(This piece was published in OfficiallyPhilippines.com)
I had one thing in mind on my travel to Cagayan de Oro (CDO)—white water rafting. I wanted to experience riding through temperamental Cagayan River, where there is a mix of raging rapids, mild ripples, and still waters. The adventure-seeking side of me wanted to tick this off my bucket list. Little did I know that it was not going to take center stage in this particular trip. I was in for a pleasant surprise.
It was my first time to travel alone in this part of the Philippines, and having no particular plan for my first day in CDO, I allowed my relatives to take the liberty of arranging my itinerary for the day. I let them decide where to go, as they were residents there. They say it is best to tour around a new place with a local and thought that this is so true, as they directed our driver to the city of El Salvador, which is around thirty minutes away from the CDO town proper.
El Salvador, which actually translates to “The Savior,” is the site of the 50-foot Divine Mercy Shrine. Aside from the grandeur of this edifice, the miraculous story behind its inception holds its own charm itself.
It all began when the intercessory group of the Divine Mercy Foundation Mindanao (Philippines) Inc. in CDO, was given a message by the Lord to create His church with an image of the Lord, which would stand at the summit of a hill while overlooking the ocean. This is the birth of the Divine Mercy Hills project.
The Lourdes of the Philippines
Churches and other religious sites are on the top of every traveler’s list when visiting a new place. Who would not want to see St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City? Or pass up a chance going to Lourdes in southwestern France? Lourdes is, in fact, one of the most famous places for healing. It has become so well known that it takes in about 5,000 tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, every season.
The Divine Mercy Hills may not have quite reached that reputation yet, but it has the beginnings of becoming a popular place for pilgrimage. People from different parts of the country go there to get a glimpse of the impressive sculpture, attend healing masses, and partake of some healing water. The so-called healing water is sort of a miracle itself. While the shrine was under construction, the developers discovered that there was lack of water supply, but they were able to find a spot where clear water sprouted from 270-feet below the ground with the help of a Divine Mercy devotee. They did not expect this water source to be one of the reasons for people to go on a mission to Divine Mercy Hills.
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