MOMI WANDERS| Visita Iglesia at Tarlac

Mar 11, 2016 | Likes, Only Berlin

My underpaid writer friend — this is how she describes her occupation — says it right.  Tarlac is known for being the bailiwick of the Aquinos and the Cojuangcos.  And unknown to many, this province has many churches worthy of your visit. I, together with this friend, toured Tarlac for a day, chronicled each trip to Tarlac’s select places of worship, and took a few interesting shots.

Two of husband’s friends, Maui and Arvin, made our Visita Iglesia more exciting, fun, and easier.  Though equipped with a travel map, still, without the two boys, I am very certain we might have been lost along our way.

 Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 1st stop:  Santo Nino Parish, Bamban

a 1938 church at Bamban, Tarlac

Unlike hundreds of grand and ornately decorated churches, Santo Nino Parish Church in Bamban is one simple house of the Lord.  Said to have been built in 1938, this place of worship doesn’t look too old, maybe because of its bright and subtle color.  It noticeably underwent a painting work.  Its parish priest, perhaps, is too keen as well in keeping the church in perfect form.

A water well behind a Golgotha rock replica.

In front of the church is a replica of the stone in Golgotha, often referred in history books as a skull-shaped hill in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.  And beside this Golgotha model is a huge old bell.  It bothers me still the significance of the stone and the humongous bell to Santo Nino Parish.

The small church is loaded with almost life-size religious statues in each beam.

Once inside this place of worship, one would readily tell that indeed, Santo Nino Parish Church lives more than half a hundred years.  It has some pillars or columns where a quantity of expressive statues of biblical figures lined up.

Its huge glass windows invite charming natural light.  This might be the reason that despite its thick red steel bars hanging from the ceiling, the church appears well-lighted.

Visita Iglesia at Tarlac|2nd stop:  San Nicolas de Tolentino Church, Capas

From Bamban, we headed to Capas.  We asked an old lady in the neighborhood of Santo Nino Parish Church for a nearest old church.  She directed us to a church along Mac Arthur Highway; a big old church beside 7-eleven and in front of Mcdonalds.  We traveled for almost fifteen minutes looking forward to the Mcdo landmark, only to find Jollibee inviting us to stop for a needed breakfast.

This church is situated within the park of San Nicolas de Tolentino.

Little did I know that our first Filipino saint, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, was married and had two sons and a daughter with Rosario, a Flipino too.

Just in front of Jollibee is the very spacious San Nicolas Park.  And yes, there is a 7-eleven nearby. Within the park is the massive San Nicolas Church.  An equally gigantic Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary statues lined up along the park.

The Pietà (pl. same; Italian for pity) is a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus (source: wikipedia).

Low-ceilinged, this blessed place has a rather long walkway, ideal for brides aspiring for a long walk down the aisle.  And just like the previous church, various religious statues adorn the place.

English translation: “I adore Thee devoutly.” A Eucharistic hymn written by Saint Thomas Aquinas.

At the altar displays the image of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross.  Below is a somewhat gold-plated tabernacle with an inscription that says:  Adoro te devote latens deitas.

Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 3rd stop:  Sanctuario de la Immaculada Church, Concepcion, Tarlac

I was a bit disappointed to see Sanctuario de la Immaculada Concepcion.  I hate banderitas and this place of worship has a few in front.  It has a very small frontage as well, very unlike the spacious San Nicolas de Tolentino Park.  Tricycles are parked everywhere, making the place too crowded and untidy.

The exterior is dominated by red bricks and from each side of the main entrance are the images of St. Paul and St. Peter.  St. Peter was referred as the head of the Apostles, a title shared with St. Paul, thus may explain the significance of their presence at the main entrance.

Once inside, though, the grandeur of its retablo invited the very little artistic side of me to use my camera.  I simply couldn’t miss the sight.

Longer aisle, ideal for brides wanting to enjoy long walks and more prolonged stares

Its ceiling has stylishly and very detailed curved drawings.  Its stained glass windows illustrate significant historical spiritual episodes. The finest I have seen- its handcrafted solid brass chandeliers hang gracefully on each far sides of the church.  Handsome roman-inspired pillars further complement the church’s very chic interior.

The architectural details emphasize the artistic expressiveness of the building.

It has a dome-shaped altar,  creating an illusion of grandness.   At its very center is the image of the Virgin Mary decked with freshly picked white and purple flowers.   Gold and white dominate the entire altar which all more boost the stateliness of its interior.

