Hunting for the Holy on a Thursday

Stuck in the metro and having nothing better to do on Holy Thursday, I decided to go on a Bisita Iglesia. For someone who’s no longer a Catholic, barely an Evangelical, hardly religious, and much too attached to alcohol, visiting churches and meditating on the Stations of the Cross is slightly out of character.

To be honest, it was actually just playful curiosity rather than spiritual fervor that got me to do it. My parents were not the most faithful churchgoers so I never experienced Bisita Iglesia growing up. In college I attended an Evangelical church so of course I wasn’t too crazy about Catholic rituals by then. I thought they were misguided at best and sinful at worst. Yes, I was that judgmental.

Since I have the luxury of being a backslider* these days, I figured I couldn’t do any worse by taking part in one of the most celebrated religious rituals in the country. At the very least it would be fun to go on a jeepney joyride around Manila with no traffic.

A Catholic friend told me that I would have to visit seven churches and do two stations at each stop. I managed to go to Quiapo, Malate, Baclaran, Ermita, San Agustin in Intramuros and the Manila Cathedral.

I saw a woman walking on her knees from the church door to the altar, a man sobbing while gripping the pews as if his salvation depended on it, a family hugging each other during the sign of peace at mass, and thousands of people bombarding heaven with murmured prayers.

I lined up for confession and spilled my guts to a priest in Baclaran, took communion in Manila Cathedral and lighted a candle in San Agustin. I whispered my own prayers and hoped that God would listen. By this time, maybe it was more than just curiosity but spirituality sounds too profound. I wasn’t aiming for the meaningful; I’m not that deep.

Nothing brings you back to the earthly realm like beer. While walking around Ermita, I passed by Hobbit House, a cheery “We’re Open” sign posted on the door. I planned on having just a couple of beers and ended up guzzling seven. Good thing four of them were free. Befriending the manager, waiters and bartenders has its perks.

Final tally: five jeepney rides, six churches and one bar. Not bad for my first Bisita Iglesia.

*In Christian lingo, someone who doesn’t show up at church anymore and exhibits unchristian-like behavior e.g., drinking, swearing, dating non-Christians, and making fun of Hillsong and Rick Warren.

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