Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Holyland Subic - Contemplating Faith on Local Shores


If you want a taste of the Holyland but Jerusalem's either too laborious for your schedule - or too expensive for your pocket, try Holyland Subic. For starters, there's a Wailing Wall similar to that found in Jerusalem where people can write their petition and prayers on paper and leave them on the wall. 

Holyland Subic is still a work in progress and is roughly 60% completed. There isn't even a canteen for drinks or snacks, but it is a great place for reflection, to mull about our faith. The place is found at the fringes of Subic Bay, near the Zambales gate. There are signs along SCTEX, 

There is the Chapel of Joseph and Mary at Cana. Nearby is a hill that bears a trail to the forest - the Pamulaklak Forest Trail. The design carries replicas and depictions of the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, as well as the stations of the cross. There's a cave where Jesus' cradle sits as Nativity is showcased. There's the house where the Last Supper happened. 

The center piece is, I believe, the Western Wall of Jerusalem (Wailing Wall) where you can leave your petitions in crevices. It is, to be honest, a far replication of Jerusalem's, but the pious atmosphere isn't diminished nevertheless. The wall is, after all, a "unity" wall of sorts, so while foreign governments plan to build walls signifying divisiveness at a time when people need to come together, this wall in Jerusalem is a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslim alike.

The religious theme park opened in 2014 and in piecemeal offerings, they're gradually building sites. The Rosary Mysteries opened in 2016.  Marivi Garcia, Holyland President and CEO, in a television interview, disclosed that the project was inspired by the Holy Spirit while she was on a spiritual retreat in Cebu in 1992. She was forbidden to talk as penance. On the 4th day without uttering a word, she got this "holy desire" to build a place for Filipinos who can't afford a Holyland Pilgrimage abroad. "The desire was nagging me so I wrote a letter to God telling him that whoever puts up this local Holyland, I will volunteer my services," she said. Bishop Soc Villegas was her retreat master then. She made it to the Holyland in 1996 where her "dreams" were confirmed.

Today, the park - Holyland Subic Sanctuary and Biblical Theme Park - is still building on a hilly 15 hectare lot near the Free Port. Entrance is P200 per adult, P180 for seniors and half the rate for children. There's also a P20 environment tax. However, during my visit, they were giving away discounted rates at P120, including the environmental tax. Having said this, it is imperative that people shouldn't expect a high-tech, Disneyland-caliber park with an entrance fee that can only buy a few packs of Mentos candy. Moderate your expectations because this place is still under construction.

There is no regular mass here, but retreats are occasionally being held. "When you look for the Lord," Ms. Garcia guaranteed, "he will let Himself be found by you."

Regardless, I find this Holyland serviceable; a good place to enjoy nature and examine your faith. Some areas require good physical condition because you'll be trekking uphill. On the whole, that isn't such a bad deal.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Chapel of Jesus and Mary of Cana.



Replica of one of the 8 Walls of Jerusalem.

Wailing Wall where you can offer petitions on a folded piece of paper (below).





Wouldn't you want this?





The visitation where Mary receives the good news (Magnificat).



There was a bat inside the manger!

First sorrowful Mystery - Jesus prays at the Garden of Gethsemane.





Replica of the building where the Last Supper happened.



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