iloilo, travel/landmarks

Entering the Holy Door of Mercy: Navalas Church

Whenever I go back home to Iloilo, I always touch base with my Catholic faith. There’s no way out of it especially when my aunt is also at home for vacation. She secretly dislikes my going to a Christian church in Seoul but there’s no way she can do anything about it either:-).

I learned from her that this is the Jubilee Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 – November 25, 2016) and the Vatican opens its Holy Door every 25 years. The long-time tradition was started in 1300 by Pope Boniface VIII and is celebrated every 25 years, thus the name “Jubilee Year”. The Holy Door in the Vatican is the northernmost entrance of Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is opened only for… you got it, Jubilee Years. Pope Francis broke tradition last year when he designated Roman Catholic diocese throughout the world as “Holy Doors”  to be more accessible to all the Catholic faithful. Rightly so, right? I mean, just because you’re poor and can’t afford a plane ticket to the Vatican you can never step foot at the Holy Door in your lifetime and get to experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.

In Iloilo, the Vatican designated the following churches as Holy Doors of Mercy:

As for us, we crossed the Guimaras Strait to go to the designated Holy Door of Mercy in the Island of Guimaras. It is a less than 20-minute ferry ride from the Parola Port in Iloilo up to the port of Buenavista known as the McArthur’s Wharf.

Guimaras Strait as viewed from Parola Port


MacArthur’s Wharf, Guimaras

As a background, Guimaras used to be part of Iloilo until it successfully ended its campaign to be declared as a province on May 22,1992.

The St. Isidore the Worker Parish Church (commonly known as the Navalas Church) in Navalas, Buenavista, Guimaras is the designated one. You pass through the watch tower before you can see the actual church.

Navalas Church Watch Tower

On its entrance hangs the tarpaulins welcoming visitors and the proud notice that it is a pilgrimage site it being declared as one of the Holy doors of Mercy for this Jubilee Year. The belfry used to have a bigger bell but it was said that the Moros stole it because it was made of gold and silver. Unfortunately for them, their boat capsized and the original bell was dumped into the sea near what is now known as the Isla del Siete Pecados.

The belfry with a smaller bell

The Navalas Church is rich in history. You can see that it is a very old church. How old is it?

Navalas Church

It was built in 1880 and is the oldest Roman Catholic church and the only existing heritage church in the island. Though the interior had been renovated, the facade is still in its original form. It has survived more than a century of island life challenges,

my sons and I with our family from Iloilo

The interior is a picture of contrast of its facade. As partly seen in our group photo, the interior had been renovated to its very contemporary look.

My 90-year old grandmother was blessed by the parish priest, Fr. Nonito C. Pelobello, who himself has just recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination into priesthood. This was a big thing for my family.

our 90-year old grandmother being blessed by Fr. Pelobello

Despite my grandmother’s memory loss, she religiously goes to church so to be blessed by the parish priest of the church we intentionally crossed waters for became the obvious highlight of the trip.

happy faces of the faithful

As for my sons and I, it was a trip to let my sons discover my own family’s practices and for them to hopefully be able to absorb and eventually appreciate the richness of our history and geography. After all, we are a country of more than 7,000 islands with an interesting mix of culture having been colonized by the superpowers of past and present.

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19 thoughts on “Entering the Holy Door of Mercy: Navalas Church

  1. What a beautiful church! My family is also Catholic and my mom is especially fond of visiting churches and learning all about the history of them and the towns they are in.
    This looked like a really great family trip!

  2. I think its impossible to visit the Philippines without visiting church. Christianity is a huge part of every Filipinos life and I really feel that spirituality is so strong, its almost tangible. I love going to mass with my family members. Plus the churches are seriously pretty there, no matter how humble the space is!
    izzy recently posted..June In ReviewMy Profile

    1. And it’s history is so attached with Catholicism, so writing about history is also writing about religion and its infrastructures,

  3. The Catholic faith can be so beautiful at times. I really loved all the happy faces surrounding the priest and your grandma. It’s a wonderful site to see!

  4. I’m an atheist, but I love to photograph religious buildings. The architecture is often times amazing. This church also looks like it has amazing photo opportunities.
    Emre recently posted..Yuldong ParkMy Profile

  5. You are so blessed to experience this Ms. Wendy. Guimaras is so memorable for me because when I took the examination for Korean Language in Iloilo, I went to Guimaras and visit one of the churches there. A priest prayed for me and I passed the exam. Although I am not a Catholic(and I can’t understand why your Aunt dislikes you attending a Christian Church), I still believe we have one God and belief. I made a promise to the priest that I will go back there someday, and maybe when I go back, I will visit this Navalas Church.
    Shirgie Scf recently posted..“From Sketch To Screen” – The DreamWorks Animation Exhibit in SeoulMy Profile

    1. It might be a little hard for non-Catholics to grasp some of the names and the concepts in the post. But I’m sure you have big Catholic churches (Cathedrals even) in Canada as well.

  6. I’m from the Philippines and even though my family converted to Baptist from Catholicism, going to church has always been extremely important. I still feel very comfortable in a catholic church. That’s fortunate that you were able to share this experience with your family and your young sons to be exposed to our culture.

    1. Oh yes, Guimaras is a very beautiful island. I think I have posted about it before but I am yet to look for it:-). It has many beaches and it has a very promising local tourism. We just hope that it won’t be as over-commercialized as Boracay.

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