My Spiritual Journey to Simala

It was a cloudy afternoon of the 13th of December 2012 when my travel buddy and I, scheduled to set off to our Visayas backpacking adventure –a travel that will cover Southern Cebu, Negros Oriental (Dumaguete), Siquijor, Negros Occidental (Bacolod), and Iloilo.

Leaving Cebu City an hour past lunch, we headed to the Southern Cebu Bus Terminal and boarded a bus that will pass by Brgy. Simala, Sibonga, Cebu.

South Cebu Bus

I’ve always heard of stories of miracles  told about this particular church in Brgy. Simala. Aside from it’s striking castle like structure, local folks and the monks of Simala Church  claimed that they witnessed several miracles and one of the miracles that they witnessed several times is the crying of the statue of Virgin Mary.

Sibonga Mama Mary

By then hundreds of pilgrims travel to Sibonga and visit the Simala Church.   In the past decade the church was very small but because of non-stop flow of donation by  many pilgrims and by commercializing the Church, it’s structure changed to a very elegant and beautiful Church on the mountainous Sibonga.

The Castle-like Simala Church

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Being there is simply rejuvenating. We were even in luck for when we got there we’ve had a chance to attend the monthly regular mass. (*devotees come by truckloads to be there every 13th of the month to hear Mass at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or during the weekends at 3 p.m.)

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Mass at Simala Church

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A blessing that I think God is showing me to chase my dream to travel, for there’s no other better way to start one’s adventure than being blessed and enlightened by His word.

Strolling Around the Miraculous Church

Simala Church (1) O

How to go to Simala Church?

Getting there is you have to be in Cebu City then go to South Bus Terminal and ride a Ceres Bus going to Sibonga.  It’s easy to find the Church because the Bus driver will inform the passengers once you get there. It’s a 2 hour and a half hour ride from Cebu, by the time you reach the stop point for the Church you will take a  motorcycle ride to bring you to the Sanctuary.

Simala News Clip

Here’s a news clipping I’ve found in the internet that may help…

CEBU CITY, Philippines – No place is too far to visit for a miracle.

In south Cebu, thousands of Cebuanos and other visitors from far and wide, climb up a hill to the Mother Mary Shrine in Simala, Sibonga town, bringing their faith and petitions for cures and other divine aid.

Each year, the crowd of devotees and first-time pilgrims seems to grow bigger.

January 1 is marked in the Christian calendar worldwide as a solemnity in honor of Mary as the mother of God, a day of obligation for Catholics to attend Mass.

At the Mother Mary Shrine in upper Lindogon in Barangay (village) Simala, Sibonga town, 48 kilometers south of Cebu City, devotees come by truckloads to be there every 13th of the month to hear Mass at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or during the weekends at 3 p.m.

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 people to the area.

Driving to Simala shrine by private car from Cebu City means two to three hours on the road, barring heavy traffic in the outlying towns. Public buses ply the south Cebu route but one would have to get off a corner of the national road to reach upper Lindogon and hail a motorcab or a habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) for P20 to take you to the shrine about four kilometers up the mountains.

At the site, one has to cross a foot bridge and walk up a concrete pathway to reach the church, an imposing concrete structure at the top of the mountain. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the peak, which offers a breathtaking view of green slopes and fresh air.

The Marian monks who maintain the shrine have also landscaped the area, which has a mini falls that cascades down a small pool and well-tended gardens.

Signboards warn people that picking the flowers would be like “stealing from Mother Mary”. Families can have picnics and meals in cottages built for visitors. Children like to throw coins in a wishing well which features a large bell. Carenderias outside the gates of the shrine are proof of the steady volume of visitors in Simala.

Those who grumble about the distance are quickly shamed by the sight of elderly men and women on wheelchairs and crutches who go there to hear Mass and line up to kiss the image of Mary. These senior citizens don veils on their heads while praying, the same one Mary wore when she “shed tears of blood.”

While the church exterior is imposing, the interior is clearly a work in progress. The floor doesn’t have tiles and the church is not completely roofed. The hall is filled with wooden pews that look up to an elevated makeshift altar, where the statue of Mary is visible. Scaffoldings around the makeshift altar show work still being done on the ceiling. The rest of the church has no ceiling yet, which makes it humid inside, eased only by the breeze that wafts inside the tall windows on each side of the church.

A major purpose of visitors and devotees who go to Simala is to offer their petitions. Blank sheets of paper and pens on which to write their intentions are prepared by the monks for one to drop in a box at the right side of the glass-encased Marian image. Thank you letters are dropped in a box to her left side.

Visitors in lone queues walk barefoot to the statue. 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.

In front of the Marian image, one is given only a few minutes to either kiss or say a short prayer, so as not to hold up the line.

Two other lines lead to a display of veils similar to the one the Marian image was wearing on the day believers said the “Birhen sa Simala” “shed” tears of blood.

On one display, the veil is placed on a low altar, where one can kneel and place the veil on one’s head while praying. The other one is placed on another statue of Mary. To view this, devotees have to stand within the folds of the veil and hold on to the hands of Mary while praying.

The path leading to both veils is lined with wooden cabinets where written petitions and thank you letters from as far as the United States and other countries are posted. Most petitions ask for a divine cure for ailments of the seeker or a family member’s. Several petitions were made by students seeking to pass the Bar or board examinations. Others seek help in finding jobs abroad.

In another cabinet, thank you letters are laid out, full of gratitude to Mary for answered prayers. While waiting for the line to move, reading the letters is an engaging past time. One woman sent a package containing her nursing uniform, her offering of thanks to Mary for passing the nursing licensure examination.

