Cathedral of St. Paul, First Hermit (San Pablo City, Laguna)

Laguna Loop: Historical Tour and Visita Iglesia


We’ve noted in the previous post on visita iglesia in Bicol and Ilocos that 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. One of the popular pilgrimage and visita iglesia destination is the Laguna Loop, a series of churches in churches surrounding the Laguna Lake. We’ve taken a tour of these churches. Here’s the itinerary. Hopefully it would be of help to others.

Parish and Shrine of Santo Padre Pio (Brgy. San Pedro, Sto. Tomas, Batangas). This is obviously not within Laguna, but it’s along the way towards San Pablo City.

We considered two ways of starting the road trip — either through Morong, Rizal (from Ortigas or Antipolo) or from San Pablo City. We chose the latter because we planned to visit the Pangsanjan Falls, which would take around 3 hours, and we didn’t want to spend the late afternoon deep in Laguna, somewhere in Majayjay, because we’re not familiar with the roads (no, not because Majayjay is at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, rumored to be a mystical mountain).

Cathedral of St. Paul, First Hermit (San Pablo City, Laguna). The patron saint of this cathedral is Saint Paul the First Hermit (Paul of Thebes), regarded as the first Christian hermit.

We passed through the South Luzon Expressway, taking the Sto. Tomas (Batangas) exit. We arrived in San Pablo City around 9:00 a.m. We chanced upon Fr. Abao who was overseeing the major renovation of the altar, with an impressive dome. Fr. Abao also answered my questions, including what’s the difference between a cathedral and a basilica minore. A cathedral is where the bishop holds seat (you’ll see the bishop’s seat near the altar), while a basilica is an honor conferred by the Pope (you’ll see the Pope’s seal). The renovation is expected to be finished before the Holy Week.

St. Bartholomew the Apostle Church (Nagcarlan, Laguna). The marker placed in 1938 by the Historical Research and Markers Committee designates this as the Church of Nagcarlang. The first church, which was of light materials, was built by the resident priest assigned in 1583. The second church, of brick and stone, was built in 1752, but was partly destroyed by fire in 1781. A choirloft was added to the reconstructed church in 1845, simultaneously with the Nagcarlang Cemetery.

The Nagcarlan Church is not beside the road, but it’s readily accessible. It’s not in the middle of downtown, unlike the Paete Church, and it’s just two turns from the national highway. On the second turn we were greeted by the statue of St. Bartholomew, just before the entrance to the parking area. The sufficient parking area and the purposeful landscaping enhanced the beauty of the church. Read more.

Saint John The Baptist Parish (Liliw, Laguna). The Philippine Historical Committee marker (circa 1939) reveals that the ecclesiastical administration of this town belonged to Nagcarlang up to 1605. The church and the convent of Lilio (it is designated as the Church of Lilio) were seriously damaged by the earthquakes of 1880. The reconstructed church and the convent were partly burned on April 6, 1898.

The church bell tower is not visible from the national highway. Residents here are friendly so there’s no problem asking for directions towards the church, with the narrow two-lane roads sometimes clogged with tour buses at this time of the year.

St. Gregory Church (Majayjay, Laguna). The National Historical Institute marker reveals that the first church of bamboo and nipa was established by the Augustinian missionaries in 1571. Rebuilt by the Franciscans in 1578 after it was destroyed by fire. The existing church was built in 1616 to 1649.

Majayjay is located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, a few kilometers from Lucban, venue of the Pahiyas Festival. Majayjay is the only church in the Laguna Loop which seems not to consciously consider providing ample parking space. There’s a direct road to Pagsanjan, passing through Magdalena.

St. Mary Magdalene Church (Magdalena, Laguna). A marker reveals that the church was built from 1829 to 1839, and from 1848 to 1855. The belfry was erected and finished in 1861. The convent was built in 1871-1872. The sand and stone used in the construction were hauled by the community members from the river.

Like many of the old towns, the church is adjacent to the town hall and the public plaza. It’s easy to spot the church. Roads are wide and parking more than enough.

Pagsanjan Church (Pagsanjan, Laguna). As can be gleaned from the marker placed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1953, the church was founded in 1687, with the original chapel of bamboo and nipa reconstructed in 1690.

If we haven’t stopped for the Shooting the Rapids in Pagsanjan Falls (3 hours), we would have enough time to go back to visit the churches in Sta. Cruz and Pila, with more than 30 structures under the National Historical Institute. We arrived in Pagsanjan during lunch time and left around 4:00 p.m. (inclusive of lunch, shooting the rapids, and shower)

Paete Church (Paete, Laguna). Paete was founded in 1580, while the stone church was built in 1646 and ruined in 1717. A stronger church was constructed also in 1717, later destroyed by the 1880 earthquake. The church built in 1884 was destroyed by the 1937 earthquake.

The Paete Church is the most difficult to locate among the Laguna Loop churches. Narrow roads lead to the church, deep within the town, near the market.

St. Peter of Alcantara Church (Pakil, Laguna). Pakil used to be a part of Paete. The marker at the side of the church, placed by the National Historical Institute, reveals that a church made of bamboo and nipa was built in 1676 when Pakil was separated from Paete. Construction of the stone church and convent started in 1732 and completed in 1767. The church, therefore, is more than 200 years old. The marker at the other side of the main door commemorates the 330th anniversary from the founding of the St. Peter of Alcala Parish.

In our opinion, it’s the most beautiful church in the Laguna Loop. This place exudes an aura of peace and tranquility, a good place to pursue personal and religious reflection. Read more.

Nuestra Señora de Candelaria (Mabitac, Laguna). The church of Our Lady of the Candles stands on top of the hill. We thought it’s accessible only through the 125-step climb at the side of the church (there’s a half-step, so its strictly 125 and 1/2 steps). Once on top, and while gasping for air, we discovered that there’s an easier way in through the front, accessible by car, but we wouldn’t have the opportunity to count the steps if we’ve used that route.

By the time we left Mabitac, the sun was already setting. It was already dark when we navigated the Pillila-Tanay-Baras-Morong-Teresa-Antipolo road. Long stretches of winding climbs and descents, but no problem because the roads are well-paved. It’s a good thing we’ve previously visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo. It was already 8:00 p.m. when we reached Quezon City.



7 thoughts on “Laguna Loop: Historical Tour and Visita Iglesia”

  1. Is there a tour or travel agency who can handle a group and plan an itinerary of the Laguna Lakeshore Towns? We are a group of about 10-12 adults who would like to have a pilgrimage early March and visit churches in the Laguna Loop. We are interested in just a day tour. We want to leave the planning and the driving to a professional who can package it for us, inclusive of meals( or at least find a place to have lunch as we can have snacks in the van/bus ).

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    1. For any of your pilgrimage or travel requirements, pls get in touch with us. My direct line 2164199; 09178127209

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  2. This is the tour I intend to offer my Senior Citizens. I would like to know the details. I am sure this is a whole day tour, how long is the travel time? where can we stop for lunch and comfort? Can you handle 800 – 1000 seniors (16 – 20 Buses)? or do I have to break it in 2 sets of 400 – 500 each?

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