I was asked by a friend why would I want to travel all the way to Pangasinan (which is about 105 Miles away from Manila) just to visit a church and attend a mass- when I could do just the same in any church in metro manila.
For a moment, I thought, she actually has a point.
But this hasn’t stopped me from going to Dagupan Bus Company terminal in Cubao and traveled for four hours to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag.
I took the bus with Manaoag/ Dagupan signboard (the route is actually Cubao- Dau- Tarlac- Manaoag- Dagupan) and it left by 2:30am. I was told that there are buses that leave the terminal every 30 minutes. For real time schedule and bus fares you can check their facebook page.
We arrived at the shrine at around 6:30 am, just in time for me to freshen up and attend the 7am mass. Expect yourself to be dropped by the bus at the back gate of the church. This map which I got from the shrine’s website helped me a lot in figuring out where to go within the shrine’s premise:
I’ve noticed that the church itself is shaped like a big cross and is well maintained considering it’s old age. Although there are audio speakers everywhere, I had a hard time listening to the sermon since most of the church goers are more focused on the blessing of the sick and religious articles at the end of the mass and didn’t pay much attention to the priest’s sermon. Most of the church goers are from manila or are not locals of the province (at least during the time of my visit). And most are large groups and/or families.
Just behind the religious store is the Paschal Chapel. If you want a quieter place and a more heart-to-heart conversation with your creator then this would be a better alternative than staying inside the main church.
In front of the candle gallery, you’ll notice a long queue of pilgrims lining up towards the second floor of the church. This is where you’d be able to touch the lower mantle of the image of Our Lady of Manaoag and say your prayers. Consider the long queue, so you only have a few minutes or a few seconds to touch and say your prayer.
Next stop after buying souvenirs is to light your candles. There is an area for floating candles. It’s like a huge but shallow basin shaped like a leaf. Surrounding it are for the regular non-floating candles.
It is true that one don’t need to travel hundred miles to prove his relationship with and devotion to his creator. You can even say a little prayer when riding the MRT, while staying in a coffee shop or just anywhere.
But just like Israel or Vatican, The Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan became a place of comfort and peace. A go-to place for people who believe that the Lord really listens and answers prayers.
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