompanied by their Shrine Rector and Parish Priest – Rev. Fr. Francisco Nicolas "Kiko" P. Magnaye, Jr., CM and Rev. Fr. Nelson B. Bisco, CM respectively.
Seven tourist buses safely transported the pilgrims to their destinations. Each bus had its dedicated two prayer leaders and two marshals.
The former were assigned to give a brief description and history of each church and to lead the prayers inside the church and on the bus.
The latter were not only tasked to guide the group and to ensure that all persons were aboard the bus before departing, they also kept the pilgrims entertained while on the road.
From the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal National Shrine Parish in Sucat, Muntinlupa, the pilgrims reached their first destination in Morong, Rizal around seven o’clock in the morning.
SAN GERONIMO CHURCH in Morong, Rizal
The San Geronimo Church was built in 1615-1620. In 1850-1853, the facade was renovated and a bell tower was added in Baroque Revival style architecture. "It is easily the most striking of all church facades along Laguna de Bay." Additional attraction is the first class relic (a part of St. Jerome's body) given to the parish in 2005 by the church of St. Jerome in Rome.*
Upon arrival, the pilgrims recited the Invitation, Opening Prayer, and the prayers, Gospel reading and reflection for the First Church found in the prayer booklet included in the pilgrim's kit. At 7:30 a.m., a Holy Mass was celebrated by Fr. Kiko and Fr. Nelson.
During his homily, Fr. Kiko imparted two main points: Pakay at Disposisyon.
“Pakay: Ang manumbalik sa Panginoon.”
“Disposisyon: Ang maging mapagpakumbaba at sa habag ng Panginoon sana’y makagawa tayo ng tama at bumalik sa Panginoon para tayo ay makapunta sa Kanyang kaharian."
Before the final blessing, Fr. Nelson and Fr. Kiko expressed their gratitude to San Geronimo Church for their hospitality.
SAN JOSE CHURCH in Baras, Rizal
The San Jose Church was constructed in 1682-1686 "in a mixture of fortress-style and barn-style Baroque architecture. The church is notable for its dark, simple, and sparse qualities." In the late 1960s and 2000s, renovations to the structure were done.*
The San Jose Church is located less than half an hour away from the first church. After the pilgrims recited the prayers, Gospel reading and reflection for the Second Church, they took selfies, groupies and solo pictures of the church's interior and exterior.
SAN ILDEFONSO DE TOLEDO PARISH CHURCH in Tanay, Rizal
Also known as Tanay Church, it was built in 1773-1783. It is one of the 25 churches in the Philippines declared by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts as a National Cultural Treasure Church. "The 14 Stations of the Cross inside the church is considered as one of the most beautiful Stations of the Cross in Asia." Also found in the church is a relic of a piece of bone of San Ildefonso from Zamora, Spain, where the body of the patron saint lies.*
Just a stone's throw away, about 8 minutes, from the second church is the San Ildefonso de Toledo Parish Church or Tanay Church. Upon entering the church, one could not help but notice the grand, main retablo of the Tanay Church. The entire front of the church from the altar and its left and right sides are filled with statues of the saints and the Blessed Mother.
But before the pilgrims could take any pictures, a representative of the church provided them an overview of the church. Afterwards, the pilgrims altogether recited the prayers, Gospel reading and reflection for the Third Church. Then, it was time for the photo op.
REGINA RICA in Tanay, Rizal
The Regina RICA (Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia) is a 13.5 hectare land at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The towering 71-foot high statue of the Our Lady of the Regina Rosarii was designed by artist-sculptor Jose Barcena, Jr. It was constructed on October 7, 2009 and the blessing took place on March 19, 2010.*
The Fourth Church, Regina Rica, is the last church in the itinerary in the province of Rizal. The pilgrims were given an orientation before they were able to see its 13.5-hectare church premises. Because of its vastness and the many areas to visit, the pilgrims were afforded the liberty to explore and pray on their own and to have their lunch at Regina Rica.
