Foreign Seniors Ask: WHAT IS VISITA IGLESIA?

Filipinos observed Holy Week 2018 from March 25-31, and foreign tourists asked me: “What is Visita Iglesia?”

VISITA IGLESIA (or SEVEN CHURCHES VISITATION) is the Roman Catholic Lenten practice to visit seven (and even 14) churches during Holy Week, traditionally on the evening of Maundy Thursday, to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in each church, according to the Wikipedia page “Seven Churches Visitation”.1

There are no set prayers given by the Catholic Church for this activity, except to pray for the intentions of the Pope and recite the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Some may opt to pray the Stations of the Cross2.

Way of the cross - 1-3

Way of the cross-4-6

Way of the cross-7-9

Way of the cross -10-12

Way of the cross-13-14.jpg

Historically, this Lenten observance was started by Saint Philip Neri3 around 1553. He initiated the tradition of making a one-day pilgrimage to seven churches, starting from St. Peter’s Basilica (www.varicanstate.va) and ending at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (www.vatican.va), often with music and a picnic on the way, according to the Wikipedia page “Philip Neri”.

The Catholic Church commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples through the Mass of the Lord’s Supper or Service of Worship for Maundy Thursday, along with the “Washing of the Feet” reenactment. The chancels4 are traditionally stripped, with the altars often draped with black paraments5, in preparation for Good Friday, and as a symbol of humiliation and barrenness of the cross, according to Wikipedia page “Mass of the Lord’s Supper”.6 Countries slightly vary on the observance of this Lenten tradition.

In the Philippines, Catholics generally visit seven churches, traditionally either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, but nowadays, any day of the Holy Week. They recite two Stations of the Cross per church. Seniors, and those who are sick and are not able to travel, visit just one church, while those who are very pious and able, tend to visit fourteen churches — one for each Station — usually accompanied by family members and/or or parish members, serving also as bonding time as well as an opportunity to sample the local cuisine and enjoy sites in the towns/cities visited. Offerings can be made at each church and to the poor as a form of almsgiving. There is even a bicycle tour, called “Bisikleta Iglesia”, organized in 2010, with a route covering seven churches.1

I had a very early Visita Iglesia this year in Laguna with two of my elementary batchmates, one of whom is a balikbayan (returning Filipino) and whom I have not seen since elementary graduation (please don’t ask when LOL). I toured them in different towns and saw to it that we were able to visit seven churches, which I will feature one by one in this blog in the future, but for now, I will only mention them and show some pictures.

We visited the following towns (and their parish churches): Pakil (San Pedro de Alcantara Church), Pangil (Nuestra Señora de la Natividad Parish Church), Paete (Saint James the Apostle Parish Church), Lumban (San Sebastian Parish Curch), Pagsanjan (Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church), Liliw (Saint John the Baptist Church) and Pila (San Antonio de Padua Parish Church). We skipped Sta. Cruz, Laguna, because the Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church was closed when we went there. I will feature these churches in future posts.

1-Pakil church-altarPakil, Laguna – SAN PEDRO DE ALCANTARA PARISH CHURCH’s altar (church was founded in 1676)

1-Panguil church - facadePangil, Laguna – NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LA NATIVIDAD PARISH CHURCH (founded in 1579)

1-Paete church facadePaete, Laguna – SAINT JAMES THE APOSTLE PARISH CHURCH (founded in 1580)

1-Lumban-church-facade-with paxLumban, Laguna – SAN SEBASTIAN PARISH CHURCH (founded in 1578)

1-Pagsanjan church - facadePagsanjan, Laguna – OUR LADY OF GUDALUPE PARISH CHURCH (founded in 1687)

1-Liliw-church-facadeLiliw, Laguna –  SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH CHURCH (founded in 1605)

1-Pila-church-facadePila, Laguna – SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA PARISH CHURCH (founded in 1578)

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1 Seven Churches Visitation,” accessed March 21, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Churches_Visitation.