At the far end of the church is a statue of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. The image powerfully portrays John baptizing Jesus Christ.  Through teachings say that John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11), Jesus is sinless and has no need of repentance.  This sight, as I interpret it, only proves that indeed, Jesus is very humble, showing that He identifies himself with sinners.

We visited its nearby parish office, hoping to get a handful of pertinent details about Sanctuario de la Immaculada Concepcion.  We found these old ledgers instead, a compilation of baptism and confirmation dealings some dated as late as the 1950s.

Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 4th stop:  Our Lady of Sorrows, Concepcion

On our way to our supposedly fourth church, we chance upon Our Lady of Sorrows.  Built in 2000, this relatively new church displays a Pieta sculpture on top.

From afar, one would notice that this sanctuary is made of clean marble stones, generally polished and refined; its architecture is very simple.

A quick research on Our Lady of Sorrows educated me of the Seven Sorrows (or dolors) in the life of the Blessed Mary, each popularly depicted in various art pieces.  One of which is Mary receiving the body of Jesus in Her arms, popularly interpreted in Michelangelo’s Pieta. 

Once inside, contrary to the church’s name, an aura of vivacity greets my soul. From the altar is the huge figure of the risen Lord set against a remarkably wooden polychrome retablo with gold and silver accents.  Its floor is made of plain white glazed tiles, creating an illusion of extra space.

The slightly expansive sanctuary has three aisles. Unpretentiously classy chandeliers hang from its modestly painted ceiling.  Circle stained glass windows are on both sides, each glowing with exalted beauty and narrate the fourteen stations of the cross.

Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 5th stop:  Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Central

Way to the Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel.

The Our Lady of Lourdes chapel we visited has a grotto of the Virgin Mary that sits on top of a hill (made of stones).  The name is used to refer to the various Marian apparitions, all in separate occasions, within Lourdes in France.  The first apparition recorded was that of with Saint Bernadette, a then 14-year old peasant girl.

The grotto “on the top of the hill” is an eye-catcher.  The surrounding as well is too serene. There is a separate ample parking space as well.

Inside, though, the chapel looks too ordinary. Not ornately decorated, this place of worship has a rather too simple – not that impressive – interiors.

Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 6th stop: San Sebastian Cathedral, Tarlac City

From Central, we traveled to Tarlac City and visited the once site of the revolutionary congress, the San Sebastian Cathedral in Tarlac City.  Located in front of the Tarlac City Hall, this cathedral stands gracefully at the very heart of the city.

Seems newly painted in cream and with pink as an accent, the cathedral has an image of St. Joseph carrying the little Jesus by the entrance.

A life-sized statue of a kneeling and praying Jesus Christ within the church premises caught my attention.  A dramatic portrayal of Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, this describes Jesus receiving strength from an angel on the Mount of Olives before his betrayal and arrest.

From the inside, shades of cream or ecru dominate the whole church, and at the altar is the colorful image of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross.  Its windows are made of stained glass where natural lighting passes through.

Visita Iglesia at Tarlac| 7th and last stop:  Monasterio de Tarlac

Twenty kilometers from the city, we reached the town of San Jose.  We trekked the mountainous edge of the central plain of Luzon to bring us to the Monasterio de Tarlac we have never seen or heard before.  After about 45 minutes, we finally reached the top of the mountain, but way back from afar, we had a glimpse of an all-white statue of the Risen Christ-with His arms all stretched up under the blazing sun. He stands proudly atop the high mountains.

The 30-foot statue of Jesus Christ is within the compound of Monasterio de Tarlac. This statue is just one of the many attractions of the monasterio. Enshrined within its chapel is a piece of wood said to have been taken from the very cross where Jesus Christ was crucified.  Called the relic of the true cross, and said to be the only one in Asia, this makes the place as one of the most-visited pilgrimage sites in the country.

The chapel, as I estimated it, can hold 40 max faithfuls inside.  Its altar is closed.  A wrought iron gate separates the altar from the rest part of the chapel.  May be to secure what lies inside — the relic of the true cross.
The retablo is painted white and gold and richly embellished with gold cherubins. A cross occupied the center of the altar and just below it is the tabernacle.  Above the cross are words ave crux spes unica which when I goggled mean   “hail to the cross, our only hope.”  Wikipedia says its a Latin expression or motto used by bishops and catholic institutions.
Outside the chapel are fourteen crosses where pilgrims may recite the station of the cross.  The area is too big to accommodate many travelers.  I recommend though that one visits the place past five in the afternoon to avoid the intense sunlight.