A Side Trip: PILILLA WIND FARM
The wind farm covers an area of 4,515 hectares. The construction of the 27 wind turbine generators or the windmills grouped into three clusters began on June 18, 2013.*
En route to the fifth church, the pilgrims were given a sightseeing and photo op bonus of the Wind Farm in Pililla, Rizal.
SAN PEDRO ALCANTARA PARISH CHURCH in Pakil, Laguna
The San Pedro Alcantara Church was built in 1732-1767 in Corinthian and Iconic style of architecture with the addition of a tower in 1777. A major repair was done from 1980 to 1984, when a story of the bell tower was rebuilt and the ceiling was renovated under the Parish Council of the Laity. It enshrines the Our Lady of Turumba painting which was unveiled in 1788.*
After an hour drive from Pililla Wind Farm, the pilgrims reached the San Pedro Alcantara Parish Church in Pakil, Laguna. Together they recited the prayers, Gospel reading and reflection for the Fifth Church. Then, they took pictures of the pantheon of saints housed in the main and in the smaller retablos on both sides of the altar. Afterwards, they proceeded to the Chapel of the Our Lady of Turumba located on the second floor of the church.
NUESTRA SEÑORA DE GUADALUPE in Pagsanjan, Laguna
The facade of Pagsanjan church is a three-level early Renaissance styled facade. In 1958, Mexican Catholics contributed a life-sized image of Our Lady of Guadalupe sculpted by Ramon Barretto of Toluca, which can be seen in the church today.*
A side chapel near the altar houses an image of San Juan Diego, a replica of the tilma of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and a stone relic from Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City in 1531, the site of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe.*
The celebration of the anticipated Mass was ongoing when the pilgrims arrived at the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Pagsanjan, Laguna. Hence, they proceeded to the adjoining chapel where they recited the prayers, Gospel reading and reflection for the Sixth Church in front of the replica of the tilma of the Our Lady of Guadalupe.
After the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the pilgrims went back inside the church to take photos of the spacious but simple yet majestic altar with the image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe from Mexico as its focal point.
SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA in Pila, Laguna
Also known as the Church of Pila, it is the first Antonine parish church in the Philippines in 1581 and probably in Asia. In 1599 permission was given to build a stone church. In 1617 the stone church and rectory was finished.*
It was already dark when the pilgrims reached the seventh or last church; still the church workers of San Antonio de Padua cheerfully greeted their visitors. They asked the pilgrims to sign in their signature campaign to make their church the National Shrine of San Antonio de Padua. They also handed out leaflets and blessed dried petals.
When the pilgrims finished reciting the prayers, Gospel reading and reflection for the Seventh Church, and the Final Prayer; a representative of the church led in saying the Panalangin at Mga Pamanhik kay San Antonio. Then, she said a few words about their church and asked the help of those who have not signed in their signature campaign.
A Word of Thanks
Fr. Nelson delivered the closing remarks before the group left for the OLMM Shrine. He thanked the San Antonio de Padua Parish for their warm welcome.
He also expressed his gratitude, congratulations, and gave ten thumbs up to the organizers of Lakbay Pamilya 2018 spearheaded by the Church Workers Commission – headed by Mrs. Rose Morada – in coordination with the Vincentian Parish Youth Ministry (VPYM) and the Miraculous Medal School (MMS).
Last but not the least; he thanked all the pilgrims for their participation. And together with Fr. Kiko, they bestowed blessings on everyone.
Home Sweet Home
The pilgrims arrived back at the Shrine at past 10 p.m. already, but the blessings received, the time spent with God in prayer, the marvelous churches visited, the new acquaintances gained, and the safe and joyful travel truly made it a worthwhile and memorable experience.
As we continue with our individual life's pilgrimage, let us pray to God to help us focus our direction and attention to Him, so that in His time we may reach our ultimate goal and final destination – our true home, God's kingdom.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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*References: Websites of the churches and Wikipedia