Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Antipolo

Exterior front of Antipolo Cathedral

I’m not sure if this cathedral is actually the center of town, but it certainly feels like it for me.  It’s where we usually get off the tricycle when riding into town from our neighborhood.  We catch the FX to Manila nearby.  The town hall is within sight of the front steps and the area is often host to a number of local celebrations and events like this ballroom style dancing that I saw and recorded a bit of in 2008:


Alter area of Antipolo Cathedral

The main cathedral is simple, by Catholic standards at least (compared to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City), but it still manages to convey a majestic, reverent atmosphere that reminded me to remove my cap when I passed through the doors.

Parishioners at Antipolo Cathedral

The pews inside are occupied by quite a few people at any given time of the day, but it’s especially jam packed on Saturday nights when mass is held.

Stained glass window at Antipolo Cathedral

Stained glass window at Antipolo Cathedral

These are some photos of the stained glass windows in the cathedral area.

Statues of Saints at Antipolo Cathedral

Statues of Saints at Antipolo Cathedral

And these are some of the statues of saints that are arrayed around the outer wall of the main chamber.  In the first image, you can see a woman laying her hand on one of the statues and praying.

People praying at a Jesus statue at Antipolo Cathedral

This is a very stylistic interpretation of Jesus carrying the cross, which people are laying hands on while offering prayers.

People lighting candles as offerings at Antipolo Cathedral

Burning candle offerings at Antipolo Cathedral

There are also areas where candles are lit.  I don’t understand the exact significance of these candles, except that they’re meant as symbolic offerings.  I suppose they’re used to ensure that the person’s prayers are heard?

This cathedral is known particularly as a place for travelers to pray for safe journey.  I was told by my wife, who grew up in the area, that it’s common for people to make a ‘pilgrimage’ there before embarking on international trips to pray for safety.

The thing I found most peculiar about the cathedral is this sign:

Antipolo Cathedral Car Blessing Sign

If you look towards the bottom right you’ll notice that there are services for car blessings.  My wife says that during this service the priest will sprinkle holy water on the car as a blessing against accidents.  Call me cynical, but this immediately brought to mind a time when the Catholic church would sell a blessing or an indulgence for just about anything, if you could pay the right price, especially with the name and logo of a bank at the bottom of the sign.

The Philippines is a VERY Catholic Country

When I think of the US, my first thought is that, for the most part, it’s a Christian country.  There are churches everywhere.  In even the smallest towns, there’s at least one church.  However, the idea and enforcement of a separation between church and state has made the religious nature of the country a lot more toned down than it is in the Philippines.

Everywhere you look in the Philippines there are reminders that you’re in a Christian country, and definitely a Catholic Christian country.  (For the purposes of this blog I’m not referring to the southern islands, which has been a stronghold of the Muslim faith for hundreds of years).  There are crosses and churches, religious graffiti, art, statues, pamphlets, and even religious themed custom paint jobs on vehicles, among other things.  This is especially true when you get outside of the Metro Manila area, like Antipolo, which is the town just north of Manila where I’m currently residing.

Since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and their 300 years of colonial rule, the Catholic religion has been very deeply embedded into the Filipino society.  I’m sure there are varying degrees from family to family, just like there are in other countries, but people in the Philippines are overwhelmingly Catholic in the way that Arabic countries are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Sometimes, this overwhelming Catholicism can border on the bizarre, or creepy.  At Muslim mosques, the call to prayer is announced from the minarets five times per day.  I remember the first time I heard it in Kuwait.  It was a bit unsettling, but beautiful in a way.  I sometimes stopped to listen to it when I was in Kuala Lumpur.  There’s something similar in the Philippines, or at least at the church in the neighborhood I’m staying in.  Every day at roughly 3 PM, you can hear the sounds of children chanting the rosary over and over, using loudspeakers mounted to the church.  It has a Children of the Corn vibe to it, especially since it echoes off the surrounding hills.  From what I’m told, these children are lured in to perform this task with promises of food and treats afterwards.

I’ve even heard tales of religion supplanting medicine in the Philippines.  Some people prefer to call a priest rather than a doctor when a person is ill.  The priest comes to perform an exorcism to get rid of the bad demons that are causing the sickness.  I don’t want to stray too far from the topic, but if God gave us wisdom to create medicine to heal ourselves, then isn’t it a bit rude to reject it and simply pray for miracles?  Anyhow, I also found a bottle of Holy Water in the medicine cabinet, right next to the headache pills and band aids.  Seriously.