Pilar, Bataan―Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has declared three sitios here anad Agwawan Beach in Barangay Sisiman in Mariveles town as “free for swimming” as he visited the province to monitor the implementation of the “Battle of Manila Bay” cleanup program.
Accompanied by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Director Paquito Moreno and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Raul Mamac, Cimatu inspected the coastline of Barangay Sisiman, Mariveles. Other local environment officers also joined the tour.
They said the fecal coliform level in the area dropped significantly to less than 10 most probable number (mpn). The normal coliform level is 100 mpn and below.
Cimatu commended the PENRO and Mariveles local government’s effort to rehabilitate the waters in Sisiman, as piggeries and sewers that were dumping wastes in the coastal water have already been removed.
Mamac had led DENR workers, barangay personnel, and volunteers in the succcesive cleanup of the Lucanin coastline.
Mariveles Vice Mayor Lito Rubia and other local officials also joined Cimatu in the inspection.
Bataan has a 77.79-kilometer stretch of Manila Bay, from the shores of Hermosa in the north of the province to Mariveles in the south.
Meanwhile, the seven oldest churches in this province have become yearly pilgrimage sites for busloads of visitors from various provinces in Luzon for their Visita Iglesia every Lenten Season.
These religious sites now collectively known as the 7 Pilgrim Churches can be found in seven out of 11 towns and a city in the peninsula.
Visita Iglesia is a Lenten tradition among the Catholic faithful where they visit seven churches to pray and reflect on the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The devotees’ first stop for their Visita Iglesia in Bataan is the 263-year-old St. Peter de Varona Church in the town of Hermosa, followed by the 309-year-old Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario Church in Orani and the 423-year-old St. Catherine of Siena Church in Samal.
The next stop of the pilgrimage is the Sto. Domingo Church in Abucay, which, at 431 years old is touted as the oldest in Bataan and one of the oldest in the country.
Meanwhile, the 305-year-old Saint Joseph Cathderal in Balanga City comes next for the pilgrims, followed by the 218-year-old Virgen Milagrosa del Pilar Church in Pilar town.
The last pilgrimage site is the 352-year-old St. Michael de Arcanghel Church in Orion.
These old churches have undergone various renovations but they have one common material – sturdy bricks known as “batong silyar”, which are visible in their inner and outer walls. All the churches were built during the Spanish rule in the Philippines under the supervision of Dominican priests.
There are two major road networks in Bataan -- the Roman Highway and the MacArthur Highway. The 7 Pilgrim Churches are all along the MacArthur Highway.
For this year, the first visitors of the 7 Pilgrim Churches were around 500 people from San Pablo City in Laguna who came on board 12 buses.
Fr. Emil Urriquia, San Pablo City parish priest, who led the huge group of pilgrims, said they have been doing their Visita Iglesia in Bataan for many years now.
“We return here in the spirit of pilgrimage. This is for the yearly Lenten activity of our parish,” he said. With PNA