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Road to Calvary

Road to Calvary

Bernard Supetran

With its built-in long holidays, the Holy Week is arguably the best time to hit the road to return to our home provinces or go on a family getaway, all in the spirit of observing the holiest time of the year for Christians.

Motorists who do the annual exodus from the big city have somehow mastered the skill of evading the sea of humanity in the airports and seaports, as well as the parking lot-type buildup of vehicles in the highways. True-blue road trippers won’t be cowed in maximizing the long weekend and exploring the interesting sights in the countryside even if they are the proverbial roads to Calvary at this time of the year.

Below are some exciting destinations which are home to culturally-rich faith traditions, charming countryside and splendid road networks.

CAMIGUIN. An island gem in northern Mindanao, getting here is a pilgrimage in itself with the multi-modal transportation mode, not to mention the expenses involved. While there are occasional direct flights from Manila and daily flights from Cebu, the least expensive route is via Cagayan de Oro City airport, land transfer to Balingoan port for a one-hour boat ride to Camiguin.

Alternatively, you can fly to Bohol, take a bus to Jagna and swing by the well-preserved heritage churches along the way, before embarking on the three-hour sea voyage to the capital town of Mambajao.

It is known for the Panaad Festival, a 64-km penitential walk around the province’s circumferential road which is beautifully framed by the Hibok-Hibok mountain and the alluring seashore. Loosely meaning “promise” in Visayan, tens of thousands of devotees start the walk before sunset on Maundy Thursday at any point, and complete this within 24 hours, making stops for prayer, rest, sleep, and personal needs.

The spiritual sojourn culminates at the Stations of the Cross at the Vulcan Daan or “old volcano” which has a 1,000-step walkway punctuated with the life-size tableaus of the passion of Christ. Unlike the usual 14 stations, townsfolk have decided to add the 15th one, the resurrection of Jesus, to highlight His victory over death.

At the slopes of the extinct volcano, you will be rewarded by the breathtaking panorama of the sea, plains, and the iconic giant cross of the Sunken Cemetery which marks the submerged old town of Catarman.

After fulfilling your religious obligations, you can bask in the powdery beaches of Mantigue Island and White Sandbar, the mesmerizing tall waterfalls of Katibawasan and Tuasan, or soak in the rejuvenating pools of Ardent Spring, Sto. Niño Cold Springs, or Soda Pool.

BATANGAS. This province is home to some of the most postcard-pretty (read: Instagrammable) baroque Spanish-era churches which have figured in many movies and TV series, most notably the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours in Taal, which was once the biggest in Asia.

But to promote the other lesser-known ones, the provincial government has launched the Simba Trek with a suggested circuit, accredited dining outlets, and guidelines to ensure the solemnity of the religious exercise, and maintain the imaging of Batangas as a center of faith tourism in Luzon.

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Meanwhile, bikers can do the same pilgrimage under the Bisikleta Iglesia group cycling tour hatched by the Lima Park Hotel in Lipa City a few years back, and is thus far, the longest-running and most-organized of its kind. With its sister properties Batangas Lakelands and the Marian Orchard, both in Balete town, riders can marvel the countryside, meditate on God’s sublime love, and retreat from the daily grind.

METRO MANILA. To many motorists, this is the best time to enjoy the megacity all to themselves with a huge chunk of the madding crowd away for the holidays. If you elect to be the so-called: “Team Bahay,” the old churches in the old districts of Manila—Intramuros, Malate, Ermita, Sta. Cruz, San Miguel, Binondo, Tondo, and Quiapo—are ideal for the Visita Iglesia, Siete Palabras, and the Resurrection Day dawn “Salubong.

This is also the best time to discover the other historic houses of worship in the old town centers of the outer metro, such as: Taguig, Pateros, Pasig, Marikina, Malabon, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Valenzuela. By hopping around the periphery, you will get to appreciate the eclectic character of the National Capital Region which has managed to preserve its cultural soul despite the rapid gentrification.

At the northern doorstep of the metro is the Lourdes Grotto in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan which is perhaps the oldest religious-themed destination. It recently reopened after getting entangled in its own Calvary of legal issues.

Regardless of our destinations, may our road trips be meaningful journeys of life and faith with our families and loved ones.