A Saturday at Simala

Saturday, May 30, 2015 Sibonga, Cebu, Philippines

The first week of me and my co-interns’ stay at Cebu was spent on trying to adjust to the Cebuano lifestyle. We had to learn almost every route, every street, and even every jeepney number. Well it wouldn’t be possible to know all these things without getting lost. We got lost several times and had to resort to burning our money by riding regular taxis (because we didn’t know about GrabTaxi yet). 

After the first week, my mom visited the city. She spent a week in Bacolod for a conference. Since my brother and I were in Cebu, she decided to make a stop-over to check on us and to visit the Simala Shrine in Sibonga town. Three of my co-interns-slash-housemates didn’t have plans for that weekend so they tagged along. 
We rode an airconditioned van in Citi Link Transit Station. It took us almost two hours to reach Sibonga town. It also cost us 100 pesos for the fare. We passed by cities of Talisay, Naga, San Fernando, and Carcar. My brother told me that we should have arrived in the terminal earlier so we can leave and come back to the city earlier. He also said that we can ride a bus but it will only drop us in the national highway unlike the vans. From the highway, we still drove through small barangays until we reached the entrance of the church.
When we arrived, we went inside the church and lined up to see the preserved statue of Mother Mary. Hundreds of devotees and tourists visited the church that day. While we lined up, we saw a lot of healing testimonies and offerings from people claiming that they have been given what they prayed for. There were wheelchairs and crutches of people who were healed from their ailments, yearbook photos of people who passed licensure exams, and other offerings. There were also handwritten letters and prayers of gratitude for Mama Mary. 
After we said our prayers and touched the miraculous statue, we went to the room where different kinds of Mother Mary statues from different parts of the world were preserved. My brother said that the statues were gifts from religious leaders from different countries. 
There were Chinese, Korean, South African, Japanese statues of Mother Mary and some other nationalities that I already forgot haha. I even saw her baby version! It was interesting and a tad bit creepy to see all these things. Imagine walking into a room full of statues of Jesus’ mother, and their eyes fixed on whoever looks at their cases. Interesting and creepy right? No? Okay maybe that’s just me haha :D
In another room, there were countless dresses and rosaries kept neatly in glass cases. My brother told me that those were accessories for the miraculous statue. There was this one dress that interest me. It was Mother Mary’s birthday dress. During her birthday on September 8, 1999, the devotees saw a bright light and the entire church smelled of roses. 
After touring inside the church, we went out to take pictures. We ate lunch at a nearby cafeteria and left for Cebu City. We needed to ride a tricycle from the church to the van terminal. The fare cost us more or less 20 pesos (I can’t remember anymore </3). We arrived back in Cebu City at around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. 
The trip was worth it because there were a lot of interesting things that I’ve learned. Aside from seeing different statues of Mother Mary and her accessories, I also learned the history of the church and how the monks worked to establish it.  
A lot of people told me that when you visit the shrine, whatever you wish for will eventually come true. I did wish for something. Well… not really “wish” but prayed. I prayed that I’d finish the internship on time and I really did. I finished the 240-hour internship on the expected date without having to worry so much about requirements so yay! *throws confetti*
I think the only downside of our trip was that the heat was intense. We should have traveled earlier so we can get back in the city before it gets too hot. Nevertheless, it was a good trip.

If you’re planning to visit Simala Shrine, you can travel by van or bus but like what my brother said, its best to ride a van since they take you to the church itself. The bus will only drop you in the high way and you still need to ride a tricycle to the church. Bring bottles of water too and brace yourself for a lot of walking. Also, you need to be early if you don’t want to get sun-kissed skin like we did haha!
Simala Shrine is located in Sibonga Town, Cebu, Philippines. Here are other blog posts and websites about the shrine to help you plan your trip: Cebu’s Castle Church: Simala Shrine in Sibonga | My Spiritual Journey to Simala

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