Holy week is here. While thousands are preparing to head off to the beach, bikers as usual are looking for the next epic ride. Fortunately, for many religious Pinoy bikers, it is possible mix their passion for biking with the observance of the passion and death of Christ. It’s called Bisikleta Iglesia.
Visita Iglesia is a cherished Filipino tradition every Holy Week. Each year, during Maundy Thursday, thousands of Filipinos across the country make a pilgrimage to at least seven churches to remember the stations of the cross. Two years ago, I and a group of friends thought about giving another twist to this Pinoy custom. We did it by bike–we visited seven churches in our home province of Rizal.
Admittedly, the concept wasn’t new at all. We got the idea from pinoymtbiker.org. Bikers there had been organizing such tours years earlier, and we thought we should also try it out. When you think about it, bikes are perfect for things like these.
5 Reasons why you try Bisikleta Iglesia
- Biking involves bit of effort and hardship (which is the point of pilgrimage and penance).
- Biking also purges the body of physical toxins (which could be responsible for some spiritual maladies)
- Biking also counts as another form of fasting–the refusal to use fossil fuels for transportation.
- For some people, biking is also practically a religion–some people find something spiritual and meditative about moving on two wheels.
- And finally, if you live in a place like Rizal province which is blessed with a lot of interesting churches and has excellent roads, doing a Bisikleta Iglesia is a lot of fun.
If you’re planning to do a ride like this, here are a few tips.
4 Essential things to bring on a Bisikleta Iglesia
- Bring lots of water. The heat on the road is a killer, and while there are plenty of stores along the way where you can buy drinks, it is always preferable to have something to sip on while you’re getting roasted on the road.
- Bring a repair kit. This is standard for bikers anyway, vulcanizing shops may be closed because it is Holy Week after all.
- Bring headlights and blinkers. You may end up biking well into the night.
- Bring bike locks. Not everyone in a church or inside church grounds is holy; some may be coveting their neighbor’s bikes.
We took off from Binangonan at around 4 in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the summer heat. But even then we could still feel the heat rising out of the road.
Our first stop was the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church in Cardona Rizal. It took us about half an hour to get to Cardona on a leisurely pace. Also known as Sto. Rosario, it is one of the newer churches in Rizal. Not much in terms of history here. However, the structure itself still retains that old-world rural feel thanks to its adobe walls and its beautiful stained glass windows.
Our next stop was the St. Jerome parish church in neighboring Morong. If you like watching the History Channel, then you will most certainly love this church. It was supposedly built by Chinese craftsmen in the 1600s and once had two stone lions guarding its gate. The bell tower is just a marvel to look at. Arkitektura.ph even praises it as having the most striking facade in the Laguna and Rizal areas
Next stop was St. Joseph’s parish church in Baras. This is another cool small town church with lots of history.
In contrast to the Morong church’s ostentatious beauty, this one has a more subdued charm. But just like St. Jerome’s church, this house of worship makes you hark back to the days of calesas and parishioners in barongs and sayas.
It was already dark by the time we reached our next stop which was the Sta. Rosa de Lima church in Teresa, Rizal. There are actually two church structures, the old one on the main road, which apparently has already been abandoned. The newer church is just a short walk from the old structure. A lot of parishioners were already inside to observe the “washing of the feet.”
After having a short snack, it was time to move on to Antipolo and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. The uphill trek to Antipolo really felt like penitence. It was made even more challenging by the thousands of devotees who were converging on the church for the annual Alay Lakad. Instead of riding our bikes all the way, we often had to dismount as we tried to navigate through the crowd. I was not able to take pictures of the Antipolo church as someone had to guard the bikes while other members of our group went inside.
The ride back to Binangonan proved to be even more of a challenge. We made a wrong turn and ran smack into the throng of thousands making the pilgrimage to the Antipolo cathedral by foot. What should’ve taken just 10 minutes stretched into two hours as we wove through a sea of humanity going the other direction. It was like being in a Black Nazarene procession while carrying bikes.
After weaving through the dense, heaving sea of devotees making their way to Antipolo, we were ready to call it a day. The sixth stop in our seven church tour was the Sacred Heart parish church in Tayuman, Binangonan, Rizal. We originally wanted to stop by the Angono church, but as they say in the cellphone parlance, lowbat na kami.
We just made a quick stop in Tayuman before going back to our hometown and concluding our Bisikleta Iglesia at the Sta. Ursula parish church.
What a relief it was to be finally back in our hometown.
Bikers who want to get on a more spiritual journey this holy week should definitely try going on a Bisikleta Iglesia. Stronger and more adventurous bikers who want to complete the whole 14-church pilgrimage can go all the way to Tanay, Pililia and then Laguna province where there are also excellent centuries-old churches. If you prefer a faster trip, you can also do it by motorcycle.
If you want to explore the holy week culture of Binangonan, Rizal, here are some other scenes you may want to check out.
Update: While I was motorcycling to Paete Laguna with my wife last Maundy Thursday (March 28, 2013), we chanced upon this group of Visita Iglesia bikers at the Pakil church. Seems like biking is really finding its way into this Pinoy Holy week tradition.