In a land area of 2,687.8 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the whole Province of Sulu and the entire Province of Tawi-Tawi with its 157 islands and islets.
The Province of Sulu is situated at the southern portion of the Philippines. It lies approximately midway between Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. It is surrounded by the Sulu and Mindanao Seas on the West and North, and the Celebes Sea on the East.
Over 157 islands and islets, some of them still unnamed, compose the province. These are divided into four groups - Jolo group, Pangutaran group, Tongkil-Banguingui (Samales) group and Siasi-Tapul group.
Tawi-Tawi is an island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The capital of Tawi-Tawi is Panglima Sugala and the province is the southernmost in the country. To the northeast lies the province of Sulu and to the west is Sabah in Malaysia. Tawi-Tawi also covers some islands in the Sulu Sea to the northwest, the Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi Island and the Turtle Islands, just 20 kilometers away from Sabah.
Jolo is high and mountainous, being volcanic in origin. Mountains are scattered throughout the island but do not form a mountain range. Thus, small pockets of valleys and wide stretches of undulating to rolling lands are formed and utilized as farming areas. Siasi Island is also volcanic in origin and of hilly interior. The other islands such as Pangutaran are swampy, forested, flat and low islands of coral formation. Less than twenty percent of the provincial land area (mostly in mainland) has more than 18 degrees slope.
Rivers in the major islands are too small and insignificant to permit navigation. There are few protected harbors all located in Jolo and Siasi. A number of crater lakes can be found on Jolo mainland, most prominent of which are the Seit and Panamao lakes.
Tawi-Tawi Island has a number of extinct volcanoes with elevations reaching 1,900 ft. The island is heavily fringed by reefs, bays, islets and lagoons. The mainland, the largest island and where the highest peaks are located, is still forested. The province's terrain ranges from level to steep. There are also natural caves and rock formations.
Cities, districts or region
Sulu Jurisdically, the province is divided into two congressional districts, eighteen municipalities and 410 barangays. Ten (10) municipalities are on mainland Jolo while eight (8) others are island municipalities.
Tawi-Tawi The province has lone congressional district, eleven municipalities and 203 barangays.
Both belong to ARMM region or the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, located in Mindanao Island of the Philippines that is composed of all the Philippines' predominantly Muslim provinces, namely: Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the Islamic City of Marawi. It is the only region that has its own government. The regional capital is at Cotabato City, although this city is outside of its jurisdiction. The ARMM previously included the province of Sheriff Kabunsuan until July 16, 2008, when Shariff Kabunsuan ceased to exist as a province after the Supreme Court in Sema v. Comelec declared unconstitutional the "Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act 201", which created it.
As of year end 2016, the total population of Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo is 1,736,868 of which 1.40 percent are Catholics.
The Tausugs dominate the Sulu Archipelago. They are referred to as 'people of the current', reflective of their close ties to the sea. They are known for their bravery, independence, and love for adventure. They are also an extremely proud people are also shrewd traders and excellent sailors and fighters. Protecting the family name is very important to the Tausugs that they would never tarnish their family honor with cowardice.
The Tausugs were among the first Filipinos to embrace Islam as a religion and a way of life. Their traditional religio-political structure is the sultanate. The sultan is the head of all ranks within the sultanate. Succession is by election by his staff although patrilineal succession is the ideal.
They attend services in the mosque and say their prayers five times a day.
Culturally speaking, the Tausugs can be distinguished from other groups of Filipinos. We can say that the Tausugs have adapted Western ways of dressing. This is because education and travel have greatly influenced their lives. Of course, it is observed that Tausugs greatly appreciate their native dress particularly the "sablay" of the women. As a matter of fact, the Tausug men and women have different attires for different occasions.
The Tausug whether modern or traditional, put the greatest value on the reputation of the family. A Tausug will never commit an act of cowardice that might leave a blemish on the family's name. It is the prime duty of every member of the family to perpetuate the good name of the house. A saying which best exemplifies this particular Tausug trait, goes this way, "You can never expect a Tausug to run from a good fight." This is because they believe that running away from a fight is considered shameful.
