My underpaid friend writer– 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 a number of churches worthy of your visit. I, together with this friend writer, 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 that we might have been lost along our way.
1st stop: Santo Nino Parish, Bamban
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, may be because of its polished and subtle color. It noticeably underwent a painting work. Its parish priest, may be, is too keen as well in keeping the church in perfect form.
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.
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 a number of 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 heavy red steel bars hanging from the ceiling, the church appears well-lighted.
2nd stop: San Nicolas de Tolentino Church, Capas
From Bamban, we headed to Capas. We asked an old lady within the neigborhood 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 for the Mcdo landmark, only to find Jollibee inviting us to stop for a needed breakfast.
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.
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.
At the altar displays the image of Jesus Christ nailed on the cross. Below is a somewhat gold-plated tabernacle with inscription that says: adoro te devote latens deitas.
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.
Its ceiling has stylishly and very detailed curved drawings. Its stained glass windows illustrate significant historical spiritual episodes. The finest I have seen- its hand crafted solid brass chandeliers hang gracefully on each far sides of the church. Handsome roman-inspired pillars further complement the church’s very chic interior.
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. Thhough 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 1950s.
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 vast 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 at both sides, each glowing with exalted beauty and narrate the fourteen stations of the cross.
5th stop: Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Central
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.
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 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 at Gethsemane, this describes Jesus receiving strength from an angel on the Mount of Olives prior to 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 on the cross. its windows are made of stained glass where natural lighting passes through.
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.
We left Manila at 7am and returned home by 8pm. 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.