Travels for the soul: 3 options for you

JOURNEY. Whether you are discovering or renewing your faith, there are pilgrimage sites and efforts to help you find your way.

Photo from The Marian Orchard

This demand drives pilgrimages. And those behind them have been innovating over time to see pilgrims make progress in their faith journey.

Three organizers say that if they can provide the spiritual handle, they can also infuse themes such as heritage and the environment to enrich the journey for others.

These are Green Faith Travels, the Marian Orchard, and the Lima Park Hotel via Bisikleta Iglesia.

Green retreats

GREEN WARRIORS. Pilgrims joining Green Faith Travelers are prepped for the day ahead.

Photo from Green Faith Travelers

Green Faith Travels is the 3-man team of Edwin Galvez, Judit Mangahis, and Larissa Bardos, servants at the Greenbelt Chapel in Makati’s Central Business District.

“We are all full-time professionals,” Galvez said. But it is out of their love for traveling and commitment to the Church that they facilitate two to 4 retreats a year:

On March 21, Saturday, they shuttled 90 pilgrims to Rizal – known as the “Cradle of Philippine Art” – in their version of Visita Iglesia. Deriving from the season’s trademark, the church rounds in Antipolo, Baras, Morong, Pililia, and Tanay allowed for a serious reflection on the passion and death of Christ with the province’s culture as backdrop.

3-MAN TEAM. Green Faith Travels' facilitators (from left) Edwin Galvez, Larissa Bardos, and Judit Mangahis before the main altar of St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church in Pililla, one of the oldest churches in Rizal province.

Photo from Green Faith Travelers

Mangahis said that during the retreats, “some go just for sightseeing of places and churches, but through our chaplains, they are always reminded of the true meaning of pilgrimage.”

Most of the participants are baby boomers who come in groups, like barkadas from the parish. Gen Xers and millennials are also well represented, usually signing up solo, as a couple, a team, or a circle of friends.

RECOLLECTION. Highlighting the recent Lenten pilgrimage of Green Faith Travels in Rizal is the recollection for pilgrims at Regina Rosarii Institute of Contemplation in Asia (Regina RICA) in Tanay. GFT facilitators Judit Mangahis and Edwin Galvez stand before the 71-foot image of Mother Mary, one of the features of Regina RICA.

Photo from Green Faith Travels

Green Faith Travels recently announced on its Facebook page the return on April 18 of the Tarlac pilgrimage, which centers on the veneration of the relic of the True Cross of Jesus Christ in San Jose’s Monasterio de Tarlac.

Galvez clarified that they are not a travel agency per se, thus they have limited resources to put together trips to choice pilgrimage sites like Italy or Jerusalem.

Catholic theme park

PARADISE. The sprawling The Marian Orchard in Balete, Batangas.

Photo from The Marian Orchard

Founder Larry Katigbak said they expect about 20,000 pilgrims during the Holy Week.

Visitors in the past claimed not having seen anything like the 5-hectare property where they could spend time praying, take a breather from the daily grind, and find (or lose) themselves in God’s creation.

Ka Larry prefers to describe it as a Catholic theme park, as it has its own depiction of the Stations of the Cross, a shrine, a grotto, and life-size statues of the apostles.

REPLICA. A replica of Christ the Redeemer also stands amid flowers that could trump King Solomonu2019s splendor.

Photo from The Marian Orchard

The Marian Orchard became open to guests after Ka Larry realized that he should be following Christ’s call to evangelize. He was off to a good start as the land already contained his collection of trees from around the world, including the fig and olive trees that figured in the Bible.

CATHOLIC THEME PARK. Founder Larry Katigbak describes The Marian Orchard as a Catholic theme park, with its own depiction of the Stations of the Cross, a shrine, a grotto, and life-size statues of the apostles.

Photo from The Marian Orchard

At present, there are about 10 to 100 people taking a day tour on ordinary days. Ka Larry noted that they usually come as a family, couples, or in groups.

“Next year, we can assure the public that the [facilities] will be much, much better,” he shared.

He added that his partnership with Saturnino Belen of First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities (FAITH) has paved the way for some areas to be fixed for lodging purposes.

Pedalling pilgrims

In nearby Malvar in Batangas, the Lima Park Hotel has a modern, more mobile take on the Visita tradition: Bisikleta Iglesia, which is for flexing physical and spiritual muscles alike.

The Lenten pilgrimage on wheels is part of the Bisita Batangas tourism program. In its sophomore year on March 28, the organizers said there were around 70 participants, a 3-fold increase from 2014.

The bikers’ route included the hotel as the beginning and end point; churches in Balete, Malvar, Sto. Tomas, and Lipa City, also called Little Rome because of its numerous shrines and churches; and the Marian Orchard.

VISITA IGLESIA. In Malvar, Batangas, the Lima Park Hotel has a modern, more mobile take on the Visita tradition u002du002d Bisikleta Iglesia, which is for flexing physical and spiritual muscles alike.

They hope that interest in the event will spread because of its obvious benefits to sports aficionados, adventurers, and pilgrims. It also promotes biking as an energy-efficient form of transit.

Lima Park Hotel seeks to attract more pilgrims through its Bisita Batangas Weekend Getaway Package, an overnight stay in a superior room for 4 that costs P3,999 ($89.43). A representative added that “for a minimal fee, they may opt for a half-day heritage tour that will take them to the Marian Orchard and at least a couple of shrines within Lipa.”

In and out of season, guests are bound to catch the Batangueños' religiosity and enjoy an abundance of food, fruit trees, and fresh air.

As one biker from last year’s Bisikleta Iglesia said: “It feels good to pray this way. I’ve never visited so many churches in one run, and I didn’t realize that praying this much can give a different kind of high.” –


A freelance business writer, Shadz Loresco follows stories on entrepreneurs, technology, and finance. Her background includes 5 years of writing and editing for online business-to-business (B2B) marketing and reputation management.

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