Visita Iglesia 2015: Our Lady of the Abandoned Church (Sta. Ana, Manila)

There is this church in Manila that I wanted to see again. I could say that “I fell in love” with it the first time I saw it. You could say that it was love at first sight.

I rediscovered this church only this year (after two years of searching for it) when I passed through the district of Sta. Ana for a meeting. The church that I was talking about is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados or officially called as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned and more popularly known as the Sta. Ana Church.  

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Santa Ana, Manila

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned is located along [ins street] in Sta. Ana District of Manila. It is just few meters away from Sta. Ana Hospital. Commuters can easily reach it by riding the “Sta. Ana Tulay”-bound jeepneys at Pedro Gil – Taft Avenues.

[ins map]

The district of Sta. Ana was a settlement known as Namayan which was ruled by the Muslim datu, Lakan Tagkan. His domain included the districts of Paco and Pandacan in Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, and Pasay. Franciscan missionaries came to the area and ask the natives the name of the place. And the answer that they received was “sapa”, which is a Tagalog word for river. The missionaries dedicated the place to Santa Ana, the mother of the Virgin Mary, and they renamed the place as “Sta. Ana de Sapa”.1

Entrance to Santa Ana Church, Manila

Sta. Ana de Sapa was established by Franciscan missionaries in 1578. It is the first settlement that they established outside of Manila or more particularly outside of Intramuros.

Santa Ana Church under renovation

The church is being renovated during my last visit. Scaffolds and nets blocked the view of the church’s façade that’s why I didn’t get a good photo of it.

Facade of Santa Ana Church, Manila

I’m not complaining even though I didn’t have a good photo because the renovation works are important and urgent since old churches like Sta. Ana Church are threatened by earthquakes. The church is too important to our heritage and it should be protected from deterioration.

Old bell tower of Santa Ana Church, Manila

The construction of Sta. Ana Church started with the laying of cornerstone on September 12, 1720 by Francisco dela Cuesta, who was the Archbishop of Manila and acting Governor General of the Philippines.2

Santa Ana Church, Manila

Sta. Ana Church retained its beautiful altar. I’m not sure though if it is the original altar.

Altar of Santa Ana Church, Manila

The altar displays the images of St. Michael the Archangel, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Dominic (the founder of the Dominican Order), Sta. Ana, St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter Alcantara, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernardine of Siena, and St. Clare.3

Santa Ana Church, as the name suggests, has St. Anne as the patroness. She is mother of the Virgin Mary and also the patron saint of widows, waywards, and happy marriage. However, she was replaced by Our Lady of the Abandoned as the patron saint of Sta. Ana Church in 1720.

Our Lady of the Abandoned in Santa Ana Church, Manila

The image of Our Lady of the Abandoned standing at the center of the altar was just a replica touched to the original in the metropolitan church in Valencia, Spain. The replica was brought to the Philippines in 1720 by Father Vicente Ingles. Since then, Sta. Ana Church became the center of pilgrimage and devotion to Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados.3

Our Lady of the Abandoned in Santa Ana Church, Manila

There was a story that Manila Archbishop Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad Martinez Y Arizola is so devoted to Our Lady of the Abandoned that he willed his heart to buried in the church of Santa Ana when he died. His wish was obeyed and now his heart is said to be encased in metal and buried under the altar.3

Another story of devotion is that of Manila Archbishop Francisco dela Cuesta who offered his scepter, which is the symbol of his governorship of the Philippines. His act can be interpreted as a way of giving the whole country under the care of Our Lady of the Abandoned. The crystal scepter is still preserved inside the church.3

Inside Santa Ana Church, Manila

I spent some time praying inside Sta. Ana Church. What I like with this church is the relative silence in the place. The church is not too busy unlike the Quiapo Church and Baclaran Church so I was able to pray in silence.

Dome of Santa Ana Church, Manila

The church interior is simple. There’s no intricate designs, there’s no large painting on the ceiling. The only noticeable artwork inside the church, aside from the altar, is the painting on the side wall.

Painting in Santa Ana Church, Manila

I don’t know what event is portrayed by the painting. My only guess is that it’s related to an apparition by the Virgin Mary.

There are two peculiar things that I noticed inside Sta. Ana Church. One are the bats that inhabit the church and the other are the grave markers on the floor.

Grave marker in Santa Ana Church, Manila

Having a grave inside the church is not actually weird because many old churches in the Philippines have it. Another church that also served as grave is the San Agustin Church located inside Intramuros.