The artistry of the Tausugs can be seen in their dances, particularly in the graceful movements of the hands using the janggay. Bright and beautiful colors also characterize the Tausug's love for music and arts.
The Samal and Badjao tribes are the majority among the people of Tawi-Tawi.
The Badjaos are called "Sea gypsies" because they move with the wind and the tide on their small houseboats called vintas. They live in boathouses or in bamboo stilt houses along the coast of the little islands of the peninsula. Even up to the present, many badjaos still live in boathouses. They use "saguan" to push their boats in the water. They are likewise excellent swimmers. Because of their great experience in diving, they can stay underwater longer than most casual swimmers.
Some people have the impression that the Badjaos aimlessly wander from island to island.
The Badjaos are primitive people, friendly and meek. They are among the world's peace-loving people. They are also described as seafaring people and the first group of inhabitants in the island provinces of the region. The tribe's main livelihood is fishing although many have gone into agar-agar (seaweed) farming. Badjao women attend to their home and children.
One of the natives of Zamboanga Peninsula is the Samals or Sama. They live in houses built on bamboo stilts along the seashore and their main occupations are fishing and trading. Sama's are spread in many parts of Mindanao. In this part of the country, this indigenous group of people is best known for their skills in boat building, mat weaving, and pearl diving. When not in fishing, some are engaged in agriculture. Their principal crop is cassava.
One group of this tribe is called Sama Bangingi who used to live in Taluksangay. "Taluk" in the samal language means violet, a favorite color of Samals, while "sangay" means a sandy place where birds flock. Rabana is the Samal's favorite indigenous instrument, together with the kulintang and other gongs.
Suffragan of Zamboanga
Created Apostolic Prefecture: Oct. 28, 1953
Elevated to Apostolic Vicariate: July 12, 1958
Comprises the whole Province of Sulu and the entire Province of Tawi-Tawi with its 464 islands and islets
Titular: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16
Apostolic Prefecture of Jolo was established on Dec. 28, 1953. It was raised to an apostolic vicariate on July 12, 1958 and remains a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo comprises the whole civil province of Sulu. Its titular patron is Our Lady of Mount Carmel whose feast is celebrated July 16.
In 1954, Bishop Francis Joseph McSorley, O.M.I. was appointed first prefect of Jolo and on July 12, 1958 he was appointed first apostolic vicar.
Although, predominantly Muslim, apostolic vicariate of Jolo takes care of the Christians who are inhabitants in the province of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
History of Tawi-Tawi
Tawi-Tawi was previously part of the province of Sulu. On Sept. 11, 1973, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 302, the new province of Tawi-Tawi was officially created, separate from Sulu.The seat of the provincial government was established in Bongao.
The name of Tawi-Tawi is a projection of the Malay word "jaui" meaning "far." Prehistoric travelers from the Asian mainland would repeat the word as "jaui-jaui" to mean "far away" because of the distance of the islands from the continent of Asia. The word "Tawi-Tawi" was picked up to later become the official name of the province.
History of Sulu
The exodus of Arabs, Persians and other Muslims paved the way for the arrival of religious missionaries, traders, scholars and travelers to Sulu and Mindanao in the 12th century.
A landmark born of the social process was the founding of the principality of Buansa Sumatra, who settled there and married the daughter. A decade earlier (1380), Karim-ul-Mahkdum, an Arab religious missionary and learned judge, reinforced the Islamic foundation of Rajah Baguinda's polity (1390-1460) and that of the Sultanate of Sayid Abubakar, princely scholar from Arabia who married Paramisuli, the daughter of Rajah Baguinda. Sayid Abubakar eventually inherited the rule of Rajah Baguinda, established the Sultanate and became the first Sultan of Sulu. To consolidate his rule, Sayid Abubakar united the local political units under the umbrella of the Sultanate. He brought Sulu, Zamboanga Peninsula, Palawan and Basilan under its aegis. Later in 1704, Sabah was added to the constellation as a quid pro quo for the Sultan's help in quelling the Brunei civil war which had been raging for decades.
