Philippines is undeniably one of the countries with the greatest number of Catholics—just coming behind Mexico and Brazil. For the majority of religious Filipino devotees, Holy Week is a sacred time to think and reflect about the sacrifices of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and ask penance for the sins they intentionally or unintentionally committed. It is also a great time to renew their faith and strengthen their relationship with God.
Holy Week or Semana Santa in Spanish, starts on Palm Sunday and lasts up to Easter Sunday or Pasko ng Pagkabuhay. This 2022, Mahal na Araw, as how we call it, will fall on the following dates:
April 10- Palm Sunday
April 11- Holy Monday
April 12- Holy Tuesday
April 13- Holy Wednesday
April 14- Maundy Thursday
April 15- Good Friday
April 16- Black Saturday
April 17- Easter Sunday
As the country’s quarantine measure transitions into Alert Level 1— interzonal and intrazonal travels are finally allowed, as well as operations of commercial establishments, we are hopeful to revisit various religious sites and pilgrimage destinations—of course, with the continuous wearing of facemasks and observing health and safety protocols.
And what's the best pilgrimage destination other than the pilgrimage capital of the Philippines-- Antipolo City?
Nestled atop a plateau a hundred meters above sea level, the City of Antipolo offers a breathtaking view of the metropolis as it lies East of Manila. The largest city in Calabarzon in terms of population, Antipolo City is a city with fascinating historical origins littered with religious sites and stunning wonders of nature.
The city's name was coined after a type of breadfruit tree locally known as 'tipolo,' which grows abundantly around the region. In 1975, it became the capital city of Rizal after the former capital, Pasig City, became part of Metro Manila.
Historically, Antipolo City contributed a lot to the country's strife for freedom and sovereignty, even becoming a center for guerilla resistance movement during the Japanese occupation in 1898 during World War II.
On the other hand, Antipolo's religious roots can be traced back in the 1570s, when Franciscan missionaries erected a church in Boso boso. In 1626, Governor-General Juan Nino de Tabora bestowed the then growing community an image of the blessed Virgin Mary which he brought all the way from Acapulco, Mexico. According to accounts, this image of the Virgin Mary was often 'lost' and the people of the rural town will always find it sitting atop of the Antipolo tree.
Following the string of these unusual incidents, the people of Antipolo erected a church under the supervision of Fr. Juan de Salazar.
In 1639, the villagers a held a protest against the increase of tax price collection. In retaliation, the Chinese burned down the village, including the old Antipolo church where the virgin's image was placed. Miraculously, the image was recovered from the debris unscratched. Ten years later, the image was renamed as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
During Holy Week, numerous devotees from Manila and nearby provinces traverse through the slopes of Antipolo to attend mass at the Antipolo Cathedral. Those who wish for a safe travel and journey can ask guidance and protection from Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
On the evening of April 30th, pilgrims gather to start a journey on foot called Alay Lakad. The usual starting point of this march is from Quiapo Church in Manila. They travel through the path leading to the shrine where they attend mass at the wake of the sun the following day.
This annual scene earned the city's title, Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines.
One spectacle of the pilgrimage city is the scene of a woman wearing her Maria Clara dress lying in a hammock. According to the Filipino novelist Nick Joaquin, as mentioned in the blog, Traveler on Foot, the hammock is a reminder of how Filipinos travel in Antipolo during the old days. Back then, there were no available road to traverse Antipolo, and the best way to trek through the footpaths is by riding these hammocks.
If you are planning to visit pilgrimage sites, it is important to bring only the essential items with you. You will be venturing out on a possibly long walk and carrying a large bag full of unimportant stuff will just add burden and may ruin your holy week spirit.
Also, don't forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Pilgrimage usually happens during summer, so make sure to bring extra protection from the heat of the sun such as umbrellas and hats. Apply sunblock lotion for that extra layer of protection. Lastly, bring water bottles to keep yourself hydrated throughout the walk. Also, don't forget to bring extra cash for out of the blue expenses.
And the most important thing to all, is to pack yourself spiritually.
There a lots various scenic spots you can check out at Antipolo City after your pilgrimage. Albeit lacking the sandy beaches or surf-worthy waves of other travel destinations, the breathtaking scenery and natural attractions make up for it.
Undeniably the city's most well-known tourist attraction, Hinulugang Taktak is a wonderland of waterfalls surrounded by picnic groves and cottages, swimming pools and pathways that offer breathtaking views of the falls. The entrance fee to the National Park is 8 pesos, just add in 15 pesos if you want to take a nice dip in the pool.
Inday Deles, an Iloilo native, scoured the country in search of a mystical cave that kept appearing in her dreams and visions since she was seven years old. And that is the Mystical Cave in Antipolo.
Another peak pilgrimage destination, this underground rock formation is especially famous during Lenten Season for its stalactite and stalagmite limestone formations that resembles religious images. For a cheap price of 30 pesos, you can explore this wonderful cave with a tour guide's company.