Tradition dictates that in Visita Iglesia (Church Visitation), one has to complete the 14 Stations of the Cross – the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth – in seven churches. Prayers and personal intentions may be murmured after finishing each Station of the Cross.
This age-old Filipino custom, believed to have originated in Rome, is certainly worth preserving, not just to strengthen faith but also to teach both young and old to appreciate art and history.
Maundy Thursday Drive
Visita Iglesia typical happens during Maundy Thursday; the commemoration of the Last Supper with the Apostles.
We wanted respite from Manila traffic, thus we decided to visit churches in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija. We hit the road early, just a little before dawn broke, as such there were just a few vehicles on the expressway. Notwithstanding, we were still suddenly gripped by a feeling of awe and peculiarity as we traversed a road that was half-deserted.
I knew a good number of churches that we could visit in Nueva Ecija. As for Pampanga, I only knew a handful, mostly those that are along the main highway. I remembered seeing a church after the town of San Simon but I couldn’t exactly recall where it was exactly. We were already at the Sta. Ana town proper when suddenly a belfry came into view; I knew we have arrived at our first destination.
Binondo Church look-alike
When we entered the plaza, a sense of déjà vu hit me because Sta. Ana Church looked so familiar. Then I realized that it bore a striking resemblance to Binondo Church in terms of architecture.
The walls, however, looked as if it were just recently renovated, plastered with a layer of cement. I guess it suffered a similar fate to other antique churches which have been unwittingly given a facelift by parish priests.
It was still beautiful, no doubt, but it would have been more glorious had the original mossy adobe walls been retained. The façade, devoid of elaborate intricacies, was gorgeous in its simplicity. The same minimalism resonated into the cavernous interiors of the church. Although the altar was partially hidden by a black curtain, it was evident that it was the grand, gilded centerpiece of the whole structure.
Sta. Ana Church also featured a massive hexagonal four-storey belltower that had blind and open recesses to keep with the symmetry of the facade. The top of the belltower, meanwhile, featured a balustrated dome and a cross.( http://www.visitmyphilippines.com/)
History of Sta. Ana Church
According to the Provincial Government of Pampanga website (http://www.pampanga.gov.ph/), construction of the church began in 1853 under the close watch of a certain Fr. Ferrer and was continued by Fr. Lucas Gonzalez until its completion. Materials used for the construction of the church were sourced from neighboring towns and provinces (viewsfromthepampang.blogspot.com). Additional structures around the church were built over a span of several decades.
Today, the church stands as witness to the rich history of Sta. Ana town as well as to the resilience and faith of her populace.