2The Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross, Ways of Sorrow, or Via Crucis, refers to the series of fourteen images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of His crucifixion and accompanying prayers, considered to be patterned after Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem which is believed to be the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary. The devotion of Roman Catholics to do the Way of the Cross during Holy Week is like a spiritual pilgrimage through the contemplation of the Passion of Christ (the final period of the life of Jesus from His entrance in Jerusalem till His crucifixion on Mount Calvary). The 14 stations are: (1) Pilate condemns Jesus to die; (2) Jesus accepts His cross; (3) Jesus falls for the first time; (4) Jesus meets His mother, Mary; (5) Simon helps carry the cross; (6) Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; (7) Jesus falls for the second time; (8) Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem; (9) Jesus falls for the third time; (10) Jesus is stripped of His clothes; (11) Jesus is nailed to the cross; (12) Jesus dies on the cross; (13) Jesus is taken down from the cross; and, (14) Jesus is placed in the tomb. All these are according to the Wikipedia page “Stations of the Cross”.7

3Saint Philip Neri (Philip Romolo Neri or Flippo Romolo Neri) was an Italian priest known for a society of secular clergy called the Congregation of the Oratory. He is called the Third Apostle of Rome, after Saints Peter and Paul, according to the Wikipedia page “Philip Neri”.8

4A chancel is the space around the altar, including the choir and the sanctuary, of a traditional Christian church building, according to the Wikipedia page “Chancel”.9

5Paraments are the ornaments of a room of state, like the liturgical hangings on and around the altar, the cloths hanging from the pulpit and lectern, as well as the ecclesiastical vestments, mitres, and altar cloths, with colors changing on the season of the year (e.g., purple for Lent and white for Christmas and Easter), according to the Wikipedia page “Parament”.10

6Mass of the Lord’s Supper,” accessed March 21, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_of_the_Lord’s_Supper.

7”Stations of the Cross,” accessed March 21, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stations_of_the_Cross.

8“Philip Neri,” accessed March 21, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Neri.

9 “Chancel,” accessed March 21, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancel.

10“Parament,” accessed March 21, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parament.

Foreign Seniors Ask: DO I NEED A VISA TO VISIT THE PHILIPPINES? HOW LONG CAN I EXTEND MY STAY AS A TOURIST?

I hope this blog catches the attention of foreign seniors/travelers who might be interested to visit my beloved country – the Philippines – and are wondering if they need a visa. Or, dearest Filipino Seniors, you might have new friends who are planning to visit you here in our country. Do they need a visa?

Well, ask no more! A foreign tourist1 (from the 154 countries, enumerated below) with a regular passport can visit the Philippines WITHOUT A VISA IF S/HE WILL STAY FOR 30 DAYS OR LESS, provided s/he has a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the period of stay in the Philippines, and a return ticket or a ticket to another destination outside the Philippines. These countries are:

  1. Andorra
  2. Angola
  3. Antigua and Barbuda
  4. Argentina
  5. Australia
  6. Austria
  7. Bahamas
  8. Bahrain
  9. Barbados
  10. Belgium
  11. Belize
  12. Benin
  13. Bhutan
  14. Bolivia
  15. Botswana
  16. Brunei
  17. Bulgaria
  18. Burkina Faso
  19. Burundi
  20. Cambodia
  21. Cameroon
  22. Canada
  23. Cape Verde
  24. Central African Republic
  25. Chad
  26. Chile
  27. Colombia
  28. Comoros
  29. Congo, Democratic Republic of
  30. Congo, Republic of the
  31. Costa Rica
  32. Cote d’Ivoire
  33. Croatia
  34. Cyprus
  35. Czech Republic
  36. Denmark
  37. Djibouti
  38. Dominica
  39. Dominican Republic
  40. Ecuador
  41. El Salvador
  42. Equatorial Guinea
  43. Eritrea
  44. Estonia
  45. Ethiopia
  46. Fiji
  47. Finland
  48. France
  49. Gabon
  50. Gambia
  51. Germany
  52. Ghana
  53. Greece
  54. Grenada
  55. Guatemala
  56. Guinea
  57. Guinea-Bissau
  58. Guyana
  59. Haiti
  60. Honduras
  61. Hungary
  62. Iceland
  63. Indonesia
  64. Ireland
  65. Italy
  66. Jamaica
  67. Japan
  68. Kazakhstan
  69. Kenya
  70. Kiribati
  71. Kuwait
  72. Kyrgyzstan
  73. Laos
  74. Latvia
  75. Lesotho
  76. Liberia
  77. Liechtenstein
  78. Lithuania
  79. Luxembourg
  80. Madagascar
  81. Malawi
  82. Malaysia
  83. Maldives
  84. Mali
  85. Malta
  86. Marshall Islands
  87. Mauritania
  88. Mauritius
  89. Mexico
  90. Micronesia
  91. Monaco
  92. Mongolia
  93. Morocco
  94. Mozambique
  95. Myanmar
  96. Namibia
  97. Nepal
  98. Netherlands
  99. New Zealand
  100. Nicaragua
  101. Niger
  102. Norway
  103. Oman
  104. Palau
  105. Panama
  106. Papua New Guinea
  107. Paraguay
  108. Peru
  109. Poland
  110. Qatar
  111. Romania
  112. Russia
  113. Rwanda
  114. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  115. Saint Lucia
  116. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  117. Samoa
  118. San Marino
  119. Sao Tome and Principe
  120. Saudi Arabia
  121. Senegal
  122. Seychelles
  123. Singapore
  124. Slovak Republic
  125. Slovenia
  126. Solomon Islands
  127. South Africa
  128. South Korea (Republic of Korea)
  129. Spain
  130. Suriname
  131. Swaziland
  132. Sweden
  133. Switzerland
  134. Tajikistan
  135. Tanzania
  136. Thailand
  137. Togo
  138. Trinidad and Tobago
  139. Tunisia
  140. Turkey
  141. Turkmenistan
  142. Tuvalu
  143. Uganda
  144. United Arab Emirates
  145. United Kingdom
  146. United States
  147. Uruguay
  148. Uzbekistan
  149. Vanuatu
  150. Vatican City
  151. Venezuela
  152. Vietnam
  153. Zambia
  154. Zimbabwe

