The province of Pampanga also takes the center stage during the Holy Week Season due to the strong faith-related activities like self-flagellation and actual crucifixion, elevating the province to a global limelight. In the main thoroughfares of Pampanga and neighboring provinces, you will see penitents sauntering while bearing heavy cross-shaped logs or flagellating their wounded backs with bamboo wielded whips. The Roman Catholic faith dominates the province and holy week traditions are very evident and notable during Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays. The practice of visiting seven main churches, Visita Iglesia with family and friends is a yearly practice and actually became of the tourism-related activities of the places.
Pampanga holds numerous heritage churches dating back from the Spanish Invasion era and some still hold the original structures or materials. The rich history of these churches, adding up their magnificent facades, are the main factors why Catholics visit them. Seeing from social media posts, church management place on decorative and sacred additions in the altar which are truly picturesque.
So what are the churches in Pampanga you might want to add in your Visita Iglesia “panata”?
1. San Agustin Church, Lubao – famed as the oldest church in Pampanga. The wall structure is adored with adobe bricks and an intricately designed retablo is noticeable once you enter the main “church area.” The church has a garden at the side where you can “muni muni” outside for fresh air or if you want a quick snap with the beautiful bell tower as a backdrop. There are nearby stores should you feel thirsty or hungry.
2. Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish Church – bearing still the original structure, its facade and huge bell tower are its main eye drawer. Also, according to the church management, there are original paintings on the ceiling, that are sealed with plywood to prevent deterioration. They have plans to reveal again these paintings.
3. Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando – located in the downtown area of the capital city of San Fernando, the church boasts an off-white facade with modern interiors and beautiful bell tower. Its height dominates the main downtown area and is actually like a mecca of penitents during Good Fridays.
4. St. James the Apostle Parish Church, Betis, Guagua – dubbed as the Sistine Chapel of Pampanga, located in the arts-haven town of Guagua, the church interior is adorned with intricate paintings depicting the Catholic faith. While being here, it is prohibited to take photographs inside to prevent deterioration of the paintings. Beside the main church area, there is a huge dimly light room full of life-size statues of saints.
5. San Guillermo Parish Church, Bacolor – famed as a filming site of the local tv station soap opera, the church is famed because of its sunken beauty which almost 1/4 of its total height remaining due to heavy lahar flows during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The church has still its original wooden ceiling support and a bell tower you can visit and observe the birds and bats conniving together. Just be careful of the random droppings when you get here.
6. Holy Rosary Parish in Angeles City – one of the tallest church in Pampanga, the church is famed for its tall twin bell towers that dominate the Angeles skyline. According to historians, the church survived the World War II and if its wall could only speak to tell the tale.
This article will be updated soon as I step in the other amazing heritage churches of my dear province.