Epic Ride: The MiraculousShrine of Simala in Sibonga, Cebu
By The Pinoy Rider
While being based in Cebu, I experienced two of the most devastating natural calamities in recent memory to happen in The Philippines – Typhoon Yolanda and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked Central Visayas. Although our countrymen from Eastern and Central Visayas were affected badly, I am alive and survived both of them in one piece. I and my family are fine, and that is definitely something to be thankful for.
I have not lived in Cebu long enough to be able to experience and see the beautiful hidden treasures outside the city so I was very eager to explore once I had the opportunity. Although I have not been there long, I wanted to give thanks. I have been hearing about this enigmatic monastery that looks like a Medieval Castle somewhere in the southern part of the province.
Situated 60 miles south of Cebu City, Sibonga is a small municipality of Cebu Province in the Philippines. Located between Argao and Carcar City, it is well known for having one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines. Although not as popular as the other Cebu towns, the long travel here might just be worth your while.
They say that for the sincere, this is the place to go to if you have prayers that you want to be answered, or if you are looking, praying, or wishing for a miracle. Although I was going through some personal problems during that time, for me, I just wanted to experience Simala and be thankful for everything and to keep me and my family safe. I have heard about the Miraculous Monastery of the Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration located in Simala, Sibonga, Cebu from my Cebuano friends. I have heard the stories of people from faraway places (even from Mindanao) making the long sacrifice of going there just to pray and ask for life-changing miracles. Some people would actually make their Simala visit a yearly pilgrimage to give thanks and ask for blessings. It is also the location wherein the crying Mama Mary in news and pictures can be found.
Officially called The Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, but popularly known as the Simala Church, this shrine was built on top of Marian Hills in Lindogon. It is awe inspiring as it combines the religious feel with the church’s architecture. Going up through its elevated staircase, provides visitors the elevation that gives them a stunning panoramic view of Sibonga and its coast.
This place that I visited is located 2 hours drive up north from Cebu City. If you take the South Road Properties highway using your motorbike all the way to the shrine, the travel time is even lesser as you will immediately find yourself breezing through Talisay and already in Minglanilla in no time.
The 2nd Naga City I’ve seen
On the way you can pass by Carcar town public market and have Cebu lechon as your lunch or meryenda along with puso (sushi-textured rice covered by a diamond shaped banana leaf) and softdrinks. The price of the lechon is relatively cheaper compared to the lechon in Cebu city and the taste is also richer with lots of condiments, as the commercial part of the Cebu lechon is substituted with generations old Cebuano recipe. Alternatively, you may also take a rest at the Gaisano Mall located at the city center and by the highway.
Filipino Flag flying proud
For those who would be coming all the way from other provinces, you can take a plane ride to Mactan-Cebu International Airport. From there, there are a few viable options. You can take a cab and ask to be dropped off at the South Bus Terminal where you can ride a bus going to Sibonga. The bus ride will cost you 55 pesos and the travel time will take around 3 hours. From Mactan, you will be passing through Mandaue, Cebu City, Talisay, Minglanilla, Naga, Carcar, all the way to Sibonga. You would then need to ride a habal-habal going up the hill to Upper Lindogan to the shrine. The roads are generally well-paved and will give you a good view of the mountainous part of Sibonga. There are also vans in Citilink Cebu going directly to the shrine at 100 pesos each. This is a much better alternative since you will be skipping the habal-habal part, which not only is illegal but also downright danngerous. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for a more convenient ride however it may cost you up to Php 2000 for a roundtrip.
Among all the churches I’ve visited, this and Miag-Ao are my favorites
Arriving after a rainy ride, all I can say is that its beauty supercedes its popularity. The place is magnificent. I felt that I was actually right inside a movie about the Middle Ages, and I was the star in it. The sight is something to behold. I love its symmetry and the stairs. I felt like this whole structure came out of a fairy tale, with me in it! Visiting for the first time, the place looked very solemn. It seemed to be a good place for meditating. The place will take you far, far away from the city but when you arrive there, it will surely be worth the ride and the time. A very solemn place to connect to the Lord above.
The Virgin Mary of Simala has captured the hearts of many believers because she has made many wishes come true. The souvenir displays that came from devotees prove to be a living testament to the miraculous power of The Virgin Mary of Simala.
