Indeed, it has been observed that long holidays in the Holy Week is something to look forward to. It might also be an indication that summer has officially begun as people flock to beaches and spend vacation in resorts. Having been working in a resort before, I could say Holy Week is the busiest day of the year, with locals and foreigners flocking the beach and pool.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma once said Cebuanos that Holy Week is not a time for vacation, but a time for reflection. I totally agree with the Archbishop. Us Cebuanos pride in our devotion to our faith and this is the best time to take into account the immense blessings that we have in our life through the Lord's great love to us by dying on the cross.
Reflective much? Well, if we really need to go out of the city life, here are some tips that we can offer you for that "reflective" vacation that you can have here in Cebu:
No place is too far to visit for a miracle, an article in Discover Cebu once said. Simala has been a source of destination for locals and foreigners, alike. The shrine became "famous" after that rumor that the Virgin Mary has been seen shedding tears of blood. Albeit this phenomenon lacks scientific or official verification from our church, this drew people to the area. The Marian monks also pray for the petitions that you put in the petition box. When you go to Simala at Upper Lindogon, Sibonga, north of Cebu, you might complain of the long journey or the rocky road but you will be humbled if you see people in wheelchairs, crutches, etc. who willingly go up just to show their devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Virgin Mary Shrine in Bogo
steps going to Our Lady of The Miraculous Medal in Bogo, Cebu
When you travel north and you almost reach Bogo, the enormous shrine of the Virgin Mary on top of a hill is one of the north's defining landmarks. The Shrine of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is located in La Paz, Bogo City, Bogo. The shrine is located on top of a hill and one must climb more than a hundred steps to reach the gigantic statue. This is one of Cebu's top meditation destinations. When in Bogo, drop by San Vicente Ferrer church, one of the old churches in Cebu.
Our Lady of Fatima (Theotokos Shrine) in Perrelos, Carcar
I found a blog article about this shrine and it has a very interesting story.When the Pilgrim Statue came to the Philippines, Fr. John Rona (the founder) went to Cardinal Vidal to discuss the idea of putting up a small venue that could hold the Perpetual Dawn Rosary. Upon their search in 1992, a farmer decided to sell that area in Perrelos at a very low price of five pesos per square meter. During its construction, a farmer found an antique base which is used to hold receptacle in which the consecrated Host is exposed for adoration. The base bears the monogram AM (Ave Maria). Later discovery showed that the base was a 15th Century Bryzantine religious relicon which was later authenticated by a Vatican iconographer. On September 9, 1992, when Cardinal Vidal blessed the statue, it was recalled that the famous "dancing sun" appeared for the first time. That was the time that thousands and thousands of pilgrims flocked the shrine. Being from Carcar, this is one of my most favorite Holy Week spots as you can go reflect inside a chapel, the Holy Eucharist area, or just enjoy the very reflective view on top of the mountains where you can see the merging of mountains and the sea.
Being here, you can feel that immense calm that makes you want to go back to the place over and over again. Fact: Theotokos is a greek word that means Mother of God.
Celestial Gardens, Banawa
A station in the Celestial Gardens
If you plan to do your stations of the cross in an adventury kind of way, this is the best place to go. This is owned and operated by the Tanchan Foundation, Inc. The park and garden is set on twelve hectares of hills surrounded by plants and trees. When you check the entrance, you could not miss the statues of two saints on top of the left and right side of the arches. The property is really a private cemetery but it is most known for its very grand "Stations of the Cross". Thousands of people visit this place every Holy Week.
Durano Mausoleum in Guinsay, Danao
Small huts serve as stations of the cross in Durano Mausoleum
A huge piece of land in Danao holds a huge church and a mausoleum for the partriarch built by the Duranos. The whole place is totally breathaking as it is reflective. Here, you can see statues of the Holy Family, Last Supper, Nativity Scene, small huts that serve as reflection stations for Station of the Cross, busts of past popes, etc.
So, those are our top recommended reflection sites. If you are up for a meditation journey, Cebu is one place to be, with our churches from north to south of Cebu rich of cultural heritage and perfect for meditation. Aside from the architectural wonders that you can discover, there are lots of priests who are more than willing to guide you and/or to hear you confess.
A friendly reminder though from all of us here at iSTORYA.NET, we encourage everyone that wherever you are, the most important thing to do this Holy Week is to reflect, meditate and observe the love that is shown through Christ's death on the cross. For you to meditate and reflect, you don't have to go far. All you have to do is close your eyes and pour your heart out in prayer. May your Holy Week be filled with love, hope and faith.
iSTORYA Ta! (Let's Talk!): iSTORYAns, so where will you be spending your Holy Week?