The Baclaran Church (Redemptorist Church) also known as the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is one of the most prominent Catholic churches in the Philippines.
I’ve always admired its nature-friendly atmosphere. After mass, some devotees bring their own food and have a picnic under the trees. You can drop a coin and make a wish at the wells and fountains around the shrine. Or you can appreciate the amazing art on the wall of the shrine near the candle chapel.
If you’re coming from the south entrance and only looking straight ahead, you’ll definitely miss the Instagram-able mural on the right wall. A year ago, that wall was just a dingy concrete. Now, it’s the country’s longest ceramic mosaic mural at 213 meters long and 10 feet high. Church officials call it “Panagpo”, clearly coined from the Tagalog word tagpo which means convergence.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that the mural was opened to mark last year’s International Human Rights Day. I see some symbolism of suffering. Political or not, the mural is definitely a sight to behold for shutterbugs and visitors.
It would probably be more eye-opening to visitors if a few markers are installed to explain the significance of the symbols.
The monument of Desaparecidos (Victims of Involuntary Disappearance) is at the west end of the mural. It is where families hold their own memorial for loved ones whose fates remain unknown. The names of the victims are carved on the granite panel.
There’s a figure of a woman holding a torch and a child carrying a picture of his father.
The monument was erected years before the Panagpo mural came to completion.
The Love Locks
There is an increasing number of love locks locations around the world. The most notable are Rome’s Ponte Milvio Bridge, Paris’s Pont des Arts, Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge, and Seoul’s N Seoul Tower.
Love locks are a custom by which padlocks are locked by sweethearts to a bridge, fence, or any public fixture to symbolize their undying love. Typically, couples inscribe their names, initials, or anniversary on the padlock.
The fad has caught on quickly on the Philippines. In Manila, the SM Mall of Asia has a wire fence where couples can latch their padlocks. The tradition has reached the grotto and the patio outside the Baclaran Church.
Most of the locks are rusty, which makes me wonder if the couples have made their love last as their old and sturdy padlocks. Call me cynical but personally, I don’t believe in inscribing my name and that of the person I’m just dating on padlocks.
The love locks around the Baclaran Church aren’t actually exclusive for lovers but for families as well. The locks are not only symbols of love but also of hope and faith. If you’re wondering where to get the love locks, vendors lurk outside the church selling padlocks and permanent markers.
The Carillon Bell Tower
A bell tower is a usual sighting few meters from a centuries-old church, but the Baclaran Church’s carillon bell tower was built only in 2015.
The Baclaran Church bell tower has a total of 25 carillon bells that can play music when rung together.
A coffee shop is located on the ground floor of the bell tower. It’s named Sinirangan Coffee Shop. The Sinirangan Coffee Shop is a livelihood support program benefitting the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
If you try the Sinirangan coffee or any of their pastries, you’ll get the chance to climb the Carillon bell tower and see the wonderful view around the Baclaran Church.
Centuries-old churches in the Philippines are always listed as the country’s attractions. They tell a lot about the Spanish colonial influence in the country. So if you’re on a brief visit to Manila, get out of your hostel and hop on a bus or taxi to the historical Baclaran Church.
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Sheila, a.k.a. The Solo Tripper. Former news desk editor, full-time traveler, freelance writer.