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Visita Iglesia: 7 Churches in Metro Cebu for Holy Week Pilgrimage

Holy Week is a very important religious holiday in the Philippines. It’s so important that we have national holidays on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday. This is the one of those rare times when almost a hundred percent of businesses close shops including malls and department stores and when bus terminals, seaports and airports teem with people going home to their respective provinces or to the places where they will observe the Holy Days.

The season of Lent specifically the period of the Holy Week also signals Visita Iglesia, the Roman Catholic tradition of visiting 7 churches to pray, to reflect, to ask for forgiveness of sins and to renew and strengthen one’s faith. It is a pilgrimage undertaken by the devout and faithful. Usually this tradition is being observed every Maundy Thursday, but some choose to do week-long Visita Iglesia.

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What churches to visit during Visita Iglesia is a personal choice. Some go to the churches closest to one’s home, other wants to visit parishes of certain patrons or patroness, others travel far to include UNESCO heritage churches to their Holy Week pilgrimage, some visit interesting churches in other provinces, others explores centuries old churches from within one’s province. Reasons can be varied as to how one comes up with the 7 churches list.

In Cebu, some Cebuanos prefer to go to the South or to the North for their church pilgrimage. For those of us who prefers to have Visita Iglesia within the city, listed below are my suggestions of which churches to visit this Holy Week 2013 that is located within Metro Cebu.

Metro Cebu is comprised of the following component cities:  Cebu City, Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City. There are lots of churches in these places but I am picking just 7 churches. Seven because Visita Iglesia traditionally only requires the pilgrim to visit Seven churches. You can of course visit as many churches as you want.

1. Lapu – Lapu City –  National Shrine of Nuestra Señora Virgen de la Regla 

Known to many as Opon Church, this National Shrine is dedicated to the Virgen of the Rule. You can find this parish in the public market of Opon. The easiest and fastest way to get to the Birhen de la Regla na simbahan is to take the ferry in Pier 3. The ferry docks in Muelle de Osmena which is at the back of the church.

 Kindly read this separate post about this parish – Virgen of the Rule, Lapu-Lapu City

 Virgen de la Regla Parish Opon

2.      Mandaue City – National Shrine of Saint Joseph

Mandaue Church or The National Shrine of St Joseph is  very important to Cebu as this church is part of the triumvirate of churches that is very prominent every Sinulog celebration, the other two being Guadalupe Church and Sto Nino Church. The patron saint of this major church in Mandaue is St Joseph.

 You can find this church in Centro Mandaue, just across Mandaue City Hall. One highlight of this church is its special diorama where you can see life size figures of Jesus Chris and His apostles during the Last Supper.

St Joseph Church, Mandaue City

St Joseph Church Mandaue

 Photo courtesy of The Travelling Feet

3.      Mabolo, Cebu City –  St Joseph Patriarch Parish Mabolo 

This church patron saint is St Joseph The Patriarch. When you visit this church, hope you will also say a prayer at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto which you can find on the parish ground.

 You can easily find this church in the main highway of M.J. Cuenco Avenue, at the intersection of Mabolo and de la Montana Avenue (previously named Juan Luna Ave). If you are in the vicinity of SM Cebu, then this church is already walking distance.

4.      Cebu City – Basilica Minore del Sto Nino

 The most famous of all Cebu churches is the Sto Nino Church which is formally known as the Basilica Minore del Sto Nino. You can find the original Sto Nino, the “baby Jesus” given by Magellan to Reyna Juana centuries ago inside the church complex. There is a museum and a souvenir shop that you can also visit. Expect this church to be teeming with devotees at all times. If you are already in the Basilica take time to visit the iconic Magellan’s Cross and Cebu Cathedral which are nearby.

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 Novena Mass at Basilica Minore del Sto Nino during the Sinulog Celebration

Sto Nino Church Cebu

Photo courtesy of Jesi Cubijano

It’s easy to get there when you are already in Colon Street, just find the intersection where you can see Gaisano Metro, that’s the intersection of Colon and Osmena Blvd. Now walk against the traffic, after 15 minutes or so you will find the church as its just 4 short blocks away from the intersection.

5.      Cebu City – Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral

The Cathedral of Cebu is the seat of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of the province. This church is situated in downtown Cebu City and nearby Sto Nino Church, so you can easily visit this before or after you visited the Basilica.

 Within the complex you will find the Cathedral Museum that you can also visit especially if you want to know more in-depth details about the Cebu Cathedral’s history and the priests that served this church as well as to explore artifacts from the past.

6.      Cebu City –  Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu

Known by the locals as Guadalupe Church, the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu is a church whose patroness is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Every Sinulog, the Birhen sa Guadalupe is taken on a procession and then later on the route will be joined by the Sto Nino. Mother and Child then travel to St Joseph Church in Mandaue City to be with the Father, completing the Traslacion Procession or “Panagtagbo” journey to unite the family.

When you visit Guadalupe for your Visita Iglesia, please don’t forget to also go to the Langub sa Birhen sa Guadalupe, a special Grotto where most pilgrims also visits.  Our Lady’s feast falls on every December 12.

7.      Cebu City –  Archdiocesan Shrine of Saint Pedro Calungsod

Technically a chapel, not a church, but I just have to list this newly built Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod, considered as the Patron Saint of the Youth as this would be an important religious center that you can consider for Visita Iglesia. This is especially in the light that we celebrate his feast every April 2 or 2 days after Easter Sunday this 2013.

San Pedro Calungsod was beatified on March 5,2000 by Blessed Pope John Paul II and then was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City last Oct. 21,2012. San Pedro Calungsod is the second saint from the Philippines, after San Lorenzo Ruiz.

Located at SM Seaside City in the South Reclamation Project, the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod is already being visited by pilgrims from all over the Philippines.


If you can’t physically go to churches this Holy Week 2013 but you really want to, the CBCP has a dedicated website so the Catholics can still observe the religious events. Please visit http://visitaiglesia.net/2013/ where you can find a list of featured churches, Liturgy on Lent, 7 Last Words, Cathechesis on Lent and more. If you are an OFW or traveling outside the country during the Holy Week, this online Visita Iglesia is perfect for you especially if you are face with difficulties in finding churches where you are at.

CBCP stands for Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines.

 Have a Blessed Holy Week!

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About Cille Anne

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