Our Lady of Lourdes grotto in Bulacan revisited (Feature)

March 31, 2013 10:41 am 

SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY, Bulacan, March 30 — Two scores and eight years after its opening to the public, the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrine here continues to attract many Catholic devotees, especially during the Holy Week — the blazing summer sun despite.

Situated 30 kms northeast of Manila and just beyond the boundary of this city and Novaliches in the old capital, the 48-year-old grotto was opened for public veneration on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Feb. 11, 1965.

Since then, thousands of pilgrims have been flocking to the shrine to pray and offer flowers and candles to the Our Lady of Lourdes, giving thanks for prayers answered and favors received and mediating in front of the Stations of the Cross on the Rosary Hill.

The number of visitors usually peak during the Holy Week, particularly on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Mrs. Marietta G. Guanzon-Holmgren, president of the Grotto Shrine Foundation Inc., said at least 1.5 million devotees from Luzon and nearby Visayas provinces flocked to the shrine between Palm Sunday and Good Friday this year.

She told the Philippines News Agency on Good Friday afternoon that thousands more of pilgrims were expected to visit on Black Saturday and Easter Sunday.

The shrine was a project of the religious couple Horacio Guanzon and Anita Guidote-Guanzon, who hailed from known and wealthy families from Pampanga aas well as Bulacan and Nueva Ecija.

But they chose to make this former town and later a city as their permanent home.

According to Marietta G. Guanzon-Holmgren’s book “The Grotto Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Philippines,” her mother Anita decided to build the grotto shrine on the family-owned 20-hectare land in San Jose del Monte.

Building it was an act of thanksgiving for her having been cured miraculously of cancer after a pilgrimage to the town of Lourdes in southwestern France in 1961.

The well-known story of the grotto shrine started with the Guanzon family matriarch Anita being diagnosed to have cancer of the uterus in 1961 and given by her doctors only six months to live.

She went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France on June 29, 1961, accompanied by her husband and one of their daughters.

She came home cured of cancer in September of the same year and lived three decades more until she died in March 1990.

She left the management of the grotto to her eldest daughter, Marietta, whose attention is now focused on the completion of another project.

That project was started by her parents before they died – the construction of a basilica that resembles the one in Lourdes, France.

Lourdes, a small town, is 795 kms south of Paris in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains which receives more than 5 million pilgrims and tourists each year because of a set of visions reported by a young girl named Bernadette in 1858.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes incorporates 52 hectares of property and 22 places of worship, including the sacred grotto, two basilicas, and a variety of buildings for pilgrims and the sick.

The grotto shrine’s existing attractions in this city include the Calvary Hill that features 14 Stations of the Cross that portray the agony of Jesus Christ.

There are 127 statues presented in dioramas that took three years to construct, according to sources.

There is also the Rosary Hill, with 155 very big beads made of concrete together weighing over eight tons.

In 1974 the Irish-born Roman Catholic priest Patrick Peyton flew in to the Philippines from the United States to inaugurate the Rosary Hill.(PNA)

HBC/SCS/PJN

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