Cagayan de Oro City

From pilgrimage to fun: Holy Week destinations in Northern Mindanao

Cong Corrales, Herbie Gomez

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From pilgrimage to fun: Holy Week destinations in Northern Mindanao

DIVINE MERCY SHRINE. Holy Week draws families and individuals to the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental, to offer their prayers. The Catholic monument features a 50-foot statue of Jesus as the Divine Mercy as the focal point of Divine Mercy Hills, a tract of land overlooking Macajalar Bay.

courtesy of Glenn Palacio i Gold Star Daily

Cagayan de Oro and its neighboring areas are not only known for their natural beauty but also their rich cultural and religious heritage, and places for adventure

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro City, known as the Gateway to Northern Mindanao, and its neighboring provinces are popular Holy Week destinations for religious devotees and vacationers alike.

The city and its neighboring towns are home to several religious landmarks, churches, and religious and adventure destinations, each with its unique history and features. 

The following are just a few of them:

Saint Augustine Cathedral

One of the oldest and most iconic structures is the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, founded in the early 17th century to honor the saint, the bishop of Hippo. Over the years, the church underwent numerous renovations and reconstructions, transforming from a wooden structure to a Neo-Gothic masterpiece that now attracts many religious devotees.

As the center of the Catholic faith in the city, the cathedral is one of the most visited destinations during Holy Week, particularly from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday. The cathedral holds various activities such as mass celebrations, processions, and Stations of the Cross.

Divine Mercy Shrine

Another popular destination among devotees is the Divine Mercy Shrine, located in the relatively new and small city of El Salvador in Misamis Oriental, just a 45-minute ride from Cagayan de Oro. 

The shrine features a 50-foot statue of Jesus Christ of the Divine Mercy, a healing chapel at its base, and a chamber of adoration at its heart. With its Mary’s Rosary Garden and Stations of the Cross, the place is perfect for retreat and seminar purposes.

Other notable churches

The Eco Church in the village of Kauswagan Cagayan de Oro is run by parishioners and organizations who work together to uphold Catholic values and spread Christ’s message. 

Then there is the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, another church worth visiting in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro’s most populous barangay, because of its tranquil compound and commitment to evangelization and pastoral activities. 

At the Jesuit-run Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan campus is the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception which serves as a place of worship for students, staff, and visitors who want to connect with God through the Catholic faith.

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For the pilgrims

For those seeking a spiritual pilgrimage, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Tablon is a famous destination known for its “miraculous healing powers.” 

Pilgrims must cross several rivers to reach the shrine, but the journey is worth it for those seeking to deepen their spiritual devotion. 

CROSS. Catholic devotees cross a river to get to the Guadalupe Shrine in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday, April 6. – City Information Office

For those who prefer a less challenging route, the three-kilometer climb to Malasag Hills is an option. This route follows the Stations of the Cross along a path that ends at the chapel of the Birhen sa Medalya Milagrosa. It is a few minutes away from the city with its entrance along the highway in Cugman. 

There is a retreat house in Malasag that provides a peaceful and picturesque retreat for religious tourists, featuring a breathtaking view of Cagayan de Oro City and Macajalar Bay.

Pamalandong sa Talisayan in Sipaka Heights in Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, has been a popular destination for Catholics during Lent since it started in 2001. Thousands of believers go there for the Stations of the Cross. In less than an hour, people can climb the hill with an overlooking view of the bay.

The Camiguin Walkway in the island province of Camiguin is also a preferred place during Holy Week. It is a series of steps that leads to a volcano, with statues along the path depicting Stations of the Cross. It is mostly crowded during the island’s Panaad.

Not to be left out, some malls in Cagayan de Oro organize religious-themed activities such as the Ayala Centrio’s “Walk of Faith,” where there are different stations depicting the significant events leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

Road trip

And for those in search of a road trip adventure, the neighboring province of Misamis Oriental has the popular Route 955 which spans 71 kilometers. It serves as a two-and-four-lane secondary highway that connects the towns of Villanueva and Claveria to the province’s eastern component city of Gingoog near the Caraga region. 

A section of Misamis Oriental’s famous Route 955 near the Christ the King Shrine in Gingoog City. – courtesy of Project Lupad

The long road features cold winds and fog throughout the year. Numerous restaurants and cafes have mushroomed along the route, all of which offer breathtaking views of the mountains and verdant surroundings. 

To access Route 955 from Cagayan de Oro, travelers turn left at the Villanueva public market, where the road ascends to an altitude of nearly 1,200 meters above sea level around the 48-kilometer mark.

Wet and extreme adventure 

For people who want to get wet, the Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort in Opol, a town in the western part of Misamis Oriental near Cagayan de Oro, is the perfect destination.

The waterpark is the largest pirate-themed waterpark in the Philippines. It offers an array of thrilling waterslides, a 400-meter-long lazy river, a kids’ water play area, and a dual wave pool, making it perfect for families who want to cool off and create unforgettable memories.

In neighboring Bukidnon province, Dahilayan Adventure Park features Asia’s longest dual zipline. With a launch point situated 4,700 feet above sea level, visitors can zoom through lush greenery and breathtaking mountain views at speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour, making it a safe and enjoyable adventure for visitors of all ages. It has become the ultimate destination for adventurers looking for an adrenaline rush in Northern Mindanao.

Then there is the Lasang Secret Adventure which provides an exciting way for adventure-seekers to spend the Holy Week. Located in the lush forests of Cagayan de Oro City, the place offers various outdoor activities such as trekking, zip-lining, and rappelling.

Another popular spot among adventure-seekers is the Macahambus Adventure Park which features a hanging bridge, canopy walk, and zipline. There, visitors can also explore the park’s historical significance as it is the site of a battle between the Filipino revolutionaries and the American forces during the Philippine-American War.

Cagayan de Oro and its neighboring provinces are not only known for their natural beauty but also their rich cultural and religious heritage, and places for adventure. With a wide range of activities and destinations to choose from during the Holy Week, visiting the city and its neighboring areas at this time of the year is an unforgettable experience that visitors will surely cherish. –

Cong Corrales is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow while Herbie Gomez is Rappler’s Mindanao bureau regional coordinator.

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.