The hot time of year in the Philippines is unforgiving in heat currently, with temperatures reaching feverish intensities. Not surprisingly, travelers are scrambling to head to places where it is cold. Sure enough, when speaking about those places, Baguio City is a definite favorite. Therein lies the problem, as Baguio can be swamped with tourists. Add the fact that it is a long drive from Manila hotels and houses.
Antipolo is a viable alternative, as an ideal summer destination that provides an escape from the heat using its mountain winds, energizing springs, and a great view of Manila (which is especially scenic during nighttime). Located in the Rizal Province, a mere 25 kilometers east of Metro Manila, it is ideal for quick trips. Recommended by various Manila travel guides, the city offers scenic nature such as the Hinulugang Taktak Falls and scenic areas. One can also buy locally-grown mangoes and cashews, as well as the traditional delicacy called ‘suman’.
Apart from being an idyllic place for vacation, Antipolo is also popular as a religious location. It actually refers to itself as the ‘Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines’. One of its top attractions, the Antipolo Cathedral (as well as other churches in the city), gets swamped by numerous devotees who walk up the mountain during the event dubbed as ‘Alay Lakad’. The event occurs every Maundy Thursday of the Catholic Holy Week.
Antipolo City is very busy during the occasion, as one can witness droves of devotees heading for confession at the numerous churches found there. Perhaps the most unique and disturbing spectacle to witness during the time are the ones who perform self-flagellation with the use of whips and sticks – not to mention the ones who even have themselves nailed to a cross.
The city features as well the Nuestra Se’ora de la Paz y Buenviaje statue and the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, which are popular among devotees who adhere to the Visita Iglesia practice – a common Catholic event that commemorates Jesus Christ’s Passion by paying a visit to seven of the country’s famous shrines and churches. The statue arrived in the country from Mexico by the galleon merchant Don Juan Ni’o de Tabora in 1929, during a disaster-filled journey whose safety was attributed to the miraculous powers of the icon.
As such, the statue’s arrival was hailed in Manila, and a march from the Church of San Ignacio up to the Manila Cathedral (the statue’s first abode) was held in its honor. In 1632, the statue was relocated to the Church of Antipolo not long after Don Tabora’s demise. Not long after, people saw a Tipolo tree beside the church, with a specter of the Virgin Mary emblazoned on its trunk. As such, a pedestal was created from the tree to serve as the home for the statue, which was later named as the Virgin of Antipolo.
When the Philippines was captures by the Japanese, hundreds of people were compelled to move the statue to a safer location in the Angono Mountains, where they believed it would be safe. It then found its way to the Quiapo Church in 1945, and not long after was returned to the city of Antipolo.
The ‘Alay Lakad’ itself is done to remember the statue’s return to the city, and is not only a religious event, but a form of festivities as well. It is a popular way for complete strangers to share stories and food, all the while enjoying the views of Antipolo.