Citizens of Taiwan may apply for an entry permit through the Electronic System for Travel Authorizationat the website of the Philippine Representative Office in Taiwan, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office: www.meco.org.tw.

Foreigners from Brazil and Israel are given 59 days to stay visa-free in the Philippines, and those from Hong Kong, Macau and Portugal (with passports issued to permanent residents of Macau only) are given 14 days.

Nationals of China traveling as tourists and holding a valid visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, United States or a Schengen Area3 state may enter and stay without a visa for up to 7 days.

Nationals of India holding a valid business, resident, or tourist visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, United States, or a Schengen Area3 state may enter and stay without a visa for up to 14 days.

Upon arrival, you will receive a free Visa Waiver, given at the immigration desk in airports and ports.

Visit www.immigration.gov.ph for more details.

THE EXTENSION OF THE PHILIPPINE VISA

Assuming that foreign tourists from the countries enumerated above enjoyed their stay in the Philippines and decided to extend their stay beyond 30 days, can they? The answer is YES!

If you want to stay longer than 30 days in the Philippines, you can obtain a Visa Extension from the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in your country, even before your trip. If you are already in the Philippines, you can obtain it from the Bureau of Immigration; just be sure to have it extended more than a week before the expiry date.

The extension of the Visa Waiver for another 29 days costs 3,130 pesos. This can then be extended every two months thereafter for up to 16 months in total. Consult the said website’s “Visa Extension” section.

The Philippine Bureau of Immigration is very strict, so visa violations and overstays often result in penalties, imprisonment, and deportation.

Please note that the information in this post is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information. Visit www.immigration.gov.ph and go to “Procedures for foreigners”.

For holders of diplomatic, official, or service passports, as well as an APEC Business Travel Card, you can stay longer (ranging from 59 days to 3 months). Visit the official website of the Bureau of Immigration: www.immigration.gov.ph

Did you find this post informative? Do you have other travel trivia/information that you would like me to feature? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” box on the lower right corner of your device. Thank you!

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1A tourist holds an ordinary/regular passport; s/he is not a holder of a diplomatic, official or service passport or even an APEC Business Travel Card. NOTE: Holders of diplomatic, official or service passports as well as an APEC Business Travel Card can stay longer (ranging from 59 days to 3 months); please visit the official website of the Bureau of Immigration: www.immigration.gov.ph

2The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel.

3The Schengen Area refers to an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other type of border control at their mutual borders: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. This area acts as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. Do you want to know where the term Schengen came from? The Schengen Agreement was signed on June 14, 1985 near the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, by 5 countries (Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands and West Germany), effective March 26, 1995. The agreement proposed the gradual abolition of border checks at the signatories’ common borders and common visa policies. A Schengen Convention followed in 1990. All these are according to the Wikipedia page “Schengen Area”.4

4Schengen Area,” accessed December 15, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area.