The Marian Orchard

March 24, 2015 Travel

The Lenten Season is a call to reflection, and the faithful looking for a pilgrimage site that’s away from the throve of tourists can find serenity at a prayer park in Batangas. 

The Marian Orchard, a sprawling Catholic complex, which is already more than two decades old, is located in the municipality of Balete, right before the pilgrimage city of Lipa.  It is only an hour and half’s drive away from Manila. Yet, despite its proximity to Manila and other cities, it has been kept hidden from mass tourism, making it a real oasis for those looking for quiet contemplations.

The Catholic Complex is a testament of how God manifested His love to its founder, Larry Katigbak. 

“God is so good.  I have so much to be thankful for… Ginawa ko ‘tong Marian Orchard na parang outlet rin ng spirituality ko, at gusto ko maibahagi rin sa marami pang tao,” says its founder Larry Katigbak.

Man from Quezon

Ka Larry was born and raised in Quezon.  Coming from a poor but very prayerful family, the young Larry learned to hold on to nothing but his fervent love for God and his devotion to Mama Mary.

The young Larry was always on top of his class. But he knew that their financial circumstances would prevent him from going to college.  After a night vigil in church praying for help, he went home, rested and woke up with an answer to his prayers.  "Dumating mga kamag-anak ko mula sa Candelaria, Quezon. Papunta sila sa Maynila.  Right then and there, dala ilang salop ng bigas, sumama na ako sa Maynila.”

That started Ka Larry’s journey.  He first worked at a textile manufacturing plant where he showed consistent good performance.  Because of this, he was allowed to study at night.  He took up and finished accountancy at the Philippine School of Business Administration. 

His life started to turn around when he landed a lucrative career as an encyclopedia salesman, which afforded him not just wealth but travels abroad.

Investing in Love

For Ka Larry, the paradigm of ownership is stewardship.  Having received many blessings, he decided to get just what he needed and give everything else to pursuit his life goal of helping the church bring Christ to the people, and the people to Christ.

At first, coming from a family who loves plants, he thought of building a sanctuary for plants in the land he bought in Balete, Batangas.  But, it didn’t prosper as planned.  Inspired by his travels abroad and fueled by his love for Mama Mary, he established The Marian Orchard.

Its highest point, the Sacred Heart Tower, is the humble version of Christ’s statue found in the Sugarloaf Mountain in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro.  Here, pilgrims get a sweeping view of the environs, which includes Taal Lake and Volcano Island; Mountains Makiling, Maculot, and Malarayat from afar; and the mystic Mt. Banahaw on clear days.

In the early years of the Marian Orchard, Ka Larry comes here to meditate. The balmy air here is conducive to meditation.  His current health prevents him from doing so but he invites everyone who visits to go up the tower and pray.  Tablets are placed on the second and third floor containing prayers and verses from Psalms praising the Lord for his goodness.

A portion of the Marian Orchard was also kept secluded.  In fact, only a few get to find the pine tree grove, a half-hectare enclave for pilgrims who are searching for solitude.  A concrete statue of Jesus praying to His Father graces the entrance to this enclave.  It is called “Garden of the Divine Will” and is inspired by Ka Larry’s stint in Baguio City.  

The Plaza of the Apostles was inspired by his visits to Rome.

Marian Orchard Faith Association

To be Catholic is to be an evangelizer.

Caring for the Marian Orchard had also its own share of difficulties but for Ka Larry, “everything is just a prayer away.”  For years, he was able to make ends meet by surrendering everything to Him. 

His latest blessing came in the form of a partnership with First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities of Tanauan City, Batangas. This paved the way for the Marian Orchard Faith Association, the new group tasked to care for the Marian Orchard’s physical facilities and amenities.  This way, Ka Larry can now concentrate on further developing the spiritual content of Marian Orchard.

The foundation’s prime purpose is to make the Orchard profitable so that funds can flow to its missionary works. Among which is the establishment of a prayer camp that will encourage the youth to joyfully proclaim their love for the Lord. 

(Photos by Dexter Balita of First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities)

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