April 1, 2010. Maundy Thursday.
This year's Visita Iglesia was at the Rizal Province. I was lucky to get a seat in Coaster #2 with the rest of the participants from the Grain Quality lab (Tita Dory, Kuya Ferdie, Ate Lucy, and Ana). I thank Tita Eves for finding a spot for me in this trip. :)
We left Los Banos at 4.30AM. Rather than go via Manila to the Rizal province, the coasters travelled along the provincial route. We zipped past eastern Laguna towns around the Laguna de Bay before entering Rizal province at Pililla as the sun was rising. I'm sure this is the scenic route, but there was nothing to see in the dark. The lake was only visible thanks to the full moon and the lights along the water pipes in Kalayaan. Our first stop was the Flying V gas station at Pililla, where a lot of people had to go to the loo. Then, the visita iglesia began in earnest as we stopped at churches.
However, each time I went to a church I've never been to before, I could hear Prof. Paul Zafaralla's walking lecture in my head. One of the things I noticed is that these churches don't have the big, intimidating buttresses and the thick walls often found in Earthquake Baroque architecture (Ilocos churches). The bell towers are also situated right beside the church, unlike the stand-alone ones found all over Ilocos. Probably, because Rizal is a landlocked province, there is no need to guard against pirates and the earthquakes in the area must not be as powerful as those in Ilocos, hence the lack of these features. In Ilocos, the architectural features of the churches seemed to encompass the whole building, giving a three-dimensional feel to the design; however, the churches farther south, such as those we visited in Rizal, had relatively plain sides. The designs of the church, therefore, were limited to the facade.
Here are the churches we've visited. The altar pieces of some of the churches were covered in purple covers because it's already Maundy Thursday.
San Ildefonso Church, Tanay. The facade has some traces of Baroque influences in it, including the columns that bring the eyes up two tiers. On top of the facade is a niche containing a statue of Saint Ildefonso, a Castilian bishop. The church was completed in 1783. The facade is quite plain, almost reminding me of the San Agustin Church in Manila. However, the niches here are adorned with cherubim and fleur-de-lis, showing the colonial influences of those who created the building. The church must have been originally owned and maintained by the Franciscan order, as indicated by the bas-relief of its crest on the right lower tier (just above the damaged statue of a saint I don't know). The other side of the facade has a niche containing the statue of St. Francis (with a dog), further confirming the Franciscan influence to the parish. The belfry is beside the church, and has three tiers. Inside the church, I really liked the wood carvings of the Stations of the Cross. It is said that an unidentified artist made these wood carvings, and he has been immortalised in Nick Joaquin's Via Crucis. My curiosity is piqued! I ought to get a copy and read about this.
San Jose Church, Baras. This must be one of the oldest churches I've ever seen. According to the historical landmark, this church was completed in 1686. That's almost a century before the completion of the Tanay Church! It's amazing that the church and the belfry are still both standing! Once again, one of the more simply designed churches I've visited. I had the impression that the church itself is part of a Spanish-era stone house because there were no complicated niches and no columns that made the facade visually dynamic. The only thing, I think, that broke the monotony was the statue of Saint Joseph on the topmost niche. It's a small statue at that. Some restoration attempt seems to have been done on the top part of the facade, as indicated by the brickwork filling the space that must have been previously occupied by grey adobe blocks. The pink balustrade on the church complements those on top of the belfry. But of all the possible colours in the spectrum, WHY PINK?!?
San Geronimo Church, Morong. I was blown away by the intricate features of the facade, which rises high up the town. Truly a sight to behold! According to the historical marker, the facade and the belfry were made by Bartolome Palatino of Paete, Laguna in 1850-1853. Angels guard the sides of the facade and the belfry while flowers, vines, and leaves adorn the frontispiece. A generous helping of pairs of Tuscan columns line the sides of the octagonal belfry, and seem to support the three-tiered facade, especially at the door. Ionic columns, on the other hand, seem to frame the windows. The eyes of the pilgrim is drawn upwards by balustrades that wind up to the belfry. I never thought I'd see another breath-taking piece of Spanish-era architecture outside of the Ilocos region. Seeing the neo-Baroque facade of this church made me think again.
