These 7 beautiful pilgrimage sites are just a few hours from Metro Manila
There may be times when you want to commune with God not just inside a church, but outside, in the beauty of nature.
Indeed, there are places where you can have time both with your higher power and with nature, like these 7 locations featuring the beautiful natural landscapes of hills or mountains. Best of all, these are just 2-4 hours away by commute from Metro Manila.
Regina Rica, Tanay, Rizal
Just around two hours away from Manila and tucked in the hills of Tanay, Rizal is Regina Rica, a 13.5-hectare pilgrimage site with 10,000 trees, 3 waterfalls, and a creek. From this natural landscape rises the 30-foot Virgin Mary statue that Regina Rica is known for.
Rica, which stands for Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia, is also a Spanish word which means “rich lady.” Consistent with this definitition, Regina Rica depicts Mary as Regina, considered the Queen of the Holy Rosary.
When in Regina Rica, take the path of the Stations of the Cross along the slopes of Regina Rica. Then go up the hill to see the towering Virgin Mary up close. You can also go around the labyrinth for some meditative walking.
Regina Rica has a schedule of regular and special activities. Find out more on their site.
How to get there: From EDSA-Shaw Boulevard, ride a van or jeep going to Tanay. Ask the driver to drop you off at the parking area of the Tanay Sampaloc jeepneys. Ride a Tanay Sampaloc jeep and get off at the public market of Sampaloc, Tanay. Take a tricycle to Regina Rica. If coming from EDSA-Cubao, ride a jeep to Cogeo, get off at Cogeo market, ride a jeep to Tanay Sampaloc, then a tricycle to Regina Rica. Travel time from EDSA takes around two hours.
Banal Na Bunduk Dalan Ning Krus, Mt. Arayat, Magalang, Pampanga
At the foot of Mt. Arayat is the Banal Na Bunduk Dalan Ning Krus (Holy Mountain Way of the Cross). There are life-sized statues depicting the Stations of the Cross on a path leading uphill, and, if pursued further after the last Station of the Cross, leads to the summit.
If you plan to end your Stations of the Cross with more time with nature and some quiet time at the summit, be prepared for 3-4 hours of trekking. Wear appropriate shoes or sandals. The trek is worth it, though, as you are rewarded with views of the seemingly endless greenery of trees, and, further down, rice fields. You can also have time for prayer and contemplation here.
How to get there: From EDSA-Cubao, take an Olongapo-bound bus and get off at SM San Fernando. From SM San Fernando, take a jeep to Magalang. From the terminal, take a tricycle to the foot of Mt. Arayat at Barangay Ayala. Total travel time is 3 hours or a little over 3 hours.
Tatlong Krus, Paete, Laguna
A well-known landmark in the town of Paete, Tatlong Krus at the top of Mt. Humarap can visibly be seen from the town.
For a simple, straightforward pilgrimage, take the one-hour trek up the steps of Mt. Humarap to arrive at the summit bearing the 3 crosses. After praying, savor the view of the town and Laguna de Bay. On the way down, you can extend your time with nature with a refreshing dip at Matabungka Falls.
Upon going back to town, if you want to pray some more, you can also stop by Paete’s landmark church, the Saint James the Apostle Parish Church, an old, baroque church made of adobe bricks.
And, since you are at the woodcarving capital of the Philippines, keep your eyes open for wooden sculptures and artists’ galleries as you walk around.
How to get there: From EDSA (usual starting point is Cubao) or Buendia, ride a Sta. Cruz-bound bus. From Sta. Cruz, ride a jeep to Sinoloan. Get off at Paete town. Then take a tricycle to the foot of the mountain. Total travel time from Metro Manila is around 3 hours or more.
Tayak Hill, Rizal, Laguna
A quick climb through a stairway can take you to Tayak Hill’s summit in 30 minutes or less. But, if you are on a pilgrimage, enjoy the view of mountains all around as you make your way through each Station of the Cross. The summit is marked by two crosses – one made of wood, the other of concrete.