Baptismal font in Santa Ana Church, Manila

Aside from being the center of faith and one of the remaining Spanish heritage in Manila, Sta. Ana Church also served as a time capsule because many pre-Spanish artifacts were unearthed in 1966 by archeologists from the National Museum.1

Archeological diggings in Santa Ana Church, Manila
Archaeological diggings at Sta. Ana Church (Source: Sta. Ana Church website)

The oldest artifact excavated at Sta. Ana Church is a blue and white Chinese bowl with floral designs, which dates back to 11th Century. Other artifacts are potteries and Chinese artifacts which date back to the 12th and 13th Centuries.1

As a blogger and Spanish heritage fan, I can say that my visit to Sta. Ana Church is a sort of “mission accomplished”. It’s beautiful altar, it’s classic structure, and it’s archeological importance made my time in this church as well spent.


Information contained in this post were obtained from the following sources:

2. Historical marker on the wall of Sta. Ana Church
3. Postings on the bulletin board of Sta. Ana Church

Visita Iglesia 2015: San Felipe Neri Church (Mandaluyong City)

There were two churches that Lei and I frequent for Sunday mass when we were residing in Mandaluyong City. One of these two churches is the Saint Dominic Savio Church and the other is the much older San Felipe Neri Church.

The San Felipe Neri Church is the oldest church in the city of Mandaluyong. In fact, the early name of Mandaluyong was San Felipe Neri when it was separated from the town of Sta. Ana de Sapa in 1841.1 The parish and the church was established in December 1863 with Father Francisco Gimenez as the first parish priest.2

San Felipe Neri, the patron saint of Mandaluyong, was born Florence in 1515. He gained worldly success at an early age as his uncle’s business assistant but all of this changed when he had a conversion. He transformed from being a business assistant and became God’s assistant. San Felipe became known as the Apostle of Rome because he poured all his energy to bring people in Rome back to God. He didn’t discriminate because he preached to the rich and the poor alike. He even brought the Gospel to the prostitutes of Rome.3

Saint Felipe Neri is known for his cheerfulness and the use of humor. He contradicts the popular notion of saints as serious (and even somber). I believe that San Felipe shows that a Chritian should be joyful when carrying the cross. Yes, our cross is heavy but this cross will bring us eternal life and that should motivate us to be cheerful as we go on in following Christ.

San Felipe Neri on the church's facade.

The church was recently renovated during our visit because its walls look so new.

San Felipe Neri Church is cavernous because of the big space inside. I believe that it is biggest church in Mandaluyong. The layout of the church is like a big cross with the left and right arms that can be used as side altar and area for baptisms.

The main altar at the front is the best part of the church. I can say that the altar is beautiful because it didn’t follow the modernist designs that can be found in some churches, especially the “modern” ones. Good thing that the church’s renovation didn’t turn into a wreckovation.

The altar contains the images of Mama Mary at the center with San Felipe Neri and Saint Francis of Assisi at the sides. Another plus point is that the tabernacle is located at its rightful place at the center.

San Felipe Neri Church doesn’t only have the image of its patron saint but it also has his relic. The relic is a part of the body near the heart of San Felipe Neri. We Catholics believe that relics are not just a tool for commemorating the saints but a weapon because the Devil and his minions flee whenever a relic of God’s holy one gets near them. Thus, the parish of San Felipe Neri in Mandaluyong is truly blessed for having San Felipe Neri’s relic in their midst.

I believe that San Felipe Neri Church should be promoted by the city government of Mandaluyong as a tourist spot. The first reason is the San Felipe Neri Church is is the city’s oldest church and one of the few remaining Spanish Era structures in Metro Manila. Another reason is the presence of the relic of San Felipe Neri.

San Felipe Neri Church is located at the corner of Aglipay Street and Boni Avenue. Commuters can easily reach this church by riding the Gabby’s or Kalentong bound jeep at Robinsons Galleria.


Information posted in this blog was obtained from the following sources:

1. Mandaluyong City website for the short history of Mandaluyong.
2. The plaque posted on the wall of San Felipe Neri Church
3. Catholic Online for the life story of San Felipe Neri


Visita Iglesia is a Catholic tradition of visiting seven churches during Maundy Thursday. For each day, this Holy Week, I will feature one church as a sort of virtual Visita Iglesia.

Visita Iglesia 2015

Semana Santa 2015
(Source: Morgue File)

It’s that time of the year again when some Filipino Catholics celebrate (or commemorate) the passion and death of our Lord by visiting seven churches. This Lenten tradition is aptly named as Visita Iglesia, which may be translated as “Church Visit”. The  Spanish name of this tradition shows that it started during the time when the Philippines is still a colony of Spain.