The navigational error that landed Ferdinand Magellan to Limasawa brought the Philippines to the awareness of Europe and opened the door to Spanish colonial incursion. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and a political system of church-state dichotomy encountering fierce resistance in the devastating Moro wars from 1578 to 1899.
After Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, American forces came to Jolo and ended the 23 years of Spanish military occupation (1876- to 1899). On Aug. 20, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II and Brig. Gen John C. Bates signed the Bates Agreement that continued the gradual emasculation of the Sultanate started by Spain (Treaty of 1878) until its final inertia on March 1915 when the Sultan abdicated his temporal powers in the Carpenter Agreement. The Agreement totally vanished opposition against the civilian government of Gov. Frank W. Carpenter.
The Department of Mindanao and Sulu under Gov. Carpenter was created by Philippine Commission Act 2309 (1914) and ended on Feb. 5, 1920 by Act of Philippine Legislature No. 2878. The Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes was organized and briefly headed by Teofisto Guingona, Sr. With the enactment by the US Congress of the Jones Law (Philippine Autonomy Law) in 1916, ultimate Philippine independence was guaranteed and the Filipinization of public administration began. Sulu, however, had an appointed American governor until 1935 and the Governor General in Manila had a say in Sulu affairs. At any rate, the essence of local governance forged by Rajah Baguinda continued to permeate the ethos of Sulu politics despite centuries of colonial presence. History points to a local government in Sulu that antedates other similar systems in the country. Today, Sulu has a locally constituted government under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The major agricultural crops are coconut, cassava, abaca, coffee, and exotic fruits like durian, lanzones, mangosteen and marang. Sulu is a major supplier of seaweeds. All of the municipalities except the capital town of Jolo are engaged in seaweed farming. COCONUT Coconut is widely grown throughout the province covering an area of 64,360 hectares. Yield of coconut varies from 1,600 t0 3,160 kilograms per hectare per year as copra. CASSAVA Cassava being the staple food in Sulu has the largest cultivated area of 16,514 hectares. This indicates that cassava is widely grown among the various crops on alluvial, sloping and foothill area. Some farmers intercrop cassava with coconut or with upland rice and corn. Average yield of cassava is 23 tons per hectare. ABACA The total area planted to abaca is 3,333 hectares, abaca is abundantly grown in Municipalities of Indanan, Patikul, and Talipao. Patches of abaca are also grown in municipalities of Maimbung and Panglima Estino. Its farm gate price ranges from Php 17.50 to Php 18.50 with an average production of 11,925 kilograms per day. Average volume per month is 356,550 kilograms which are exported to Zamboanga City, Metro Cebu and Metro Manila. COFFEE Coffee is abundantly grown in municipalities of Talipao, Patikul and Parang. Patches are also grown in some municipalities like Indanan, Luuk, Kalingalan Caluang, Maimbung, Panamao, Pandami, Panglima Estino, Pata and Tongkil. The total area planted to coffee is 5,329 hectares. RICE The total area planted to rice is 4,585 hectares. Irrigated area is 190 hectares located in municipalities of Indanan (15 hectares), Luuk (150 hectares), Patikul (15 hectares, and Talipao (10 hectares). the average yield of irrigated paddy is 56 cavans per hectare. Lowland rice has a total area of 210 hectares with an average yield of 42 cavans per hectare. It is grown in the municipalities of Talipao, Indanan, Luuk, Patikul and Panamao. The area for upland rice is 4,185 hectares with an average yield of 36 cavans per hectare. Upland rice is grown in the municipalities of Indanan, Kalingalan Caluang, Luuk, Maimbung, Panamao, Panglima Estino, Parang Patikul, and Talipao. CORN The total land area planted to corn is 2,700 hectares. These are mostly concentrated in Talipao and Luuk. Average yield of corn is 1.85 metric ton per hectare. FRUIT TREES The total area planted to fruit trees is 8,142 hectares. The five major fruits grown in the province include durian, mangosteen, lanzones, citrus and marang. These fruits are marketabe to other provinces and cities since these fruits command a high price compared to other fruits. Sixty