Further on is a cabinet crammed with wheelchairs and crutches offered by those who were cured of their ailments. The sight is a moving, modern day wonder, echoing Bible stories about the sick and lame who were able to walk again or were freed from their maladies by Jesus Christ.

By Marsante G. Alison
Cebu Daily News

40 TIPS FOR HAPPY HEALTH LIFE IN 2013

Health:

1. Drink plenty of water.

2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.

3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants, and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

4. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

5. Make time for prayer and reflection

6. Play more games.

7. Read more books than you did in 2012.

8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.

9. Sleep for 7 hours.

Personality:

10. Take a 10-30 minutes walk every day —- and while you walk, smile.

11. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

12. Don’t have negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

13. Don’t over do; keep your limits.

14. Don’t take yourself so seriously; no one else does.

15. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.

16. Dream more while you are awake.

17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

18. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.

20. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.

21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

23. Smile and laugh more.

24. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Community:

25. Call your family often.

26. Each day give something good to others.

27. Forgive everyone for everything.

28. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.

29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

30. What other people think of you is none of your business.

31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your family and friends will. Stay in touch.

Life:

32. Do the right things.

33. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

34. Forgiveness heals everything.

35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

37. The best is yet to come.

38. When you awake alive in the morning, don’t take it for granted – embrace life.

39. Your inner most is always happy. So, be happy.

Last but not least:

40. Enjoy LIFE!

©patient.org.in

Black Saturday Special: Being the Light in the Darkness

be the light needed by our dark world

Today is Black Saturday,  (in Latin, Sabbatum Sanctum), the ‘day of the entombed Christ’, is the Lord’s day of rest, for on that day Christ’s body lay in His tomb.

Ideally, Holy Saturday should be the quietest day of the year. It is a day of suspense between two worlds, that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the World.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating the night vigil of Easter that signifies Christ’s passage from the dead to the living by the liturgy. This begins in darkness (sin, death) and is enlightened by the fire and the candle representing Lumen Christi — the Light of Christ — just as the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the community of believers, is led from spiritual darkness to the light of His truth. Christ’s baptism, which our own baptism imitates, is represented during the liturgy by the blessing of the water of baptism by immersing (“burying”) the candle representing His Body into the font.

It is with this premise that we’ve arrived at today’s Holy Saturday reflection. Continue reading

Wholly Week Special: Free-day

Shhh

Friday of Holy Week has been traditionally called Good Friday or Holy Friday. On this day, the church commemorates Jesus’ arrest, his trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial. This is said to be the day that Jesus died and left us in this physical world. Some devotees even believed that physical activities that may put one’s safety at risk such as driving or even allowing the kids to play outside are not allowed today for Christ is not there to guide us.

Given these beliefs, we could say that man on this day is left alone, with his master away there’s nobody to watch upon him; in short man can be said to be free.

This is the type of freedom that we’ll be talking about today in relation to our “Free”day special. Continue reading

Wholly Week Special: ‘Tears’-day

tear

This Thursday, we’ll be reflecting on one of the most striking emotions that we humans possess – our ability to cry.

Had there ever been a time in your life when you get the feeling of being overwhelmed? That even when life is good, the stresses and strains of every day ups and downs take its toll on you? But then you are not doing anything about it, but just to suck it up and carry on, as if nothing’s wrong?

Have you ever felt that your load is too heavy yet there ain’t nothing you can do to lighten it up? Or somebody to help you carry it through? Ever felt that nobody cares for you? That you’re all alone in this?

More often than we realized, these realities happened at one or more point in our lives. And the best solution to all of these shits? Yes – it is crying. Continue reading

Wholly Week Special: Weeds-day

Do you see yourself here?

Now that we’ve already established the beginning of man and reflected what it means to have our God given freedom, we’ll now delve into how we exercise this freedom in relation to how we judge others around us. We’ll be reflecting on our lives here on earth amidst the weeds that surrounds us, the weeds that could be your enemy, your friend, your lover, or you, yourself.

We’ll begin by reflecting on one of the most popular parables of today, the Parable of the Weeds.

The Parable of the Weeds

Continue reading

Wholly Week Special: Choose-day

ManCross300

Yesterday we’ve begun our ‘Wholly’ Week Special with a post entitled ‘Man’day, just in time for starting our Holy Monday right.

Here, we’ve talked about the beginning of man (where the blog title ‘Man’day originated) and discussed how our characteristics are a reflection of God’s image as we are created like Him. All that we have, our talents and abilities, our senses and faculties, our strengths and weaknesses comes from Him, and it is just but proper to use these gifts for His greater glory.

Now that we’ve set the stage of the beginning of man, it is now time to proceed with the next element that man is in possession of, something that could either make or break our relationship with our Creator – our freedom. Continue reading

Wholly Week Special: ‘Man’day

pray

Yesterday’s Passion Sunday, more popularly known as Palm Sunday, commemorated the beginning of week-long Filipino tradition of celebrating the Holy Week and Jesus’ final agonizing journey to the cross.

To live out our Lent fruitfully, I’ve created this Wholly Week Special series of posts. Why ‘wholly’? Because the daily posts that you’ll be reading starting today have an end goal of making you ‘whole’ once again by the end of the week.

Since it’s a Monday, and April has just started, I find it a perfect time to introduce to you my latest blog page – Pray. This post will mark the beginning of another category of my adventures. This is a new challenge for me as I’m new to writing spiritual posts, from my usual travel write-ups. But hopefully you’ll be with me, as He with us, and together we’ll trek this new path of adventure.

Continue reading