I also do this Lenten tradition every year but a twist. Instead of going to actually going to 7 churches during the Lenten Season, I just post about the 7 churches that I visited in the previous months. It’s a sort of virtual Visita Iglesia.

I have an interesting mix of churches for this year’s virtual Visita Iglesia. Here’s the roll call of the 7 churches for each day of the Holy Week:

Holy Monday: San Felipe Neri Church in Mandaluyong City

Holy Tuesday: Santa Ana Church in Manila

Holy Wednesday: San Pedro Apostol Church in Vinzons, Camarines Norte

Holy Thursday: Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral in Catarman, Northern Samar

Good Friday: Nazareno Parish Church in Cagayan de Oro City

Black Saturday: San Narciso Church in Consolacion, Cebu

Easter Sunday: Basilica Minore de Santo Nino in Cebu City

You can see that I will post about the churches from Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The three major islands of the country are well represented.

So, please join me in my virtual Visita Iglesia. Journey with me and let’s pray that our faith go stronger as we live each day of the Semana Santa.


NOTE: Due to my being a busy Dad, I was not able to draft any Visita Iglesia post for Holy Wednesday to Easter Sunday. I hope next year that I will be able to post about 7 churches and continue my tradition of virtual Visita Iglesia.

North Thailand Road Trip (Part 2): A Taste of Chiang Rai’s Kôw Soy

Our generous friends, Yam and J, brought us to Chiang Rai the day after our visit to Lampang not to check out another temple but to try the noodle soup that placed North Thailand in the map of gastronomic adventurers. That noodle soup is no other than the famous Kôw Soy.

I actually have no idea what kind of a place Chiang Rai is. The truth is that I only realized that I’m in Chiang Rai after seeing an eye-catching signpost.

North Thailand - Artsy Signpost in Chiang Rai

And there’s more of the artsy signposts as we walked on.

North Thailand - Direction to Chiang Rai

A few steps more and I discovered that the artsy signposts were just warm-ups to the main work of art: the Golden Clock Tower of Chiang Rai:

North Thailand - Chiang Rai's Golden Clock Tower

Chiang Rai’s Golden Clock Tower serves not only as a tourist spot but also as a roundabout. Yam told us that the clock tower was made by the artist who built the Wat Rong Khun, which we will visit later. The clock tower’s design departed from the traditional Thai design.

North Thailand - Golden Clock Tower of Chiang Rai

The spikes made the clock tower like a big golden fire in the middle of the highway. Chiang Rai Golden Clock Tower is more impressive at night because of the musical show light show. So, if you’re in Chiang Rai during the night then you’ll be in for a great treat.

North Thailand - Chiang Rai's Golden Clock Tower during the night
(Source: Minube)

The Golden Clock Tower is impressive but we walked on after a few photos because our true destination is this restaurant:

North Thailand - Kow Restaurant in Chiang Rai

I didn’t know how to read Thai letters so I can’t give the name of the shop. What I do know is that the shop is just near the Gold Clock Tower. In fact, the clock tower can still be seen from the shop.

North Thailand - Golden Clock Tower in Chiang Rai

Yam and J ask us to choose between the Kôw Soy with shrimp or the Kôw Soy with fish.

I can’t remember what I chose between the two. Is it the one with fish? Or is it the one with shrimp?

The restaurant started to get busy because its lunch time when we reached the place. 

North Thailand - Kow Soy restaurant in Chiang Rai

On the walls of the restaurant are some etchings and photos. I saw one drawing that’s very familiar.

North Thailand - Drawing of Lampang Temple
Lampang Temple

Another photo shows the shop owner and his sons during the groovy years. :-P

North Thailand - Old photo in Kow Soy restaurant in Chiang Rai

Our Kôw Soy finally reached our table. This is what I got:

North Thailand - Kow Soy of Chinag Rai

And this is my drinks:

North Thailand - Our cold drink in Chiang Rai

According to Hungry Traveller, Kôw Soy is a “curry-soup based dish made with both boiled and deep-fried egg noodles. It contains either chicken or beef, pickled cabbage, lime and shallots. The spicy sauce is slightly sweetened with coconut milk”. This dish originated Burma, which ruled Northern Thailand for hundreds of years.

North Thailand - Pickled cabbage, lime, and shallots for the kow soy
Pickled cabbage, lime, and shallots for the Kôw Soy

Hungry Traveller and Lonely Planet recommend Kôw Soy from another Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. I don’t know how delicious their recommended Kôw Soy are but what I do know is that what I’ve eaten in Chiang Rai tasted good.

