By Francine Ciasico
Pampanga has been known as ‘The Culinary Center of the Philippines’ but it has more to offer other than just its rich and tasteful delicacies. The province is also blessed with rich religious historical heritage.
Many Filipinos often visit the province to reflect and solemnly observe the Lenten Season.
Aside from Pampanga’s local Calvary in Cutud, numerous faithful also travel to the province to see its picturesque churches, which are some of the oldest in the country.
Moreover, most of the province’s churches have a structure of a cross-shaped figure.
To this day, it is believed that if it is your first time to visit a church, it is a must to knock three times at the door and make a wish, for your wish to be granted in a short span of time.
Pampanga is the perfect go-to location for those planning to do Visita Iglesia outside the Metro.
Here are some of Pampanga’s churches you can visit for your “spiritual journey” this Lent.
San Agustin Parish Church
The church is located at Lubao, Pampanga and was named after St. Augustine of Hippo who was the patron saint of theologians, brewers, people who are suffering from sore eyes, and people who want to remove their bad habits and vices.
It is known as the oldest church in Pampanga, founded in 1572 and built in 1640.
It is a neoclassical type of church who was recognized by the National Museum of the Philippines as an ‘Important Cultural Property’.
Former President Diosdado Macapagal was baptized at this church and his daughter, former President and congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lives nearby.
Townsfolk said they often see the congresswoman attending mass and living a simple life.
Santa Lucia Parish Church
The church is located at the municipality of Sasmuan, which is known for its pastillas and polvoron.
It is named after St. Lucy which is the patron saint of the blind and the people who are confused of what’s ahead of them.
According to the book Dante’s Inferno, St. Lucy was giving light to those who were about to enter hell.
Santa Lucia Parish Church was the first church built by Augustinian priests.
It was found during the 1590s and built during the 1660s.
Its feast day is celebrated during December 30, which is the shortest day in winter solstice.
Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish Church
Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish Church is located in the smallest municipality in Pampanga, Sta. Rita.
In 1726, the municipality of Sta. Rita made its parochial independence as Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish Church was found.
In 1839, the concrete part of the church was built.
A part of the church was made from molave and kamagong which date more than three hundred years back.
St. Rita is the patron saint of impossible causes because of her life story.
At the age of 12, she had an arrangement marriage.
She became a battered wife, which is why she is also the patron saint of abused women and the broken-hearted.
Her figure is popularly known to be holding a skull to remind the people of their mortality – that everyone will be facing death soon.
Folk catechism says the skull is the head of St. Rita’s husband, in order to scare husbands to be nice to their wives.
St. Rita’s emblems were roses and bees.
When she was about to die, she requested her cousin to give her a rose in winter.
When her cousin went to her house, her garden of roses was in full bloom.
Furthermore, bees feed her with honey on her mouth without hurting her.
St. Rita’s body has not yet been decomposed and still preserved in Italy.
A first class relic – a part of St. Rita’s arm flesh – was given to the parish.
Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church
Located in Guagua, Pampanga, the Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church was built in the 17th century, which depicts that it is not as old as the other parishes mentioned.
It is a Baroque type of church with the Nativity of Our Lady as its first titular patron before the Immaculate Concepcion.
Its feast day is on December 8.
During the late 19th century, the organ installed by Doña Carmen Macau in the church was dubbed as the best in Pampanga.
In 1990s, the convent was razed with fire.
St. James Parish Church
St. James Parish Church is located at Betis, Pampanga. The parish is named after St. James the apostle, the patron saint of Spaniards and Portuguese.
With a Baroque style and design, it was established in 1607.
It is known as the ‘Betis Church’.
The National Museum and National Commission for Culture and the Arts declared the parish as a National Cultural Treasure.
The ceiling of the church was painted by Macario Ligon and 80 percent of the ceiling and mural paintings were restored by Victor Ramos, Ligon’s assistant and nephew.
San Guillermo Parish Church
Located in Bacolor, Pampanga, San Guillermo Parish Church was built in 1576, 436 years ago.
At 12 meters in its original height, it used to be among the tallest churches in the Philippines before.
During the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the lahar that flowed from the mouth of the volcano covered half of the structure.
Now, the windows of the church were used as doorways.
St. Mary’s Academy was located behind the church but after the eruption, all that is left was the second floor of the school.
It is now where the parish museum and parish archives were located.
San Guillermo Parish Church was the location where the television series May Bukas Pa was filmed, starring Santino, played by child actor Zaijian Jaranilla.
Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando
Located in San Fernando, Pampanga, St. Ferdinand was the patron of both the city and the cathedral.
St. Ferdinand is the patron saint of engineers, authorities (including magistrates, governors, tertiaries, and rulers), large families, parenthood, and the poor imprisoned.
He was the youngest king, crowned at the age of 18.
In 1755, the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando was built by Augustinian friars.
In 1975, the diocese was elevated to Archdiocese of San Fernando by Pope Paul VI.