A religious journey around seven churches in Batangas
For a predominantly Catholic nation, Lent is widely observed by Filipinos to reflect and strengthen their faith through penance and prayers. Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus Christ’s crucifixion by Rome, and Christians around the world try to replicate the Lord’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
One unique tradition practiced during this Holy Week is the Seven Churches Visitation, or Visita Iglesia, an act of piety and a vow (or panata) to visit seven churches on the evening of Maundy Thursday.
In Batangas, there is a unique spiritual journey that takes devotees and biking enthusiasts across seven churches of the faith-tourism region of southeastern Batangas, Bisikleta Iglesia.
Lima Park Hotel has been organizing the event since 2013, back when there were only 20 participants until it became an annual biking event that not only grew in number but also enjoined people outside Lipa City. This year, it gathered one hundred and twenty bikers led by Fr. Robert Reyes, the running priest.
“When you bike, you don’t only bike because of your health. You bike because you want to become a good spouse, a good parent, and a good professional. You bike because you want to be a good Christian, a good son of God, a good disciple of Jesus, and offer the sacrifice for all the challenges and difficulties the country is facing right now,” he said.
During the recitations at the Stations of the Cross, Fr. Reyes encouraged bikers to spend more time at the church to offer solemn prayers for the poor and the sick.
The 42-kilometer journey was able to include visits to the Sto. Niño Parish Church, St. Therese of Child Jesus, and Minim Nuns of St. Francis of Paola in Lipa City; the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Sto. Tomas; the St. John Evangelist Parish Church and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Parish Church in Tanuan City, and, lastly; the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Malvar.
According to Lima Park Hotel’s Director for Marketing and Corporate Communications Rose Landicho, the Padre Pio Shrine is among the main highlights of the pilgrimage tour as it recently drew thousands of devotees who wanted to see the “incorrupt heart” relic of Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Italy. Administered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lipa, the church was designated as a National Shrine by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines making it the first in the province of Batangas and in the Calabarzon region. It became one of the venues for the 4th World Apostolic Congress of Mercy held in the Philippines on 16–20 January 2017.
“Lipa, in particular, is a virtual showcase of beautiful churches, both old and new.” Landicho said. “Our Bisikleta Iglesia is an excellent vehicle to promote the province, its attractions, its rich culture, and its noble heritage.”
Next year’s Lima Park Hotel Bisikleta Iglesia has already been announced and it will be held on its traditional date, the Saturday before Palm Sunday or on April 4, 2020. The event registration fee is Php450/net. The first 100 registrants will receive a commemorative Bisikleta Iglesia shirt and chance to win raffle prizes.
For more information, visit www.limaparkhotel.com or call (043) 981-1555/0917-504-2385.