The four of us after a tiring yet wonderful adventure- a somehow near-to-close encounter with Jesus in seven different settings.

We left Manila at 7 am and returned home by 8 pm.  The long travel though was worth it.  We have been to seven churches, somehow had a good chat with the Lord, and had with us a rosary bracelet to constantly remind us of this wonderful experience.

* This was last April 2011.  I am looking for a nice place to visit this Holy Week when I chance upon this entry, thus reblogging.  

Holy week is fast approaching.  You may want to consider Tarlac as your next Visita Iglesia destination.  I attest to you that Monasterio de Tarlac is worth the visit same with the other churches.


  1. wendy

    Whew! You sure had a full day! The churches are great (most of them are, anyway) and the statues of the saints are beautiful.

    • msbolin

      yup! fun fun namn sya kahit nakakahilo sa init. pero again, its fun. pwedeng ulitin pero sa ibang lugar naman. tara, iloilo tayo!

  2. wendy

    Tara na! Pero di ba nakapunta ka na dun? Yung Paoay church pala sa Ilocos Norte e kasama sa UNESCO world heritage kaya maganda.

    • msbolin

      antayin ba natin si airphil o piso ni cebu pac?

  3. Maan Laxa

    Wow, I didn’t know Tarlac had that many beautiful churches! What an amazing way to spend the day.

    • msbolin

      Same thinking until we made a visit. 🙂

  4. Neri Ann

    Ang ganda ng mga church! Visita Iglesia na nga pala!

    • msbolin

      Yes, Visita Iglesia na. Invite your friends Na, Metro Manila has a number of nice churches din.

  5. den

    Haven’t been to Tarlac yet but the beautiful churches makes it a must visit for me. 🙂

    • msbolin

      You could have your Visita Iglesia at Tarlac 🙂 Ihihi.

    • msbolin

      Beautiful indeed. Yes, visit them this Maundy Thursday. 🙂

  6. Madz

    It’s been a long while aince I last had Visita Iglesia.I think it’s a great practice not only for the experience but to reflect on our faith.

    • msbolin

      Yes, I agree. We could visit churches near our place instead. Enjoy your Holy Week.

  7. ninasogue

    I haven’t been to Tarlac before, but I love looking at church architectures. I’d love to go visit here with the family 🙂

    • msbolin

      Me too. Church architectures sometimes intrigue me and visiting Churches is fun with family in tow. 🙂

      • ninasogue

        You can try visiting Pampanga too, if you haven’t. They have great churches too + food is very delectable 🙂

        • msbolin

          Yup, tried Pampanga as well. We had our Visita Iglesia there a year after this Tarlac visit. And we had some food trip also there. 🙂 delectable Talaga. Ihihi.

  8. Nostalgic Momma

    The churches are beyond beautiful!! I hope someday I can visit them too! 🙂

    • msbolin

      Yes. Beautiful and worth the travel. 🙂

  9. millette05

    I haven’t been to any of these churches. We’re thinking of doing visita iglesia in northern luzon this week.

    • msbolin

      Try Pampanga or Tarlac. You’ll never regret the travel. 🙂 enjoy and have a meaningful Holy Week.

  10. millette05

    These churches up north are so beautiful! I don’t travelling from south to north luzon to see these temples.

    • msbolin

      Yes, there are. Hope you consider traveling north as seeing these churches are worth the travel. But I believe there are many beautiful churches too at the south.

  11. Ma.Me.Mi.Mommy

    I haven’t been to Tarlac. I love the interiors of the Sanctuario! 🙂 Great photos!

    • msbolin

      Thank you. Aside from beautiful churches, Tarlac has go carts and other parks family will surely enjoy.

  12. Thelittlelai: Beyond limits

    Honestly, I didn’t know that there are really beautiful church in Tarlac, until i’ve read your blog post. I haven’t been to Tarlac, and will surely visit these churches you’ve mentioned above. I love that you really shared the history behind these churches and you’ve elucidated it well enough. I may didn’t any photos, but by just reading your post, I was like stepping inside the church as well. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.



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Motherhood, as I live it, is a gift not everyone can appreciate until she learns to truly live it. More musings and realizations, fun discoveries, and mommy tips at Momi Berlin's blog.

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