A Journey with Intention: A Pilgrimage to the Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches

May 01, 2022 Travel

On April 19, I usually go on a beach trip with my family to celebrate our fur baby, Aeon’s, birthday

However, I received an invitation to join the initial run of the Department of Tourism – Central Visayas (DOT7) and the Archdiocese of Cebu’s Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches tour, which is a rare opportunity that I decided I shouldn’t miss. The highlight of the tour is passing through Holy Doors, which grants plenary indulgence or the remission of the entire temporal punishment for sin. 

These Holy Doors were opened by Pope Francis last year to celebrate the 5th centennial of the Christian faith in the Philippines. Though the year-long celebration came to a close last April 24, the Holy Doors will remain open until the end of this year. 


There are five hundred and thirty-seven Jubilee churches in the country with designated Holy Doors. Thirteen are in Cebu and five are in the pilgrimage tour’s itinerary, all located in Southern Cebu. They are the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Carcar, the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael in Argao, the San Guillermo de Aquitania Church in Dalaguete, the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church in Boljoon, and the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sta. Ana in Barili.

St. Catherine of Alexandria in Carcar

 the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael in Argao

the San Guillermo de Aquitania Church in Dalaguete

the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church in Boljoon

the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sta. Ana in Barili

I've never explored most of Southern Cebu. So, it was was a chance for me to experience more of this region and an opportunity not just for outward, but also for inward explorations.


It was a prayerful, two-day trip. Since the plenary indulgence is only granted to Catholics who has recently gone to confession, received communion, and prayed for the intentions of the Holy Father, these became significant aspects of the journey. 


Our tour chaplain was Rev. Fr. Brian Brigoli, who is also the Chair of the Archdiocese of Cebu Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. He offered to hear our confessions, but I recently gone to confession and the general absolution was sufficient for me.

Fr. Brian Brigoli


We started each day with a Holy Mass. The first one took place at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, the center of the celebration of the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines. We heard mass on our second day at St. Gregory the Great Parish Church in Ginatilan. This town is where San Pedro Calungsod, the second Filipino saint, is from and the celebration of the mass was made more special with relatives of San Pedro Calungsod in attendance. 

Festive Welcome in Ginatilan


The mass celebrants with the relatives of San Pedro Calungsod

We also prayed the Holy Rosary every morning along the way. And at each Holy Door, we prayed one “Our Father”, one “Hail Mary”, one “Glory Be”, and professed our faith for the intentions of the Holy Father. 


Fr. Brian also provided a short catechism before prayers at each Holy Door. 


Aside from these prayerful moments, the tour was also an opportunity to seek God in all the beauty we encountered.


The churches of Southern Cebu are captivating and some of the best-preserved heritage churches in the country. Every single one is remarkable. Each one offers invaluable insight into the local culture, storied past, and traditions.


The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria has unique double belfries and distinctive four-cornered onion domes.


The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael houses one of a few pipe organs still being played during Masses.  In its church grounds is the oldest via crucis in the country. It was once enclosed in a wall to defend it from Moro attacks. 

portion of the oldest via crucis in the country


San Guillermo de Aquitania Church is a National Historical Landmark. It is also located inside a fortress complex built to deter pirate attacks. 


The resplendent Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church, a baroque church in Boljoon, is a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark and is in the tentative list of sites for nomination as a World Heritage Site.  This church is another fortress church and originally served as a watchtower for Moro raids.  The church complex includes a plaza, an old cemetery, and the ruins of a watchtower.

The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael, San Guillermo de Aquitania Church, and The Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church also showcase priceless ecclesiastical treasures in their respective museums. Aside from these, the Patrocinio de Maria Church Museum displays artifacts unearthed during an archeological excavation on its church grounds in 2008.


The Diocesan Shrine of Sta. Ana features the relics of Sta. Ana, the mother of the Virgin Mary. 


Fr. Brian adds “To be a pilgrim is also to search for God in our encounters - in the beauty of the churches, in the community of believers, even in the food we eat along the way. These are all proof of God’s goodness and generosity.”


Indeed, our pilgrimage not only provided nourishment for of our souls, but for our bodies as well


In Carcar, we enjoyed snacks of lechon, chicharron, and the other delicacies for which Carcar is known. We also had our fill of seafood at the lunch served a Maayo Resort in Argao. Our stop at Jessie’s Tortahan was educational, entertaining, and filling. Jessie, our lively host and the owner of this local culinary landmark, led a demonstration of torta-making. 

The beautiful Carcar Museum where we had our snacks

with Ma'm Jessie of Jessie's Homemade Torta


Our dinner in Boljoon, which was a fund-raising dinner for the canonical coronation of its patron saint, Patrocinio de Maria, was highlighted by cultural presentations. 


In Ginatilan, the parish prepared local cakes for us called sinakol, tinumpi, and palagsing. But our prime food adventure was at Kawasan Falls in Badian, which included a habal-habal ride, hiking, and river trekking. And the lunch that awaited us was a boodle fight of crabs, grilled pork, fish, squid, pork barbecue, plus rice, pancit, watermelon, and mangoes.

Kawasan Falls

Yummy boodle fight


In Barili, we had a simple snack of siopao, grilled saba, local cheese, and other food at the picturesque Unchuan Farm.


My intention for the tour was to strengthen my faith and that was my end reward.  I also gained a new appreciation of the treasures of our faith, the richness of our culture, the grandeur of nature, and the exquisite delights of our local cuisine.  And, like any other tourI reconnected with old friends and made new ones.  


Of course, I slipped in a few prayers for Aeon.  After all, it was her birthday!


The tour reinforces Cebu’s position as the pilgrimage hub of the Philippines and of Asia. It is supported by Philippine Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier. PAL has ten daily flights seven days a week between Cebu and Manila, providing pilgrims with a wealth of travel choices.  


Those who want to join future pilgrimages are advised to book flights through www.philippineairlines.com for Super Savers and 3-in-1 deals and to contact DOT-accredited tour operators for their pilgrimage tours.

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