Laguna province is home to at least 31 churches, five of which have been made shrines under the Diocese of San Pablo. The very old ones are located in the third and fourth districts of the province and they are the usual destinations of pilgrims during Lent.
For a Visita Iglesia of seven churches, however, the following are the choices.
Shrine of Jesus
On the southern route from Manila, the closest is the Shrine of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre, located in Barangay Landayan in San Pedro town.
The shrine is a 2,016-square-meter church that houses the life-size wooden image of “Lolo Uweng,” a representation of the dead Christ that, as the story goes, fishermen found on the shore of Laguna de Bay in the 19th century.
At the back of the church is a 3-meter-deep well that never dries up. To this day, people come to draw water from this well whose water is believed to have healing powers.
Sonny Ordoña, a coordinator of the shrine’s social communications ministry and the town’s information officer, estimates that around 15,000 people visit the Lolo Uweng on Fridays, making it necessary for the church to celebrate 15 to 16 Masses, and more during the Holy Week.
In 2012, Ordoña said, the number of churchgoers and devotees reached “close to a million.”
“It was a moving sea of humanity, forming eight to 10 queues” just to see and touch the image,” he said.
The Laguna police director, Senior Supt. Pascual Muñoz, said traffic congestion could be expected in Calamba City and Los Baños town due to the number of tourists headed to resorts this week.
Muñoz said the road checkpoints and help desks had been set up all over the province for security and assistance to travelers.
San Pablo Cathedral
Pilgrims cannot miss San Pablo Cathedral, the heart of the diocese, in San Pablo City. From Calamba City, travelers may take the Turbina road to bypass Alaminos town to avoid traffic on the national road in Los Baños.
St. John, St. Bartholomew
San Pablo City is closer to the towns of Liliw and Nagcarlan, sites of the centuries-old churches of St. John the Baptist and St. Bartholomew the Apostle. These churches do not only draw pilgrims but also tourists who come to admire their baroque architectures.
St. Anthony de Padua
Another route from Calamba City, via the national road, leads to the town of Pila, where another centuries-old church, the St. Anthony de Padua, stands.
Considered miraculous by devotees who flock to this church every Tuesday, the image of St. Anthony de Padua is the patron saint of lost things and missing people. The intercession of St. Anthony is said to lead to the finding of lost things and missing people.
Aside from the church, Spanish-style houses and a museum that displays antiques and handicrafts are found in the town plaza.
Our Lady of Turumba
In Pakil town is the Our Lady of Turumba, a stone church built in 1732. The church is said to be at the center of the country’s longest fiesta, known as Turumba (dancing procession). Also called Pistang Lupi, which runs for about seven months starting on March 22, the feast is held as a devotion to the church’s patron saint, the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows).
The celebrations are most often attended by devotees from different places in Laguna, Quezon and nearby provinces, including Metro Manila.
Devotees believe that by taking part in the processions and attending the Masses for several days and weeks and bathing in the spring near the church whose water is believed to have healing powers, their requests will be granted and their ailments healed.
Our Lady of Candelaria
A five-minute drive from Pakil brings pilgrims to the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria (Our Lady of Candelaria) church in Mabitac town.
“Thousands come here even before the start of the Holy Week. There are students, pilgrims, even mayors from other towns,” Mabitac Mayor Gerardo Fader said.
But he suggested another route (without traffic) to get to Mabitac, which is through Manila East Road, a two-hour drive from Antipolo City through Tanay in Rizal.
Devotees, he said, do not mind the long drive and the 126 steps to climb in order to reach the church, as “these can already be a form of penitence.”
The other centuries-old churches in Laguna are the Immaculate Concepcion Church in Sta. Cruz town, St. Magdalene Church in Magdalena town, San Sebastian Church in Lumban and St. Gregory the Great Church in Majayjay. Lighter traffic is expected in these parts of the province.