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Holy Week Guide to Mt. Banahaw's Pilgrimage Sites Edit

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Bopeep Espiritu  • Contributor
Opinions expressed by Explora.ph Contributors are their own.

The mystic volcano of Mt. Banahaw draws legions of devotees every Holy Week. From its steep trails, dense foliage, and mountain folks lurk many stories of heavenly spirits, supernatural elements, and even alien encounters. While the mountain itself has remained closed to the public, the foot of Mt. Banahaw is open not just to pilgrims but also to nature lovers.

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During Holy Week, this patch of coconut trees transforms into a campsite for the pilgrims. (Photo courtesy of Jay Ermitaño.)

The pilgrim begins with a 10-minute walk through a vast campsite shaded with spindly coconut trees. This is where thousands of devotees camp during Holy Week. At the end of the trail is the steep descent to Sta. Lucia Falls. After washing yourself from the purported holy waters of the falls, you'd have to climb back up the 276-step stairs and continue on with the other stations.

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Pilgrims on their way to Sta. Lucia Falls would have to pass by these stalls that sell religious and pagan relics. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

The six other stations form the shape of a rosary, which loops back to the entrance of the falls, and a trek back to the vast campsite. The entire activity spans three to four hours of trekking. Guides may be secured by asking from village folks (approx. P300/guide for a group 6 to 10), or from Nature Villa (0917 529 9947, P200/head). The latter also offers food and accommodation in a nature-inspired lodging house next to the campsite.

Sta. Lucia Falls

Sta. Lucia Falls is comprised of two showers of water along Sta. Lucia River. Named Tubig ni Ama (Father's Water) and Tubig ni Ina (Mother's Water), these waterfalls are believed to be miraculous and can cure ailments in the body.

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Take a dip at Sta. Lucia Falls' cool, miraculous waters. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)
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Pilgrims often leave flowers as offering. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

Jerusalem

Sandwiched in between two rock walls, Jerusalem is where devotees light candles and pray for healing. One of the smaller rocks in the area is said to have the profile of Jesus Christ's face looking up. Two tablets inscribed with the 10 Commandments lie next to one of the walls.

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A reminder etched in stone for all visiting pilgrims. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)
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Visitors can utter their prayers in this area where candles are lit and left. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

Balon ni Santong Jacob (St. Jacob's Well)

The descent to St. Jacob's Well takes about three to five minutes of crawling and requires a flashlight. Upon reaching a small clearing inside, you'd have to climb down a steel ladder to reach the water. Submerging yourself in the water is believed to cleanse the mind and soul.

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A visitor treads the descent to St. Jacob's well. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

Ina ng Awa Cave (Mother of Pity Cave)

A shallow cave with an altar, Ina ng Awa Cave is considered the first church in Barangay Sta. Lucia. Devotees go here to pray for mercy and forgiveness for one's sins. At the right side of the cave is a short and narrow passageway where devotees walk on their knees while praying for forgiveness.

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The trek to Ina ng Awa Cave can get quite steep. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)
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Pilgrims that pass by the cave leave lit candles in the hidden altar. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

Kweba ng Husgado (Justice Cave)

Kweba ng Husgado is notorious for testing one's purity of spirit. Unrepentant sinners are said to have difficulty crossing the cave tunnel, regardless of their size or weight. Spelunking here takes an hour, requiring a flashlight. You'd have to crawl through most of the way and watch your head for limestone. 

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The cramped entrance to Kweba ng Husgado. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)
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Consider yourself saved if you can effortlessly enter Kweba ng Husgado. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

Prisintahan Caves

Prisintahan Caves are made up of two caves each devoted to St. Peter and St. Paul. Here, you may follow the devotees' ritual by writing your name on a specific wall using your finger. This is to "present" or introduce yourself, hence the name of the caves. Once introduced, you can make wishes in your prayer, and ask them to be granted. This marks the end of the pilgrimage.

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Be mindful of your every step on the way to Prisintahan Caves. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)
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Pilgrims converge inside one of the caves to offer their prayers before leaving Mt. Banahaw. (Photo by Jay Ermitaño.)

Things to Remember

The jump-off point to Mt. Banahaw's pilgrimage sites is in Barangay Sta. Lucia in Dolores, Quezon. The mountain is open everyday from 6 AM to 6 PM. It would take 3 to 4 hours to explore. Hiring a guide costs P300 for a group of 6 to 10. Lastly, make sure that you're wearing sturdy footwear and don't forget to bring water!

Directions

From Buendia, Alabang, or Kamias in Metro Manila, take a bus bound for Lucena and get off at San Pablo (approx. P130/head, 2.5hrs). From San Pablo, charter a jeep to Nature Villa in Barangay Sta. Lucia (approx. P400/jeepney, 30mins). You may get a guide there or from the surrounding village at P300 for a group of 6 to 10 people. To commute from San Pablo to Barangay Sta. Lucia, take a jeep bound for Dolores town proper, and then get into a tricycle to Barangay Sta. Lucia (P15/head, 10mins).


Original text by Michelle Tobias


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