The Holy Week (semana santa or cuaresma), specifically Maundy Thursday, is the traditional time for visita iglesia (church visit). Some visit seven churches, while those with more time cover fourteen churches. For those who are incorporating visita iglesia on a trip to Bicol, either to see the Cagsawa Ruins and Mayon Volcano or the butanding (whale sharks) in Donsol, here are the suggested churches, in no particular order:
Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala (Gumaca, Quezon). The Gumaca Cathedral is the oldest and largest church in province of Quezon. Established in 1582, it was burned in 1665 by the Dutch forces. It is currently found in Brgy. San Diego Poblacion, town of Gumaca, Quezon province. Read more.
Milaor Church (St. Joseph the Worker Parish). Found in Milaor, Camarines Sur, the precursor to this present church was started in 1725 and completed in 1735, destroyed by fire in 1740. The present church was constructed in 1740. The belfry, on the other hand, was constructed in 1840, and is considered the Leaning Tower of Milaor. Read more.
Sto. Domingo Church. Found in Sto. Domingo, Albay, the Sto. Domingo Church was built in 1820. It has two dome-shaped belfries, framing the main structure. It is built from solid squared stone walls unsupported by pillars, held together by a mixture of lime, “tangguli” (molasses) and egg albumin. This is the same binder used in other old churches like the Baclayon Church in Bohol. Read more.
Church of Daraga. The Daraga Church is found in Daraga, Albay. It was destroyed during World War II and was renovated in 1971-1973. It’s now in the process of being renovated, with funding from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Read more.
St. Anne Diocesan Shrine. The St. Anne Shrine, found in Barangay Malicbay (Pagbilao, Quezon), was dedicated in 4 January 2000, the year of the Great Jubilee, as the “Jubilee Pilgrim Church”. Read more.
Church of Nabua. Found in Nabua, Camarines Sur, this existing church was completed in 1700. The belfry was damaged by an earthquake in 1850 but repaired between 1890 and 1894, according to a marker placed by the National Historical Committee. Read more.
Why eight? Not seven or fourteen? You could always choose only seven, perhaps skip Sto. Domingo because it’s the farthest and out of the way. There are other churches along the route if you want more. Just like Ilocos (see The Churches of Ilocos), Bicol has numerous old and beautiful churches.