Visita Iglesia (2021): Revisiting Cabuyao's Oldest Church - St. Polycarp Church

(Souurce: Wikipedia)

The "inutil" government did it again! MalacaƱang recently declared ECQ over the so-called NCR+. This means that we Catholics are barred again from celebrating the holiest week of the year. Making only the Holy Week as ECQ is obviously a revenge from the Man in the Palace, whose ego was bruised by the comment from Bishops Pabillo and Bishop David on the illogical protocols directed against the Church and her celebration of the Holy Week.

Anyways, let us go back to the topic of this post. Today is Palm Sunday and on this day I begin my Virtual Visita Iglesia. The visita iglesia or "church visit" is a Filipino tradition of visiting 7 or 14 churches every Holy Thursday. It is a form of penance, traditionally, with some penitents walking barefoot from church to another. For some, visita iglesia is treated as a tour of churches. Now in the years of lockdowns, no one is allowed to do this tradition.

For Palm Sunday, let me revisit the church in Cabuyao, Laguna that I featured in the Virtual Visita Iglesia in 2017. That Church is St. Polycarp Church of Cabuyao.

It was dusk when I attended mass in St. Polycarp Church in 2017. So the photos that I took of the church's facade and exteriors are dark. This time I visited the church in the afternoon and got a very good view of the church's exteriors.

It is disheartening that the door of Cabuyao Church is closed and no one can enter to pray. The pandemic and the government's addiction to lockdowns took many things from us. It is as if they are denying us to gaze at the real presence of our Lord.

The church's facade features Cabuyao's patron saint, St. Polycarp.

Hearing the name Polycarp reminds me of the Pokemon Magikarp. There's no connection of course. The truth is his name means "many fruits", which is a testament to the many spiritual fruits that he brought to the Church.

St. Polycarp is considered a Church Father, disciple of St. John the Apostle, and the bishop of Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey). He was executed by the Romans when he refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.

St. Polycarp's icon, which features his execution, is on the left side of the church. St. Polycarp was executed by being burned at stake. The fire, however, did not even touch the holy man. Some accounts even say that the fire made an arch over St. Polycarp. Seeing that fire is not working, the executioners stabbed him and that's when he died.

According to the marker below the image of the burning St. Polycarp, Cabuyao Church is the first church in the Philippines that was dedicated to St. Polycarp as its patron saint.

Aside from St. Polycarp, the church's facade also features the icons of St. Vincent Ferrer and Sto. Domingo.

Near the icon of the burning St. Polycarp is the icon of St. Clare of Assisi. The image of St. Clare is more fitting to the history of Cabuyao Church since it was under the care of the Franciscans for a long time. Also, near the church is the Poor Clare Monastery.

In front of the church is the image of Mama Mary, standing on the "Tomb of the Unborn".

The "Tomb of the Unborn" is dedicated to the babies killed through abortion. It is the Church's public denunciation of abortion.

What I like about Cabuyao Church is the big tree in its front yard. It is massive and its leaves provide the much needed shade.

I bet that this tree is much older than the many inhabitants of Cabuyao.

What astounds me about this church is its old bell tower with trees or shrubs growing on it.

The scene of plants growing on the massive adobe blocks has some beauty in it. It is like a silent struggle between nature and man's creation.

Below the old bell tower is the old bell of Cabuyao Church.

The bell is broken and bears the text "REYNA DE SMO ROSARIO" and "CURA PARROCO …"

The old bell of Cabuyao was restored through the help of Parlatone Club of Cabuyao and was installed beside the bell tower on April 17, 2019.;'

The bell is an important part of Cabuyao's history. So, it was placed as the central element of the seal of Cabuyao City.

There is a legend in Cabuyao that claims that Cabuyao Church once had a golden bell. One day, the bell suddenly went missing. Most probably it was stolen. People believe that the bell was thrown in a river or in Laguna de Bay and is now lost to the people of Cabuyao.

Incidents about missing treasures and precious things are somewhat common in Cabuyao Church. One of such incidents is the diggings made by the members of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) in 1972, which was the year when Marcos declared Martial Law. The diggings in and around the church were conducted for two month and the townsfolk claimed that the PC unearthed treasures hidden by the Japs during the war. It is not surprising that Cabuyao Church caught the attention of the greedy elements of PC since this church because it was used by the Japanese as infirmary for wounded soldiers and stable for horses during the War.

Another missing treasures are its antique images and baroque accouterments that went missing during the renovation of the church. Some towns folks say that the antique images were taken to some homes for "safekeeping".

It is unfortunate that I was not able to enter Cabuyao Church this time. Well, at least this latest visit gave me a new perspective about this church.

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Collect Prayer for St. Polycarp

God of all creation, who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp a place in the company of the Martyrs, grant, through his intercession, that sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the lockdowns, I was only able to visit three churches. So, for this year's virtual Visita Iglesia I can only feature 3 churches, namely:

Palm Sunday: St. Polycarp Church in Cabuyao City

Holy Monday: St. Francis Church in Ortigas, Mandaluyong

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Read about my previous visit to Cabuyao Church in 2017.

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1. St. Polycarp Parish - Cabuyao official website

2. Catholic Culture for Collect Prayer for St. Polycarp

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