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Bisikleta Iglesia

Bisikleta Iglesia

Bisikleta Iglesia: Making a pilgrimage to at lest seven churches by bicycle

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.

Bisikleta Iglesia Riders: Biking is also a religion

Bisikleta Iglesia Riders: Biking is also a religion

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.

Biking through the Morong Highway

The Manila East Road which passes through Rizal is ideal for road biking

5 Reasons why you should 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 Lady of the Holy Rosary Church- Cardona, Rizal

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church- Cardona, Rizal

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.

St. Jerome's Parish Church-Morong, Rizal

St. Jerome’s Parish Church-Morong, Rizal. This church has a very beautiful facade

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

Bisikleta Iglesia Riders in Morong

Bisikleta Iglesia Riders in Morong take a break from the searing heat

Next stop was St. Joseph’s parish church in Baras. This is another cool small town church with lots of history.

St. Joseph's Parish Church- Baras, Rizal

St. Joseph’s Parish Church- Baras, Rizal–not as flamboyant as Morong’s church,
but there’s beauty in simplicity here

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.

St. Rose of Lima Parish Church - Teresa, Rizal

St. Rose of Lima Parish Church – Teresa, Rizal. On the left is the old church which is right along the road, on the right is the new church at the back of… Jollibee. These photos were not taken during the Bisikleta Iglesia. It was already too dark for my cheapo digicam back then

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.”

Immaculate Conception Cathedral - Antipolo Rizal

Immaculate Conception Cathedral – Antipolo Rizal. This photo was not taken during the Bisikleta Iglesia. It was already too dark for my cheapo digicam back then

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.

Sacred Heart Parish Church - Tayuman, Binangonan, Rizal

Sacred Heart Parish Church – Tayuman, Binangonan, Rizal.This photo was not taken during the Bisikleta Iglesia. It was already too dark for my cheapo digicam back then

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.

Sta. Ursula Parish Church- Binagonan, Rizal

Sta. Ursula Parish Church- Binagonan, Rizal

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.

Bisikleta Iglesia Riders

We made it back to Binangonan and 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.

San Pedro de Alcantara Church - Pakil, Laguna

San Pedro de Alcantara Church – Pakil, Laguna. Photo by traveling-up.com

St. James the Apostle Church - Paete, Laguna

St. James the Apostle Church – Paete, Laguna. Photo by traveling-up.com

If you want to explore the holy week culture of Binangonan, Rizal, here are some other scenes you may want to check out.

Senakulo sa Daan or Penitencia

Senakulo sa Daan or Penitencia: Costumed devotees reenact the passion and death of Christ on the streets. Expect to see this in Binangonan from Holy Wednesday to Good Friday in the morning.

Holyweek Procession

On Good Friday, thousands attend the Holyweek Procession on the main streets of the Binangonan poblacion. This is a long exposure shot. .

Giwang giwang or the Procession of the Dead Christ

Giwang giwang or the Procession of the Dead Christ. This is Binangonan’s equivalent of the Black Nazarene event. It’s called giwang giwang because the procession sways from side to side from the chaotic jostling for position by men who want to carry the hearse

Kalbaryo ng Binangonan (Calvary Hill)

Kalbaryo ng Binangonan (Calvary Hill).
This high hill overlooking the town proper has a tall cross on its peak. Many devotees make their way up the hill and pray at the stations of the cross along the way.
Bikers can even see Antenna hill from here.

 

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.

Bisikleta Iglesia bikers at Pakil church

Bisikleta Iglesia bikers at Pakil church

Bisikleta Iglesia bikers at Pakil church

 

 

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