And from this summit, drink in the 360-degree beauty of mountains from all sides. Makiling, Cristobal, and Malarayat range are just some of the peaks you will see.
How to get there: From EDSA (usual starting point is Cubao) or Buendia, take a bus to Lucena or any bus passing by San Pablo, Laguna. From San Pablo, take a jeep to Nagcarlan. Get off at Rizal then take a tricycle to the jump-off point. Total travel time is around 3 hours or more.
Marian Orchard, Balete, Batangas
To the first-timer, Marian Orchard would appear like a colorful garden with religious structures one might see in Europe – amid the exuberant pinks, purples, oranges, and whites of bougainvilleas is a small white chapel, pillars and statues of saints leading to a domed structure holding the Virgin Mary. The architecture at the Marian Orchard is in fact inspired by religious structures in Europe, especially Roman architecture.
There is also a replica of Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer designed by a French sculptor. Go up its steep steps and be treated to a view of trees and hills on one side, and of Taal Volcano on the other.
Beyond the bougainvilleas and the European-inspired architecture is a path along pines and towering trees, with a trail lined by Stations of the Cross. You will also find a Virgin Mary grotto as you walk around the 5-hectare property.
Start with the Stations of the Cross first before exploring the colorful garden lined with statues of saints, and before going up the steps to Christ the Redeemer.
How to get there: From EDSA (usual starting point is Cubao) or Buendia, take a bus to Lemery, Batangas via Tanauan/Lipa (not CALABARZON). Ask the driver to drop you off at Levitown (landmark is Caltex gas station), then from there take a tricycle to Marian Orchard. Alternatively, you can take the bus to Lipa then ride a Tanauan-bound jeep before getting off at Levitown then taking a tricycle to Marian Orchard. Total travel time is around 3 hours.
Kamay Ni Hesus, Lucban, Quezon
Kamay Ni Hesus, a popular pilgrimage site, is known for its shrine with a 50-foot Ascending Christ on top of a hill of grass and colorful plants and flowers. To see the Ascending Christ up close, climb the over 300 steps leading to it, and take the Stations of the Cross, featuring life-sized figures, on the way.
From the top you can see the greens of trees and plains below, and the sunset, if you linger until late afternoon.
Known also as a healing center, Kamay Ni Hesus regularly holds healing masses. And, aside from the shrine, Kamay Ni Hesus also has structures representing biblical places like the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark.
How to get there: From EDSA (usual starting point is Cubao) or Buendia, take a bus to Lucena. From Lucena Grand Terminal, ride a jeep or minibus to Lucban, then take a tricycle to Kamay ni Hesus. Total travel time is over 3 hours and may take 4 hours.
Mt. Banahaw, Dolores, Quezon
Mt. Banahaw is a long-popular pilgrimage site not only among Catholics, but also among mystics and those from other beliefs.
Despite a fire that burned 50 hectares of Mt. Banahaw last year, many pilgrims continue to visit this sacred mountain.
According to legend, the spirit of the mountain revealed to a hermit the mountain’s holy places like rock formations, peaks, caves, and flowing waters. Thus, pilgrims usually light candles and say prayers at these places. They usually bathe first in the mountains’ waterfalls for a ritual cleansing. Banahaw’s waters are also said to be healing. Click here to see the typical step-by-step actions often taken by pilgrims in Banahaw.
How to get there: From EDSA (usual starting point is Cubao) or Buendia, take a bus to Lucena or any bus passing by San Pablo, Laguna. Ask the driver to drop you off on the road going to Dolores. Take a jeepney to Dolores, then a tricycle to Barangay Sta. Lucia, where the Banahaw pilgrimage area is. Total travel time is 3-4 hours.
Claire Madarang is a writer, traveler, and seeker who believes in traveling light, particularly in the inner journey. Her wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for seven weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies at Traveling Light