percent (60%) of the area planted to durian, mongosteen, and lanzones are found in Patikul area. Patches are also grown within the mainland municipalities. Atis and citrus are abundantly grown in the island municipalities like Pangutaran and Tongkil. Mangoes are widely grown throughout the province. Other fruit trees that are grown in patches include jackfruit, guyabano, santol, guava, baunuh, rambutan, balimbing, etc. LEGUMES Peanut is the popular among legumes grown in the province. It has a total area of 2,800 hectares in which 93% comes from Talipao. Other municipalities that grow peanut include Indanan, Panamao, Panglima Estino and Patikul. Mongo has an area of 1,963 hectares. 98% comes from Talipao and the remaining 2% are in Panamao, Pandami and Panglima Estino.
Other crops grown in Sulu are banana (2,883 hectares), camote (1,404 hectares) and cacao (1,036 hectares). Other crops grown in patches include pineapple, sugarcane, etc.
While there is an absence of huge mineral deposits, Sulu nevertheless abounds in marine and timber resources and is believed rich in fossil fuel. Lying outside the typhoon belt, it is blessed with a year-round bounty from both land and sea.
Due to the character of the soil and climate, the province of Sulu grows a greater variety of products than any other part of the country. In addition to all the crops of the islands, which are abaca, coconut, and fruits like oranges, lanzones, and jacks, other fruits that do not grow in the northern islands are harvested here, such as the mangosteen berries and durian.
Fishing is the most important industry. Sea turtles and fish of all kinds are caught. Otherwise the people engage in the industries of boat building, mat weaving, coffee processing, and fruit preservation (durian and mangosteen).
Trepang and pearls are extensively gathered in Sulu. Trepang, also called bêche-de-mer, is a sea cucumber of the genus Holothuria of the southern Pacific and Indian oceans, and is often dried or smoked for use as an ingredient in soup, especially in China and Indonesia.
Abundance of fertile soil and a fair tropical climate make productive the cultivation of a wide variety of agricultural crops. Produced in commercial quantities are coconut, rice, rice, corn, tropical fruits and vegetables.
Tawi-Tawi coastline abounds with fishing grounds for variety of fishes and other marine species of high commercial value, such as tuna, grouper, sardines, sharks, mantis, squids, octopus, lobster and the like.
Seaweeds comprise the province's export. Tawi-Tawi is also good for fish and pearl culture. It still has substantial coral reefs, oyster beds and mangroves. Other marine products include turtle eggs, shells, sea cucumber, sponges and bangus fry.
Tawi-Tawi and Sulu have good communication services provided by Smart Communications, Inc. and Globe Telecoms. The two leading telecom companies address the growing needs of the people not only in Mindanao but in the Philippines as well, so people can communicate with the outside world.
A local telephone companies continue to operate in Sulu and in Tawi-Tawi but the scattered islands make landline expansion economically prohibitive.
The province has 15 post offices and two courier service firms.
The province has 5 cable stations and two radio stations. The Mass Media Ministry operates the Sulu/Tawi-Tawi Broadcasting Foundation Inc. which runs the broadcast stations DXMM and TV Channel 10 in Jolo, Sulu, and DXGD in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
Jolo Airport is the airport serving the general area of Jolo, located in the province of Sulu in the Philippines. It is the only airport in the province of Sulu. The airport is classified as a Class 2 principal (minor domestic) airport by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Sanga-Sanga Airport, also known as Tawi-Tawi Airport, is an airport serving the general area of Bongao, the capital of the province of Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines. The airport is classified as a Class 2 principal (minor domestic) airport by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
The airport runway is extended to 1,930 meters through partnerships between the DOTC, the CAAP, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the regional government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Tawi-Tawi provincial government. In addition, the runway will be widened to 30 meters. The new runway was inaugurated Aug. 17, 2009 by Ambassador Kristie Kenney and local officials.
