The Manaoag Church is arguably the most famous pilgrimage site in Pangasinan, with many even calling it the “Catholic Mecca” in the country.
Officially known as the “Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag, the church is located on top of a hill, which allows for a beautiful landscape for the religious complex. The Manaoag Church is located approximately 200 kilometers north of Manila. On a good day, a travel from the capital to this famous church would take some four to five hours.
Upon arriving, the first thing visitors see is the primary church called Manaoag Basilica. Inside, some of the miracles attributed to the Our Lady of Manaoag are depicted in murals. The Paschal Chapel beside the south flank of the church has icons of the Black Nazarene similar to that of the Quiapo Church. The sanctuary on the left side of the main entrance has a large image of the Crucified Christ.
Aside from attending Mass at the main church, the Veneration Room is popular with pilgrims. Located at the back part of the church, visitors are able to touch the trail of the gown of the Lady of Manaoag.
The Candle Gallery, right beside the entrance to the Veneration Room, is also a nice area to offer prayers for loved ones.
Worth checking out also is the Our Lady of Manaoag Museum, which features mementos halos, crowns, scepters, and batons, among others. It is dimly lit and quiet, housing a vast collection of artefacts and vestments, gifts to the Virgin Mary, and other religious items.
The Rosary Garden is an ideal spot to meditate and reflect. While thousands of people from around the country visit the church every day, the complex is huge enough that visitors could easily find a spot for solitude and prayer.
To say that the church has gone through so much over several centuries would be an understatement. The very first Chapel of Santa Monica (the original name of Manaoag) was built in the 1600s, at the site of the present graveyard. But the church as we know it today was built in 1701. The church was then rebuilt after surviving Japanese bombardment during the Second World War.
Pro tip: Right outside the church are vendors who sell religious artefacts. But the highlight (for me) is always the tupig, boneless bangus, and suman. The perfect pasalubong!