Kôw Soy is the unique dish in North Thailand that tourists should never miss. I am thankful to generous couple for letting us taste the delicious dish from their home province.


Read more of our adventures around North Thailand in the following posts:

North Thailand Road Trip (Part 1): Lampang’s Hidden Gem

Lampang is considered by many Thais as the last frontier because it is still untouched by the damages wrought by modern tourism. The town is the gateway to the more touristy cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai but few tourists cared to visit.

Fortunately, our gracious hosts (a Thai and Filipina couple) knew the hidden beauty of Lampang so they brought us to this place:
Ancient temple in Lampang, Thailand

This is Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, which is one of the remaining Lanna-style temples in Thailand. Lanna is an old kingdom that once ruled North Thailand.
Naga in Lampang, Thailand

The temple in Lampang is very different from the temples that I visited in Bangkok (Wat Arun and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) because of the animal statues fronting it. Two snakes, or nagas, stretch down from the temple door. The temple is also guarded by two dogs (or maybe lions or maybe tigers).
Statues of animals in the temple of Lampang, Thailand

I guess these temple animals will devour anyone who wants to destroy the temple and harm its inhabitants. Their teeth are truly sharp!
Tiger or Lion statue in Lampang, Thailand

Just like other Thai temples I visited, the temple in Lampang is decorated in gold. The motif of the whole temple is red and gold.
Gate of the temple in Lampang, Thailand

The temple is not crowded since it’s off-the-radar of foreign tourists. I noticed a bus load of European (or American) tourists outside of the temple but they didn’t stay long. Maybe they’re very tired of seeing another temple. In any case, majority of the visitors are Thais.
Buddhist altar in Lampang, Thailand

A legend said that Buddha with some monks arrived at Lampang. A man from the town named Lua Ai Kon offered him some fruits and honey in a bowl made of coconut leaf. Buddha then threw the empty bowl in the northern direction and prophesied that the place will be named “Lamphakappa Nakhon”. The Buddha then gave a strand of his hair to Lua Ai Kon. The man placed the hair in a gold casket then put it inside a tunnel. The chedi of Wat Phra That Lampang Luang was built on that tunnel.1
Chedi of Lampang Temple in Lampang, Thailand
Lampang Chedi where the hair of Buddha is believed to be buried.

Many Thais visit this temple because they consider Buddha’s hair as a very important relic. They believe that worshipping in Wat Phra That Lampang Luang will turn problems into success.
Chedi in Lampang, Thailand

Thais also believe that your wish will come true if it reach the top of Lampang’s chedi. So a ceremony is held every day before dusk where a long sheet with written wishes is pulled up the chedi. A small dragon (see photo below) brings the wishes to the top.
Lucky dragon in Lampang, Thailand

My friends wrote their own wishes. I, on the other hand, didn’t write anything since I’m no believer of luck or the chedi’s power.
Dragon statues in Lampang, Thailand

The chedi, the altar, and the unique architectural style was all there is for me in Lampang’s temple since I’m not a Buddhist. But I’m not complaining. I’m actually thankful to our hosts for bringing us to this place. A visit to Lampang will never be complete without visiting the famous Wat Phra That Lampang Luang.
Temple in Lampang, Thailand


Travel Notes:

1. There is no admission fee to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. Anyone, even foreign tourists, can enter the temple freely. Of course, visitors are expected to be in proper clothing and respectful of their beliefs.

2. Souvenir shops are located just across the street in front of the wat. The shops are best place to buy some souvenirs that are unique in North Thailand.
Souvenir items from Lampang, Thailand

3. Lampang is different from the rest of Thailand because the popular means of transport is not the tuktuk but the horse-drawn carriage. It is believed that horse-drawn carriages were copied from the British. British-controlled Myanmar has close trade with Lampang in the past because the city is important source of lumber.2
Horse-drawn carriages in Lampang, Thailand


Read more of our adventures in North Thailand:

North Thailand Road Trip (Part 2): A Taste of Chiang Rai’s Kôw Soy
North Thailand Road Trip (Part 3): Coffee Time at Le Petit Café
North Thailand Road Trip (Part 4): The Bizarre White Temple of Chiang Rai
North Thailand Road Trip (Part 5): Eating Bugs in Chiang Rai Night Market


Information on the legend of Buddha's hair in Lampang was obtained from 1: Temples in Thailand while the information on Lampang's horse-drawn carriages was obtained from 2: Wikipedia.