13 March 2012

7 Holy Places this Holy Week


Pilgrimage is a Catholic tradition that has been tightly embraced by Filipinos since the Spaniards introduced Christianity in the country in the 15th century. For a devout Catholic, the remembrance of Holy Week or Semana Santa will not be complete without a visit to his/her favorite shrine or pilgrimage site. But with rising oil prices and the scorching heat brought about by rising temperatures this summer, some are thinking of forgoing their planned pilgrimages to far provinces such as Pangasinan or Cebu. Some are considering making their remembrances simple and sacred at the comfort of their own homes.

But worry no further. I have a list here of Holy Week destinations that are within reach of Metro Manila. They're accessible and cheap on the budget and are truly worth experiencing.

Brgy. Amuyong, Alfonso, Cavite
Mary statue at MonteMaria

This healing center and Marian shrine is situated just a few miles from Tagaytay City and an hour’s trip from Metro Manila through SLEX. The healing center is a mecca for the disabled and sick who wish to be healed by the miraculous hands of Father Fernando Suarez. It features a huge convention center where healing masses are held, stores of various religious items that you can easily get blessed and a large garden of various flowers and Marian statues. The site is not yet complete, as the proprietors are still planning to construct a 33-storey statue of the Holy Mother on top of the mountain where the site is situated.

Brgy. Tinamnan, Lucban, Quezon
Christ's statue in Kamay ni Hesus
This is the home of another healing priest and humanitarian, Father Joey Faller. Like the previous destination, Kamay ni Hesus is situated on the slopes of a mountain, Mt. Banahaw, which adds to the place's mystical and divine status. There are healing masses of course, but if you are not into such kind of spiritual healing, you can tour the site which features a 50-foot statue of Jesus Christ, 14 life-sized Stations of the Cross and a huge replica of Noah's Ark complete with sculpted stone animals. Kamay ni Hesus is roughly two to three hours by car or bus from Manila via SLEX.

Brgy. Sta. Rosa I, Marilao, Bulacan

The Cathedral at the Divine Mercy Shrine
This is one of two Divine Mercy Shrines in the Philippines (the other is in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental). The shrine is complete with various facilities to feed one's hungry soul: 14 Stations of the Cross, an Adoration Chapel, a Retreat and Pastoral Center, and a basement chapel dedicated to the Our Lady of Guadalupe. It even has a Little Poland Exhibit which showcases the life of two prominent Polish religious figures -- Pope John Paul II and St. Maximillian Kolbe. The shrine is a comfortable one and half hour drive from Manila thru NLEX.

Brgy. Maitim, Tagaytay City, Cavite

The Adoration Chapel at Pink Sisters Convent
Aside from its trademark feature of nuns clad in baby pink habits, this Marian shrine which is just a few miles from Tagaytay City proper, is also popular for its miraculous prayer intercessions? Presidential candidate Gibo Teodoro went here when he and his wife were just a couple and asked the sisters to pray that he be wed to Ms. Prieto. And it worked! I'd bet my 2 cents that somewhere out there, there is someone with a similar experience. Anyway, aside from fulfilled prayers, the convent also has a large and colorful garden, a small Stations of the Cross, a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary and a souvenir store which sells Cloister Cookies made by the nuns themselves. However, since this is a convent, the nuns are very strict in silence so this isn't definitely the place for a large group of pilgrims. The convent is just an hour's drive from Manila via Aguinaldo Highway or SLEX.

Brgy. Gaya-Gaya, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan

The Lourdes Grotto in Bulacan
The Lourdes Grotto of Bulacan is localized version of the original grotto in Lourdes, France where the Virgin Mary made an apparition to Bernadette Soubiroux in 1858. From the cathedral to the cavernous grotto itself, the complex is an exact copy. And like the original, the site also claims miraculous healing to pilgrims who have visited there. Other features of the site includes a Stations of the Cross nestled in 14 man-made hills, a giant rosary which said to be the biggest in the world, and picnic areas and children's playground for families going to the site. However, expect the area to be more crowded than usual due to its popularity and accessibility to Metro Manila pilgrims. The Grotto is just 30 minutes to an hour's drive from Quezon City via Quirino Highway.

Brgy. Sta Cruz, Antipolo City, Rizal

The Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo
You wouldn't go to Antipolo just for cashews right? A visit to the city would not be complete without touring the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. The shrine attracts travellers, particulary OFWs who would liked to be blessed by the Virgin Mother before they go on a trip abroad to avoid bad luck and drug couriers. Being one of Antipolo City's tourist attractions, expect the roads leading to it to be jampacked on Holy Week (the pilgrimage starts on the way to the shrine!). Don't forget to buy cashews and other pasalubong just outside the cathedral before heading home. Without traffic, its just an hour away from Manila via Sumulong Highway.

This Holy Week, never let a good spiritual experience pass, whether it be an arduous pilgrimage or a short visita iglesia to your local churches. It's not just about getting to various places or admiring the scenery, its also about remembrance our imperfections as human beings and striving to look inside ourselves to conquer such imperfections through God's guidance.

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