For many Christians, visiting sacred places or Pilgrimage sites is a truly fulfilling means of understanding the origin of their faith. To read about it in the Bible is one thing, but to travel on foot and see everything with one’s own eyes is another experience altogether. Pilgrimages are typically centered on values such as sacrifice and reflection. Walking long distances in a serene and a peaceful place has been known to help rest your body and soul.
Pilgrimage is a sacred journey. It is a process that is not meant to simply get away from it all, but to allow oneself to encounter, see, and experience the Divine. This is accomplished by associating with the faithful and the lost people while visiting the places of worship. Pilgrimage means living very simply, going toward what is peaceful and most sacred, and remaining focused on the opportunity of having a life-changing experience.
The purpose of a Pilgrimage is to travel to a particular serene and spiritual place to experience religious or personal enlightenment or to search for personal transformation. Most travelers are seeking personal attributes as a result of their journey like peace, healing, unity, forgiveness, inspiration, and life direction.
FIRST STOP: OUR LADY OF ATONEMENT CATHEDRAL
Last March 22, 2021, we had a Christian Jubilee Pilgrimage tour. Because it is the pandemic, we followed proper health and safety protocols. We wore our face shield, face mask, and also had social distancing during the tour. Each guest was provided with a hygiene kit so we can sanitize our hands at all times.
The tour started with a visit to Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral, better known as Baguio Cathedral. It is located at Cathedral Loop, adjacent to Session Road. The Baguio Cathedral is distinct for its rose-colored exterior, twin spires, and traditional stained-glass windows. It is one of the most photographed iconic buildings in the City of Pines.
During World War II, it served as an evacuation center during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. The construction of the cathedral itself begun in 1920, under the leadership of the parish priest, Fr. Florimond Carlu. The building was completed in 1936 and consecrated that year, dedicated to Our Lady of Atonement.
SECOND STOP: MARYKNOLL ECOLOGICAL SANCTUARY
The second destination was Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary (MES). The Maryknoll Sisters arrived in the Philippines in 1926. 3 years later, Maryknoll convent was built in Campo Sioco, Baguio City. It was originally intended as a vacation and retreat house. Maryknoll is one of those moving institutions in Baguio that provide in-depth holistic understanding about the Earth and inspire proactive actions on how to sustain Mother Nature’s resources through scientific data, ancient traditions, and indigenous cultures.
Death of the Forest
Death of the Forest is one of the programs offered by MES. It is a 15-station trail through the woods simulating the Stations of the Cross but set to the gradual degradation of the environment and leading eventually to its complete destruction. It is a powerful education in ecology and in human moral responsibility to safeguard the integrity of creation. It was initially observed on Holy Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The next year April 1, 2015, it became a tradition.
This program is an eye opener that makes us reflect deeper on the care and love for the environment and mother nature. We are one with nature and as human beings, we are stewards of God's wonderful creations. Towards the end of the program, there was a tree planting activity. Tree planting is a sign of our renewal of faith. What a perfect way to commune with God and nature.
THIRD STOP: PINK SISTERS CONVENT AND CHAPEL
Next, we visited Pink Sisters Convent and Chapel located in Brent Rd., Baguio City which is also known as The Convent of the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is called “Pink Sisters” because the convent itself was painted pink. Because of the pink habit that is worn by the cloistered nuns, they are also known as Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration. The color symbolizes joy in honor of the Holy Spirit and the Sisters’ adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Guests will also witness the chanting of the nuns which sounds and feels so heavenly.
LAST STOP: OUR LADY OF LOURDES GROTTO AND
MIRADOR HERITAGE AND ECO PARK
We also visited Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, a Catholic Shrine and place of prayer and meditation located on Mirador Hill in the western part of Baguio City. Inside the grotto is a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Lourdes Grotto is particularly crowded on Sundays and during the Holy Week when pilgrims and devotees come to seek the blessing of the Virgin Mary. To reach the shrine the guests must climb 252 steps and when you reach the top of the stairs, it is traditional to light a candle.
Lastly, the Mirador Heritage and Eco Park, a perfect place to have reflection and relaxation. Guests can roam around the place to take instagrammable photos. We visited the most popular attractions such as the Arashimaya Bamboo Grove and the Torii Gate. We also had a Rosary Walk wherein we were able to see the 15 Stations of the Cross.
Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines
From April 4, 2021 to April 22, 2022, we are celebrating 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. Pope Francis grants plenary indulgence to pilgrims who will visit any of the 500 Jubilee Churches.
Plenary Indulgence involves the total removal of punishments for sins that have already been forgiven. The pilgrims are asked to pray for the fidelity of the Filipino people to their Christian calling, for the increase of priestly and religious vocations, and for the defense of the family, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer, the profession of faith, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On April 4, 2021, I was able to experience the opening of the Jubilee Gate at Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral. I feel blessed to have been able to experience this.
WHY DO PEOPLE GO ON PILGRIMAGE?
People go on pilgrimages for many reasons:
Seeking miracles. Many people see pilgrimages as an act of devotion that can help them achieve or overcome something in their life.
Finding forgiveness. It is an act of devotion and sacrifice that their hope will improve their spiritual standing.
Needing guidance. Provide much time for reflection.
Wanting adventure. An escape from the everyday humdrum that offers the chance to clear the mind and exercise the body.
Making connections. Allow people to experience the culture and climate of certain areas of the world in a unique way.
It has been almost 2 years since the pandemic started. Most of us may start to feel hopeless and are still struggling to navigate in this new norm. I am sure many of us are trying to grasp for something concrete to get ourselves through this global crisis. I hope that even though there are lots of uncertainties, we can still find peace and optimism through faith and spirituality.