I’ve been to Cebu City many times in the past but it was only this year that I finally dedicated enough time to visit one of its most visited religious site --- Simala. I heard a lot of good stories about the place and saw some pictures from my friends which also encouraged me to prioritize this visit by all means prior my speaking engagement at the Juan Big Idea Visayas Edition by the Philippine Junior Marketing Association. I feel that more than anything, I owe it to Mama Mary and to God, to give thanks and pray for all the wonderful blessings and daily miracles I've received and about to receive.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know anything about Simala aside from the fact that a lot people visit it to pray and ask for Mama Mary's help. Devotees would pay their respect and to some extent, it also became a tourist attraction too.
I was originally planning to take the public transport (provincial bus) but my good friends, Ken and Edward, offered to accompany me that day. We left Lapu-Lapu City past 4 am, drove for almost 2 hours and arrived at the gate of the monastery around 6 in the morning. We were told by the guard that it will open by 8 am so we queued and parked outside while waiting for the opening.
Just few minutes after we arrived, vans full of tourists blocked the main gate. By 7 am, hundreds of devotees and tourists were eagerly waiting outside. Vendors kept the people busy and entertained with their spiels why visitors should buy the oil in mini plastic containers with the image of Mama Mary while others were selling plants called "money maker". There were also stores along the way selling food and beverages so you can have your breakfast first especially if you arrived way too early.
Upon entering the gate of the monastery, the beautiful castle welcomed me. I felt like being transported to some European town with majestic fortress.
I was greeted with feeling of solitude and it didn't bother me. Walking around the monastery, a sense of peace embraced me. True to what I experienced, waking up early in the morning, driving for hours and waiting outside the gate was worth the trip! For those who would like to seek refuge should definitely visit Birhen ng Simala where you can find bliss in silence and express your faith.
MAY HIMALA SA SIMALA
I've been soul searching for over a year now. It started when I was about to turn 25 and just like any young adult going through the quarter life phase, I faced a crisis. I was in a crossroad and I really don't know what to do. Feeling lost, a good friend told me to pray for clarity and God answered it. Slowly realizing what I want and desire, I turned to prayer as I renew my connection to my God. This soul searching brought me to different places... places like Simala where I prayed, gave thanks and asked for Mama Mary's blessing.
According to witnesses and official records, the sacred statue
of our Blessed Mother
had shed tears on the following dates:
August 17, 1998
August 22, 1998
September 8, 1988 (Mama Mary's Birthday)
October 13, 1998 (Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima's apparition)
December 29, 1998
September 8, 1999 (Mama Mary's Birthday)
Many granted prayers were in display as well as healing testimonials together with wheelchairs and clutches. Compared to other shrines I've visited where stories of miracles were usually told verbally, this is the first time I saw notes in display. It is heartwarming to read some of the letters from the devotees expressing their joy, gratitude and most of all faith. It reinforces my belief that yes, miracles do happen especially to those who believe.
SAY A LITTLE PRAYER. WHEREVER. WHENEVER. I'd like to share this prayer from the card the nun at the monastery gave to me after I made an offering. May this prayer help you become closer to Mama Mary and help you in your needs.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Cebu City, you may opt to take the public transport (ordinary or AC bus). Hop to one of the provincial bus at the New Cebu South Bus Terminal for only Php 50-80 and tell the conductor to advice you once you reached the crossing/bus stop for Simala. You wouldn't miss the huge "This way to Birhen ng Simala" signage on your right. From there, take the habal-habal (motorcycle) to the top of the hill and pay Php 20/pax.
For privacy and convenience, you may hire a taxi or private van for a round trip. Rate ranges from Php 1,000-3,000 depending on your negotiation skills. :-) I highly advice you ask assistance from your hotel concierge to book you a reliable cab especially if you have limited time in Cebu.
Approximately 2 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes (one way). Dedicate atleast a half day to be able to visit Simala and pray without worrying about other things.
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
Be early than sorry! I highly suggest you visit during weekdays, be at the gate as early as 7am especially if you don't have ample time to spare in lines or you just want to experience the serenity and solemnity of the place. Simala is usually crowded on Friday, Saturday and Sunday when thousands of devotees come to pray.
Remember that Simala is famous not only to devotees but also to tourists that's why it is highly advisable you arrive early if you don’t want to queue for a long time before you can come close and touch the image of Our Lady of the Rosary and Evangelization,the Mama Mary of Lindogon. Please observe silence at all times and follow the rules set by the monks.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
I promise to visit Birhen ng Simala again to give thanks and glory.
Mama Mary of Lindogon, Birhen ng Simala, please hear my prayer.
Please guide me as I take my exam this coming January and apply for scholarship on February. Through your powerful intercession, may our Father in Heaven answer my prayer and heart's deepest desire. Help me prepare and be ready as I take this new journey in 2015. To God be the Glory. Amen.