There were a total of 40 ports located in the different island groups in Sulu. There were 10 in Siasi, 6 in Luuk, 4 in Kalingalan Caluang, 2 in Jolo, and 18 other ports scattered among the other islands. These ports could only accommodate light crafts or ferries due to limitation of their construction.
There are two major seaports in Sulu. These are in Jolo and Siasi respectively. The Jolo port has a reinforced concrete wharf with an available berthing space of 330 meters and a back up area of 1,640 square meters. The port of Siasi, on the other hand, has a berthing space of 37 meters.
Tawi-Tawi has 28 municipal ports, with Bongao wharf as the biggest with a berth of about 98 meters. There is one airport in Bongao and one airstrip each in Sibutu, Mapun and Tandubas.
The water system's upgrade, undertaken by USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, will enable the Bongao Water District to serve approximately 28,000 additional residents. The water system is one of 47 infrastructure projects built under USAID's GEM Program in Tawi-Tawi and one of more than 850 constructed in conjunction with local and provincial governments throughout Mindanao.
Main transportation to travel to and from these small islands through motorboat from Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-tawi. Many commercial small ships servicing the island four times a week to and from Bongao. Boats sail from Jolo to Zamboanga City almost daily, the trip takes about 12 hours. However, fast boats are also available. Local transportation is by tamaraw jeepneys.
Literacy rate (simply literacy) in Tawi-Tawi is 73.48 percent.
Literacy rate (simple literacy) in Sulu is 58.29 percent.
Schools are classified into public (government) and private (non-government). Classes start in June, and end in March. The majority of colleges and universities follow a semester calendar from June to October, and November to March.
The general pattern of formal education follows by five stages:
Pre-primary level - nursery and kindergarten offered in most private schools
Primary level - six years of basic education
Secondary level - four years of high school education
Tertiary level - usually takes four years, sometimes five and in some cases as in medical and law schools
Graduate level - additional two or more years of schooling
The Pangalay is popular festival dance in Sulu, it is performed in wedding celebrations among the wealthy families. They may last for several days or even weeks depending on the financial status and agreement of both families. Dancers perform this dance to the music of the kulintangan, gabbang, and agongs during the wedding feast. Pangalay ha Agong is another traditional dance of courtship. Two Tausug warriors vie for the attention of a fair maiden using their agong (large, deep, brass gongs) to show their prowess and skill.
Kamahardikaan Tawi-Tawi is an annual event that brings together the people of the province in one municipality to commemorate the creation of the province pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 302 dated Sept. 11, 1973. Vendors selling different kinds of exotic fruits and colorful hand woven cloth materials were already lined up along at the busy commercial district of Bongao, the capital town of the province. A colorful parade showcasing the different ethnic groups living in the province
Cassava and Banana Harvest Festival in Tawi Tawi Last week of February To celebrate bumper yield of food crops, residents and farmers in Tawi-Tawi hold the Cassava and Banana Harvest Festival every February. The event, which was launched in 2010, is a way of the island province's gratitude for a bountiful harvest and endless blessings. Cassava is a staple food in Tawi-Tawi. Its annual production of the crop is around 170,000 metric tons.
Seaweed Festival in Tawi Tawi Sept. 26 - Oct. 7 The festival started in 2002; the event showcases various products made from the marine algae. One of much-awaited portion of the festival is the street dancing, wherein local folks flaunt a collection of indigenous clothing made from dried seaweeds. The occasion, which attracts mostly visitors from Europe, is part of the local government's campaign to promote the seaweed industry.
