Woke up earlier than usual on a Sunday morning for a visit to the Monastery of Holy Eucharist or Mother Mary Shrine in Marian Hills, Lindogon, Sibonga Town, Cebu. I accepted a friend's invitation knowing that I need to say some prayers.
Devotees from across the globe flock Simala bringing their faith and writing their petitions, longing for answered prayers and some miracle. The shrine became famous after word spread that the image of the Virgin Mary was seen shedding tears of blood, a phenomenon that lacks scientific or official church validation but nevertheless draws more and more people. But long before that, I have an aunt who have personal devotion to her for answering her prayer of bearing her only begotten child.
DIRECTIONS: It takes at least two hours to get to Sibonga from Cebu City Center via the South Reclamation Project (SRP). Head south of Cebu, upon reaching Carcar's rotunda, go straight. When you reach Sibonga, signs are visible, turn right and proceed on a long winding road uphill.
We parked the car outside, there are several private lots charging P40 parking fee. Noticeably, there are several restaurants, shops and dormitory sprouting outside the monastery.
Upon entering its gate, I was surprise to see a long queue of devotees along those concrete slopes and stairs, hundreds or maybe a thousand of them, patiently waiting for their turn to kiss the image inside the church.
We walked past them and proceeded uphill right outside the church where candles are being sold. Colored candles are available for sale at P35, each color representing your specific intention. Red for love, Green for prosperity, Brown for lifetime partner, Gold for good health, there's violet, yellow, blue and a lot more. Nevertheless, I assume God is color blind, whatever color your candle is, your prayers are heard. It was difficult to keep them alight with the wind blowing.
Colored candles symbolizes petition for:
• GOLD - HEALING (Good Health, Recovery, Spiritual, Family Tree)
• GREEN - PROSPERITY/SUCCESS (Exam, Study, Financial, Business)
• BLUE - PERSERVERANCE (Employment, Career, Assignment, Promotions)
• VIOLET - ACHIEVEMENT (Plans in life, Struggles, Endeavors, Journey, Voyage)
• RED - LOVE (Unity, Friendship, Engagement, Family)
• YELLOW - PEACE (Courage, Strength, Hope)
• WHITE - PURITY (Enlightenment, Guidance, Right path)
• ORANGE - RECONCILATION (Sweetheart, Wife/Husband, Enemy, Family)
• PINK - THANKSGIVING/HAPPINESS/JOY (Spiritual, Physical)
• BLACK - SOULS (Forgiveness, Pardon)
• BROWN -VOCATION (Marriage bond, God’s Servant, Single life)
• GRAY - DELIVERANCE (Bad ways, Things, Spirits)
• CREAM - CONVERSION/FAITH (Children, Household, Couples)
Visitors and devotees who go to Simala are there to offer their petitions. Blank sheets of paper and pens on which to write their intentions are prepared by the Marian monks for one to drop in a box. I wrote mine while we were in the car. With a tougher year ahead, I never thought I had more than two things to ask.
The church exterior is imposing, sitting on a hill. It's relatively small inside considering its large facade. I wonder how they can house thousands of devotees for mass. (Plans are on its way of making a much bigger venue.) The interior is a work in progress. The ceiling work is done but some parts of the wall wasn't painted yet. The church is filled with wooden pews that look up to an elevated altar, where the miraculous statue of Mary is visible from afar. The stairs on the left are filled with people leading to the image. That's the same line on queue from the gate, that's several hours of waiting.
Note: Once inside the altar, visitors who wish to pay homage and kiss has to walk barefoot. Since the area is considered sacred ground, shoes and footwear have to be removed and modesty is part of the dress code. Wearing of shorts, body-hugging blouses or sleeveless shirts is not allowed. Visitors who come dressed in this attire are asked to cover up with sarongs or malongs, prepared by the monks at the entrance.
After our prayers have been said, we walked back down hill, detoured on a bell on the right. It's a wishing bell! One has to let a coin bounce on that bell and it should fall into the well infront of it. TIP: Don't hit the bell too hard, you're coin will definitely bounce outside to an opposite direction. Throw it gently on the center body of the bell, it will just slide down from its body into the well. It's simply physics but not everyone can do it. ;)
These practices will definitely raise eyebrows. I'm Catholic and I'm quite surprised. It was my first time there so I was quite observant with what was happening. At the end of the day, what matters most is the faith that Mother Mary prays for us and that Jesus hears our prayers.
SCHEDULE OF MASSES:
M-F: 12nn, Saturdays: 1030am, Sundays: 330pm
1030-1130pm and 330-430pm every 13th of the month.
SCHEDULE OF SUNDAY MASSES IN CEBU CITY:
Sacred Heart Church, D. Jakosalem
6,8,930,11,^6,730 (Anticipated: 6)
Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Asilo dela Milagrosa, Gorordo, Lahug
6,7,^530 (Anticipated: 530)
7,11,^4,7 (Anticipated: 530)
St. Therese, Lahug
530*,7,9,1030*,^4,530*,7* (Anticipated: 6)
Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino
530*,7*,830,10*,1130,^230*,4*,530,7 (Anticipated: 530)
*Cebuano masses (unmarked are english masses)
For other churches around the Philippines check out this site.