Walang Simalaaaaa...

of course i am purposely "misquoting" the famous line delivered by nora aunor in the LA County Jail after her incarceration for drug possession. err i meant the movie "Himala". Regardless whether you believe in miracles or not, Simala (Barangay Lindogan, Sibonga Cebu) is getting foot traffic from pilgrims that wish to visit the miraculous shrine of Mama Mary.

shrine is not probably the best way to describe the place as it has grown from a mere payag (nipa hut) originally built by the Marian Monks to a massive castle-like structure on top of a hill that overlooks the bay and hills. and based on the master plan, the existing edifice is just part of an intricate complex that is currently being developed.

town lore tells of a Penitential Rosary Walk (1998) for the intercession of Mama Mary to halt a devastating plague that claimed lives of children and infants in Lindogan. to honor Her powerful intercession, they gave a plot of land to the Marian Monks to establish a shrine dedicated to Mama Mary in February 7, 2004 which was also the 8th year anniversary of the Monks arrival in Sibonga.

before continuing to go through the pics, please remember that i have only heard of sibonga and simala through stories of my friends who have visited the place. bear this in mind while looking at the pics.

picture on the left taken sometime Feb 12, 2006 and grabbed from this link. The one on the right was taken April 7, 2008. Apparently, the rules have changed because the original sign singled out indecent women attire and loud stereo as a no-no. At least the new one refers to sexy clothes and smoking. Notice that the BIG difference in the complex behind the sign.
the same angel greeting the pilgrims once you reach the top of the steps leading to the shrine. i guess he's pretty much bored after a while. note the walls still under construction behind the picture on the left.
The 30 foot something statue of the Virgin Mary before and after pics.

what's interesting is that a lot of the pictures i took have similar angles and subjects as a point of reference. the most important detail to note is the structure that serves as a backdrop and is shown "under construction" and still "ongoing construction". the Marian Monks depend on contributions and donations by pilgrims that number to a thousand any given day.

i couldn't stop a huge smile as i took the picture on the left. the "drop box" is taller and wider than your average pinoy and looks more like a confession box. should have called it "drop house" instead. on the other hand, this highlights the amount of contributions the Marian Monks receive from patrons on a daily basis. and unlike government contracts, this one is living up to its promise to develop the facility.
expect a big crowd. be careful, there are TWO lines - one leading up to the altar where they keep the shawl (belo) of the Virgin Mary when she manifested miraculous tears and tears of blood in one instance. you get to kneel, pray and wear the belo - the only price you pay are little favors in heaven from Mama Mary.

The OTHER line is just the usual set of tourists / pilgrims wanting to do some votive candle offering and people who want to offer a prayer in the chapel that's currently stacked with pipes and is under renovation.

Enjoy the series of Virgin Mary statues and learn a bit about the history of each Marian icon. The Lady of Rule is particularly interesting as it traces its history in Africa - thus the blackened skin.

a couple of notes about this place: Sibonga is 48 kilometers or an hour's drive from Cebu City and can be reached via a leisurely drive on the southern trail. Simala can be reached from the main highway via well maintained asphalted roads that go up to the mountain complex. watch out for the sign, and i don't mean a new miracle - the board that leads up to the mountain complex is small that you'd miss it if you don't look close enough.

if you plan to commission a tricycle from the main road you probably have to haggle the fare (wild guess is Php 20 per head but that means nose-to-armpit closeness of about ten people packed in the tricycle), parking is available for 40 pesos, don't expect a ticket or receipt.

food and drinks can be bought right outside the complex along with all sorts of religious ornaments. and yeah, that vendor who sold us the special discounted price of Php 100 for three chicharon packs is probably going to burn in hell when we found out that it really costs Php 30 each.

and contrary to la aunor's claim that there is no miracle ("walang himalaaaaaa"), finding this pilgrim destination coming home from dalaguete (will post another series of pics on this fantastic little town) is a small miracle that i will carry with me until my next visit with prayers of my own.

...picture set...

tip: hover your mouse and turn on the caption feature to see notes about the pictures taken.


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