Sulu falls under the jurisdiction of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) comprising five provinces. These are the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Lanao and Maguindanao. The ARMM has a Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor, its own Cabinet Members and Legislative Assembly. The principal officials of the province are the Governor, Vice-Governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) member's (12) including 3 sectoral representatives, Municipal Mayors (18), Municipal Vice-Mayors (18), Sangguniang Bayan member's (180) and Barangay Captains (410). The Provincial Development Council (PDC) is responsible for the formulation of economic and development plans, the coordination of development efforts and the monitoring and evaluation of programs within the territorial jurisdiction. The PDC is headed by the Governor and is composed of the eighteen Municipal Mayors, the Chairman of Appropriation Committee (SP member), (3) representatives from non-government organizations, and (2) Congressmen representing the two districts.
Gonsalo Garcia was born on Feb. 5, 1556, to a Portuguese father and Indian mother of Konkani descent, at Agashi village at Bassein (now Vasai), near Mumbai city in western India. His father was a soldier stationed at Fort Bassein, a Portuguese fort. Gonsalo received his education under the Jesuits. While assisting at the Church of the Holy of Jesus at Bassein, he developed a friendship with Jesuit Father Sebastian Gonsalves, who eventually became his lifelong mentor and guide.
This Filipino layman martyr saint could be rightly called the patron of infant baptism because it was after the baptism of an infant through his instrumentality that on 2nd April 1672 Pedro was martyred along with his companion missionary Fr. Diego San Vitores who baptised the infant. This infant was of a mother who got converted to Catholicism.
Lorenzo Ruiz, also called Saint Lorenzo of Manila, is a Filipino saint venerated in the Catholic Church. A Chinese-Filipino, he became his country's protomartyr after his execution in Japan by the Tokugawa Shogunate during its persecution of Japanese Christians in the 17th century.
Andrew Kim Taegon was the first Korea-born Catholic priest ordained by the French Bishop Jean-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Ferréol at Shanghai in 1844.
On every first Friday of the month thousands of Catholics flock to Holy Cross Church of Cherpunkal in Kerala, India to revere Infant Jesus and St. Thomas, the founder of the church. The church stands on the southern bank of Meenachil River. This fabled church, also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross)Church, belongs to Catholic Diocese of Palai of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, is the mother church in the tribal belt of eastern India, where Belgian Jesuits laid the foundation of Catholicism in 19th century. This brownish Church, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, stands on Dr. Camil Bulcke Path and nestles between St. Xavier’s College and St. Albert Major Seminary.
Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana is a historic church that lives the memory of love and benevolence of the sole female Roman Catholic ruler in India. Our Lady of Graces Church of Sardhana stands at Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh of northern India. Consecrated in 1822, this 200-feet long church with a high central dome over the main altar, is one of the largest churches in northern India.
Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica at Mylapore is a monumental declaration on ancient root of Christianity in India. The church was built over the tomb of St. Thomas, the Apostle who is believed to have preached Christianity in India. The cathedral preserves 2000-year-old bones of the saint and the lance that pierced him to death. Popularly known as Santhome Church, the cathedral at Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu state was constructed during the Portuguese era in the 16th century. “San Thome” assumes its name from St. Thomas.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
The Cathedral of Good Shepherd in Singapore is a historic National Monument, but it also holds first-class relics of a French saint who brought Catholicism on the shores of city-state two centuries ago. Built in 1847, the Good Shepherd Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Church and mother church of all Catholic churches in Singapore.
St. Anthony Cathedral at Wahakotte in Kandy is a melting of cultures and religions in Sri Lanka. Wonder worker St. Anthony of Padua is a highly respected saint among Sri Lankans of all ethnicities and faiths. Thousands visit this pilgrimage site all the year round. On the feast of St. Anthony on June 13, this national Catholic shrine draws tens of thousands of faithful from all over the country.