It’s a known fact that the Philippines is a religious country and boasts its place as the only Christian nation in Asia, with almost 86% of the country believing in Christianity. As a nation with a deeply ingrained belief in faith and the Almighty, the Philippines religiously observes the holy week with a high degree of solemnity. To reflect on their relationship with God, hundreds or even thousands of Filipinos go on pilgrimages around the country – not only to find a solemn place to meditate but to also do penance. This is one of the reasons why there are specific places that promote religious tourism for Lenten pilgrimages and retreats. In this article, we’ll delve into three of the best Lenten pilgrimage sites you can visit if you’re looking for a place for prayer and quiet contemplation.
Regina RICA: Tanay, Rizal’s Center for Sanctity
The Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia (Rica) in Sitio Aguho, Tanay, Rizal, is a 13.5-hectare place of sanctity for those who want to have a holy pilgrimage, or just a place for peace and quiet. The area is run by the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii. It was founded in 2005 by Sister Mary Epifania F. Brasil, OP, in Quezon City. It was transferred in 2009 to where it is currently located. Merely a two-hour drive from Manila, Regina Rica is an ideal place for prayer and pilgrimage in the rich town of Tanay in Rizal.
Regina RICA’s most recognizable structure is the 71-foot-high statue of Our Lady of Regina Rica, the Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Inside it is a chapel. Rica, a Spanish word for “rich lady,” the inspiration of the structure was drawn from the Dominican tradition and belief that Our Lady shelters her devoted children through her protective mantle. The statue was constructed in 2009 and designed by the artist-sculptor Jose Barcena Jr. Currently under reconstruction, the chapel can hold less than a hundred people, but by the start of the Holy Week, it can accommodate 200 people. Entrance is free.
The height of Our Lady of Regina Rica is as symbolic as the number of angels carved below the statue on a canopy of clouds. There are 17 angels around it. The height of the image and the number of angels represent the Nos. 1 and 7, which when added would equal to 8. Regina Rica has candle houses with candles in various colors, which represent different intentions. Besides the statue of Our Lady of Regina Rica and the chapel, a columbary and a vegetarian-themed restaurant can also be visited.
Many devotees and tourists visit Regina Rica to pause and reflect in silence. Regina Rica nuns promote and practice silent prayer. They also offer various programs, such as Mary’s One Million, where they pray for the healing of one’s family tree every day.
They say that through daily prayers of the family tree, the sins of the past and elderly ancestors can be forgiven, and blessings will shower more to the family. Daily Masses are held at Regina Rica. It is open every day, except Tuesdays.
Church of the Risen Christ of Monasterio de Tarlac: Tarlac’s Hidden Monastery
A northern province in Luzon well known for its vast rice and sugar cane fields, Tarlac has become one of the main pilgrimage sites in the Philippines. It is home to the relic of the True Cross of Christ at the Monasterio de Tarlac, which sits atop a mountain in one of the peaceful corners of the province.
In addition to the Relic, Monasterio de Tarlac also features a 30-foot statue of the Risen Christ, which stands on a hill overlooking the plains and slopes of Tarlac. It is likened to the 98-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In addition to the monastery, Tarlac is home to numerous places for prayer, including the San Sebastian Cathedral, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Hacienda Luisita, and the Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Raphael the Archangel, and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parishes.
Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag: Pangasinan’s Landmark Church
Pangasinan is a noteworthy destination, especially for Marian or Lenten Pilgrimages. Home to three landmark churches, Pangasinan is an ideal place for devotees to give thanks and seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
One of the top religious destinations of pilgrims around the country includes the Minor Basilica of the Rosary of Manaoag, which was formally elevated as a minor basilica in February 2015. It is home to the ivory and silver image of the Blessed Mother, which dates back to the 16th century. Under its name, it is invoked as the patroness of the sick, helpless, and needy – making it one of the major pilgrimage sites in the whole Philippines.
In addition, Pangasinan is also home to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, known as the Dagupan Cathedral and Episcopal Seat of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. This is where they obtain papal blessings and plenary indulgence.
Lastly, Pangasinan is home to the Calasiao Church, which is one of the only 33 colonial churches in the country. As the largest and second oldest Baroque-style church in Pangasinan, it’s been declared a “National Cultural Treasure” by the National Commission for Culture and Arts. Continuous efforts are done to effectively preserve the pilgrim destination to restore centuries-old artifacts, painted ceilings, and a prized retablo behind the altar.
Across the Calasiao Church, the Shrine of Señor Divino Tesoro or the “most divine image of our Lord Jesus Crucified” may also be found. This shrine has been venerated by the faithful who have received or are seeking divine help and blessings.
These are only a few of the major Lenten pilgrimage sites in the Philippines that are well known in pilgrimage and religious tourism groups due to the solemnity and quietude that they offer. Whether you’re looking for pilgrimage sites for the Holy Week or looking to strengthen your spirituality and connection with God, these pilgrimage sites should be at the top of your list.