Thousands spend Good Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan

April 2, 2010 12:09 pm 

SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY, Bulacan, April 2 – Thousands of Catholics and other Christians from different places spent Good Friday here at the privately-owned Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Barangay Gaya-gaya.

Most people from all walks of life walked for nearly 21 kilometers from various points in Quezon City and other parts of Metro Manila as part of their yearly pilgrimage here.

Many of them were here since the evening of Maundy Thursday. They held an overnight vigil at the place where the exact replica of the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in France is found.

Some prayed in front of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and others queued at a pool to collect "holy" water believed to cure ailments. The water is piped in from a natural spring.

The icon was built by cancer patient, the late Anita Guidote-Guanzona (1911 to 1990), claiming cure when she visited Grotto in France. It is flocked by pilgrims and devotees every holy week.

The grotto, built on a 30-hectare lot in Gaya-Gaya Village, was inspired by the famous grotto in Lourdes, France, where the mother of Philippine grotto owner Marietta Guanzon-Holmgren went for healing of cancer of the uterus in 1961.

The grotto and an unfinished church, inaugurated in 1965, are now owned and administered by the Holmgren family.

Since the 1960s, it has attracted sick people from around the country, some of whom have donated their crutches, wheelchairs, artificial limbs and other aids after they were reportedly cured.

The passion and death of Christ is depicted in 14 stations with 127, six-foot tall sculptured statues nestled along the pathways of Calvary Hill at the Grotto site.

Rosary Hill, dedicated to the rosary’s mysteries, has cabana-like chapels. Its tri-rosary, with 155 huge concrete beads, is said to be the biggest in the world. The shrine also has a basilica, picnic grounds and a children’s playground.

Grotto caretaker Ponciano Sevilla said in 1975, there were so many walking aids left at the shrine that they were donated to the Philippine Orthopedic Hospital, northeast of Manila.

Sevilla said, outside the Lenten season, crowds at the shrine are smaller. In 2004, Holmgren asked Malolos Diocese for personnel to supervise religious activities at the grotto.

Father Rolando de Leon, vicar forane of the southeast area of the diocese, said two priests and a nun were assigned to administer the grotto, but they left one after another.

They reported Holmgren was "meddling" too much in their duties and treating them like "paid employees," Father de Leon said.

The grotto may be reached by public utility buses (PUBs) from EDSA in Quezon City.

Bus terminals are located in Sampol Market, Barangay Sapang Palay and in Barangay Tungkong Mangga. (PNA) FFC/JCA

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