More pilgrims troop to Sibonga
Cebu, Philippines – Almost 10 years after the statue of Mary reportedly shed tears in Barangay (village) Simala, Sibonga, Catholic devotees continue flocking to the site for pilgrimage.
Brother Martin Mary, one of the Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration running the Mama Mary’s Sanctuary, said that every 13th day of the month, around 10,000 pilgrims visit the site where the statue of Mary reportedly shed tears in 1998.
Martin said he based his estimates on the number of hosts the monks prepared each month for the Eucharist.
Just a 15-minute ride from Poblacion, Sibonga, the Mama Mary’s Sanctuary is one of the destinations featured on the first day of the Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbo, a province-led tour to the province’s heritage sites.
Tita Soza of the Provincial Tourism said the sanctuary has been included among the featured spots because of participants’ demand.
The monks, however, are very strict on the tourists’ outfits. They bar those wearing sexy dresses, including spaghetti-strapped blouses and fitting jeans, from entering the church.
Notices are also posted on the way to the church telling visitors that smoking and loud noises are also not allowed.
The Marian monks conduct a procession everyday, carrying sacks full of written prayers and intentions from the pilgrims.
“It’s one way of offering a sacrifice,” Brother Martin said.
The processions are done inside the monastery at night when the pilgrims have already left the place.
The Marian Sanctuary is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily but Masses are held only on Saturdays, Sundays and every 13th day of the month.
Martin said the monks have to pray for Mary’s “intercession” everyday for all the petitions coursed through them to be heard.
He said the monks would place the written intentions below their knees as they kneel and hold hands in prayer.
The monks have displayed inside a glass cabinet, hundreds of letters thanking the miraculous statue for successful healing, medical operations and for passing difficult examinations.
Martin said the monks are going to send those letters to the Vatican for use by the Catholic Church Commission on Investigation to study the “phenomena” of the Virgin Mary.
Martin said those “phenomena” will only be called “miracles” when affirmed by the Vatican.
He said hundreds of pilgrims have already made their testimonies for a number of miracles that reportedly happened to them.
In 1998, the Virgin reportedly “helped” stop the spread of a killer epidemic that struck Sibonga.
With the continued influx of pilgrims, the congregation has been able to put up a church building.
But the church is unfinished yet. Its altar is still being built and there is no ceiling yet, Martin said.
He said the completion would depend upon the donations that would come.
The monks are also helping 146 poor children go to school, he said.