Laguna is one of the towns near Manila with a rich heritage and culture always beckoning to be explored. Roman Catholic churches close to a hundred are scattered around the province, and many of them have endured for centuries. If you embark on Visita Iglesia or the Seven Churches Visitation, it may not just be a religious pilgrimage but also a historical tour. For this, we’ve listed down seven of Laguna’s oldest and grandest churches that should be on your Visita Iglesia this Holy Week.
Saint John the Baptist Parish Church, Calamba
Starting with the closest church destination, Calamba Church is just an hour away from Manila. The 160-year-old church is historic not only for its age but also for the role it played in history. It is known as the place of national hero Jose Rizal’s baptism, thus earning it the National Historical Landmark designation.
Location: Jose P. Rizal cor. F. Mercado St., Calamba, Laguna
Facebook page: The Roman Catholic Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist City of Calamba
Saint Paul the First Hermit Cathedral, San Pablo City
An hour’s drive from Calamba is the 17th-century San Pablo Cathedral with its picturesque terracotta-red facade, a recent transformation to restore its former design. It is said to be the only church dedicated to Saint Paul the First Hermit in the world.
If you need a place for a relaxing retreat, San Pablo Cathedral is just a 30-minute drive to Hidden Valley Springs in Calauan.
Location: Marcos Paulino Ave, San Pablo City, Laguna
Facebook page: Cathedral Parish of Saint Paul the First Hermit
Saint Bartholomew the Apostle Parish Church, Nagcarlan
Nagcarlan Church has undergone various renovations, but you can still glean its centuries-old charm from its bare stone and brick facade. The interior is just as stunning with vintage tile patterns on the church aisles that lead to golden altarpieces. It’s also worth noting that the bell tower has taken Muslim inspiration for its crenellation and houses one of the country’s oldest church bells.
Location: J. Lirio St., Nagcarlan, Laguna
Facebook page: Parokya ni San Bartolome Apostol – Nagcarlan, Laguna
Saint John the Baptist Church, Liliw
Liliw is a quaint town of well-preserved historical structures and Saint John the Baptist Church is right at the fore. You can’t help but get pulled back in time with the perfectly preserved red-brick baroque edifice built in the mid-1600s. Be sure to light a candle at Capilla de San Buenaventura, which can be accessed through an inconspicuous arched passage left of the church entrance.
Location: M.H. Del Pilar St., Liliw, Laguna
Facebook page: Saint John the Baptist Parish Liliw, Laguna
Saint Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Magdalena
Magdalena Church is a young church relative to the others on this list, but it has borne witness to one of the most significant periods in Philippine history. You may find the shrine of Emilio Jacinto inside this 165-year-old stone church. It remembers the time the church provided refuge to one of the greatest Katipunan heroes.
Location: Bonifacio, Magdalena, Laguna
Facebook page: Saint Mary Magdalene Parish
Saint Gregory the Great Parish Church, Majayjay
This list wouldn’t be complete without the only church in Laguna that’s designated as National Cultural Treasure: Majayjay Church. Built in 1649, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved churches in the country. This Romanesque church has aged beautifully, adorned with natural overgrowth that simply adds to its charm. It houses many religious relics including an antique church bell.
Location: F. Blumentritt St., Majayjay, Laguna
Facebook page: San Gregorio Magno Parish
Saint James the Apostle Parish Church, Paete
First built in 1646, Paete Church went through several destructive earthquakes and restorations before it became the historical, sturdy brick structure that it is today. It safely houses four centuries-old paintings in situ declared as National Cultural Treasures. Three of the artworks were made by Paete native Jose Luciano Dans; the other of an unknown artist is the oldest and can be found close to the altar.
Location: Juan Tinawin St., Brgy. 9 Ibaba del Norte, Paete, Laguna
Facebook page: The Roman Catholic Parish of San Santiago Apostol, Paete, Laguna