Santa Ursula Church, Binangonan. The church was built in 1792-1800 and renovated in 1853. The church has a three-story belfry. A coloured statue of Santa Ursula, the patron saint of the town, provides a contrast from all the grey stone as she looks at pilgrims going in and out of her church. She carries a flag of the Jesuit order in her silent vigil. The roof, I think, shows some Asian influence to the architecture because it is lined by rosettes (or Chinese stylised clouds, as Prof. Zafaralla used to say in Hum 2 class). I noticed that there was also a bas-relief sculpture of lions and towers right on top of the arched doorway. It looks like the coat of arms of the Spanish East Indies, except that the lions are holding swords.
San Clemente Church, Angono. Another pink church?!? This time, I think I ought to quit commentating aloud about the taste in colour because Angono is the hometown to the largest concentration of national artists (visual arts) in the Southern Tagalog area, and perhaps the whole country. People in Angono must know what they're doing with painting the church pink. Sadly, the renovations to this church's facade has gone so well that none of the original structure has been maintained. There are five niches, three of them (the ones on the upper part of the facade) are occupied by the statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, and Pope Clement I. Two coloured statues of Roman legionnaires are watching people going in and out of the church; they remind me of the Moriones festival in Boac, Marinduque. I wondered at the unique altar design, which featured a waterfall. Perhaps this is connected with Pope Clement finding water for him and prisoners working in a stone quarry (thereby converting the prisoners to Christianity). On the way out of the church, the word SAMBANGKA ("one boat") is on the church's arched gate. This term turns out to be a name of an artists' group that helped restore the church (oops! - for complaining about the colour). The name probably pays tribute to the way Pope Clement died: he was tied to an anchor and dropped into the Black Sea.
San Juan Baustista Church, Taytay. Situated on top of a hill, this church has a good view of the Metro Manila skyline without the smoggy background (perhaps because the city roads are relatively empty on Maundy Thursday). The church was built in 1603 by Filipino and Chinese workers, and then replaced in 1630 by P. Juan de Salazar. The church that is standing right now is the product of multiple restoration works; the last one was done in the 1970s, hence the modern stonework. The facade is yet another which has some Baroque feel to it. The columns that seem to define Baroque architecture are there. This time, however, the facade lacks fluidity in visual movement because nothing connects one tier from the other (unlike the winding balustrades in Morong). A huge statue of St. John the Baptist is on one side of the facade, and I'm not quite sure what he's looking quite intently at as he slightly bends from the waist. If Prof. Zafaralla were around, he might cringe and say, "This is a perfect example of how NOT to make a monument!" It looks like statues of Jesus and Mary are in niches at the bottom tier. The crest of the Holy See is on the upper tier. Above the doorway, there's another statue in a niche, but I'm not sure if that is still the Virgin Mary or if it is some other saint. Up another tier, the chalice and the bread (with the emblem) seem to show that the church is under the Jesuit order. These are guarded over by angels; not the usual cherubs, the huge ones. A cross between two rams is also featured in the facade. Behind the rams are mountains and clouds.
Nuestra Senora dela Paz y Buen Viaje, Antipolo City. The last stop in the seven-church journey. Indeed this trip was really a good one. The cathedral is unique because it has a domed roof, and there doesn't seem to be a facade. The museum above the sacristy had pictures showing the restoration work done on the church (hence the loss of the Spanish-era stonework), which has been utterly destroyed during World War II. The present-day church was designed by Filipino architect Jose de Ocampo in 1954. Silent sentinels surround the church and gaze down with their stern faces at travellers wishing for a good voyage. Three of the four statues atop the main entrance are accompanied by animals: a lion, a carabao, and a bird of prey (I'm not sure if it's an eagle or a hawk). The fourth one has an angel by its feet. I'm pretty sure that the saint with the carabao is San Isidro Labrador and the one with the lion is San Geronimo. I don't know who the other statues represent, but I guess they are the patron saints of the different towns of Rizal.
The Visita Iglesia: The Rizal Province Edition is a real visual feast! No wonder people visit these churches en masse. I hit STOP on the Hum 2 lecture. =)