What was once a deserted and barren land is now full of life. According to the old folks of Lindogon, not even a single tree and crop can grow on its dry land without source of water, up to the time when the faithful Marian monks arrived. The church that the monks manage looks like a castle from afar. The altar looks really good and most of what’s inside. Looking around, there are various statues of the Virgin Mary from different places and what it represents. Entering the church, you will be greeted by various souvenirs posted in the wall board, evidences donated by believers and devotees of the true generosity of Mama Mary. From college diplomas, to job offer letters, to wheelchairs from people who were able to walk again – the inside of the church is a sight to behold as well. There was even a story posted there wherein a man underwent a lumbar spine surgery in 2011. Barely two months in recuperation, he developed a severe back pain recurrence, and had a second lumbar surgery in January 2012. They went to this church in February. He was able to climb the steps without any help. Crutches and cane were no longer necessary right after the trip. He was back to work in March. He still experiences occasional back pain but not as debilitating as before he had the surgery. People say that his speedy recovery is something short of a miracle. In my mind though, he is a walking miracle. There are also souvenirs sent by other people who have been healed from their sickness; you will see crutches, wheelchairs and those they have used while sick. Located inside are the letters sent by the faithful whose prayers and wishes have been granted by Mama Mary.
One of the Marian monks running the monastery. Frankly they look scary to me.
I am not that pious but I swear its miracles are true! You can see testimonials from Devotees who came back healed from chronic illnesses and irreversible diseases.
The Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration run the congregation. Inside the church are various statues, an altar, seats, and a ton of memorabilia. The cabinets hold various personal letters addressed to Mother Mary, which has turned into a source of inspiration for individuals who visit the church every day.
By the way, do make sure that you wear something decent when you visit the Shrine as it is a holy place. This is not just for compliance but to give respect as well as this is a place of worship. Sleeveless tops, spaghetti straps, and different sorts of revealing outfits are not permitted inside the church.
Thank you Lord for all the blessings
If there is one popular story among local townsfolk it is on how Mama Mary saved the entire town from a big catastrophe. The huge crown structure before one reaches the main sanctuary is a dedication of the triumphant and powerful intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mother through the Penitential Rosary Walk in 1998, against the killer epidemic that struck the town, where numerous local people, more particularly children died. It was built to honor Mary on the 8th year commemoration of the friars’ arrival in Lindogon and was blessed on February 27, 2004.
I went there on a weekday and there were only a few people so if you would like to relax and keep away from the massive number of devotees on your visit, avoid weekends, holidays and most especially the 13th of the month. Every 13th of the Month, the church of Virgin Mary in Simala celebrate the generosity of Mama Mary. It is at this time that most people would flock into her and ask for blessings. You may also attend mass here should you wish to do so. They only have one mass schedule everyday except on the 13th day of the month where they have 2. So if you want to attend one of their masses, be mindful of the schedule. The Holy Mass Schedule at the shrine is as follows: Monday to Friday at 12 noon, Saturday at 10:30 AM, Sunday at 12 noon and 3:30 PM, and 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM every 13th of the month.
One area that is also a favorite amongst the devotees is the prayer area wherein you could light different colored candles depending on what you are praying for. They are available for sale at 35 pesos each and each color is designed to aid you in your prayers for a specific purpose. People would come in and offer flowers and candles in the hope that their wishes will come true. I took the time to pray in the main church and I also offered a few candles for my personal intentions. I did not ask for much because as far as I’m concerned, I have everything I need, and I am contented with that. All I asked for is to have a safe journey whenever I travel and to keep my family safe from any harm.
Thank you Mama Mary
You may light different colored candles depending on your intention
A must visit while in Cebu
Next time I’ll do a Cebu Loop, as there are a lot more places to go to here in Central Visayas. I was amazed by the beauty of this structure. Now I am pretty sure that there are a lot more hidden spots waiting to be discovered by The Pinoy Rider.
Cebu visitors would visit popular malls, go to historical places, go to parties, eat local delicacies, and enjoy the beaches of the island. I suggest including this in everyone’s itinerary. Not only will you be amazed by its sheer magnificence, but it will also be good for your soul.
Although not very popular in terms of tourist fanfare, The Simala Shrine is a favorite spot for religious goers in Cebu because they have said that the Virgin Mary of Simala is a true giver and provider. I am not forcing anybody to believe this statement but the locals I talked to swear by this. I can also personally attest to this by the sheer amount of personal effects donated or sent by devotees who have experienced the miraculous generosity of Mama Mary, proof that miracles do indeed come true.
It is alright to reflect once in a while, it will be good for your soul.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider