9 Must-Visit Churches for Simbang Gabi
From December 16 to 24, many Catholics visit the church early in the morning and attend the Simbang Gabi mass. The mass is in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in anticipation Christmas. It is believed that if one completes the 9-day series Mass, the person gets one wish granted by God.
This tradition has been practiced by Filipinos since 1669 when Spanish ruled over the country. And because of that, this practice has been a distinct feature in the Philippines and became the symbol of unity and sharing. So to make this year’s Simbang Gabi extra special, why not attend the mass in the most historic and beautiful churches in Metro Manila.
Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church
The Nuestro Senora de Gracia Church is located at 7440 Bernardino Street, Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City. It is founded by Augustinians and is almost 400 years old. It has survived the World War II, an earthquake in 1882, parts of it was burned in 1898 but was reconstructed and re-opened in 1983.
San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church is not just known for its Baroque architecture and trompe l’oeil murals but also since its the only church in Manila that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. So as you celebrate the mass, you also enjoy the beautiful murals on the walls and ceilings. It is located in General Luna Street in Intramuros, Manila.
Manila Cathedral also known as the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica is another remarkable church in Intramuros. It is 3,000 square meters big and features marble chapels, altars, and pulpits. And just like the other churches, it is over 400 years old and has survived the World War II.
Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene
As many may already know, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is one of the most visited church during the holy week’s Visita Iglesia. It is the home of the Black Nazarene that is known for his miraculous works. And when you visit the church early in the morning for Simbang Gabi, you also get to enjoy Filipino’s favorite Christmas snack like Bibingka just outside the main entrance.
Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz
Finding the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo Manila wouldn’t be hard. Its right in the middle of Binondo so it’s hard to miss. Aside from its historical background it also forms a shape of a cross when viewed from the top. Right in front of the church stand the large statue of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. A saint that was born of a Filipino mother and Chinese mother which makes sense since it is located in Philippine’s Chinatown.
Minor Basilica of San Sebastian
Quiapo’s Minor Basilica of San Sebastian is also called San Sebastian Church is a national historic landmark and is the only Church in the Philippines that is made of steel. In addition, the materials used to construct the Church is imported from Belgium and features Gothic architecture. One of its designers is believed to be Gustave Eiffel, the same man who engineered the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
St. Joseph Parish Church
Now if you’re from Las Pinas or near it, you might want to visit St. Joseph Parish Church during the Simbang Gabi. It is famous for its majestic bamboo organ that was made during the Spanish era and initiated by Father Cera. It has been declared as a National Historic Treasure as it is the oldest and biggest bamboo organ to exist in the whole world.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Built in the 1500s, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Malinao Pasig was originally constructed in Pinagbuhatan village but had to be relocated due to frequent flooding. And just like most historic churches in the country, it features Baroque-style architecture and a massive clock in the Church’s front. Today, it is now the seat of the Diocese of Pasig.
National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help
More popularly known as the Baclaran Church, the National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help is one of the biggest Marian church in the Philippines. It became popular as thousands of devotees visit the church every Wednesday or “Baclaran Day”.
Simbang Gabi Tips
- Do not leave on an empty stomach. At least have some snacks to avoid a grumbling tummy in the middle of a mass
- Arrive at least 15 minutes earlier. Seats get occupied quick so you want to arrive early and get the best seats
- Bring water and fan. It can get a little hot sometimes, especially when it gets too crowded, so its good to have fan and water in hand.
- Pack light. Don’t bring too many things with you as you might attract naughty eyes. In addition, once the church gets packed, it will be hard to keep your bag safe from thieves.
- Take a nap before you leave. It’s good to take a nap 2 to 3 hours before your departure time to make sure you are in good shape and able to listen to the Priest’s homily.