THE heritage city of Intramuros received some 1 million visitors from both foreign and local shores this past Holy Week.
In a news statement, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said: “For a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, the Holy Week or Lenten season is a perfect time to reflect, repent and travel. We congratulate the Intramuros Administration (IA) and our Faith Tourism sector for the successful reopening of the Walled City for the Lenten season.”
Most prominent of the events was the revival of the Visita Iglesia, or the traditional visitation to seven churches, after 70 years. The practice was discontinued after World War II, after many of Intramuros’s churches were bombed and destroyed.
This year, IA administrator Guiller Asido was able to have some chapels in the resident universities opened to help pilgrims complete their Visita Iglesia within the city walls. Pilgrims were able to make their traditional Maundy Thursday tradition by visiting the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, San Ignacio Church site, Guadalupe Shrine in Fort Santiago, Knights of Columbus Fr. Willman Chapel, Lyceum of the Philippines University Chapel and Mapua University Chapel.
There were Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) stations installed along General Luna Street, using a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion, following the Vatican II sanctioned New Way of the Cross.
A modern interpretation of the Senakulo or the dramatic presentation of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, entitled “Martir sa Golgota,” was staged by the Tanghalang Santa Ana theater ensemble directed by renowned stage and film actor Lou Veloso, in front of the
Palacio del Gobernador.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) also supported the 2018 Lenten festival of Cainta, Rizal, which were highlighted by the traditional Lenten Grand Parade, senakulo, penitencia (Sacrifice), and Ang Pagpapako (The Crucifixion of Jesus). At least 17 performing groups reenacted a particular scene of the Senakulo in front of the Cainta Plaza during the Lenten Grand Parade.
Among the groups that performed were the Samahang Nazareno Inc., Samahang Hebreo, Samahang Pasang Krus, Samahang Walang Sindak, Cainta Nazareno, Kabataang ng Kalbaryo Inc., Samahang Pieta, Krus Sa Nayon, Samahang Junior Nazareth, Samahang Penitencia and Romans Club.
Teo reiterated the DOT’s push for more faith-based tourism activities for the Catholic faithful from here and abroad. “We aim to capitalize on our unique Catholic festivals and Filipino traditions to pursue more Catholic pilgrims or faith tourists from Brazil, Mexico, the United States, Columbia and Spain, among others.”
According to the 2017 Annuario Pontificio, or Pontifical Yearbook, and the Vatican Statistical Yearbook, 82.2 million Filipinos considered themselves Catholics in 2015, accounting eight out of 10 Filipinos. The Philippines is also ranked as the third country in the world with most Catholics following Brazil and Mexico, but remains the largest Catholic nation in Asia.
The number of Catholics around the world is projected to grow by an estimated 500 million by 2050 led by Latin America with significant increases seen in developing countries in Sub-saharan Africa.
The rise of spiritual tourism in the Philippines is anchored on the diversity and richness of the churches and religious sites open to the public, the DOT said. Around 72 dioceses in 16 ecclesiastical provinces, as well as seven apostolic vicariantes, and practically a church in every town or village presents a wide selection for Catholic devotees.
“We will also highlight the numerous papal visits in the country with the head of the Catholic church as the focal influencer of pilgrimage and faith tourism,” Teo stressed.
Pope Paul VI visited the Philippines in 1970, while Pope John Paul II came in 1981 and 1995. In January 2015 the country made history for the world’s largest papal mass during the visit of Pope Francis, with an estimated crowd of 6 million.