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Giant Christ statue pulls pilgrims in Mindanao

Site has become a place to pray for peace amid ongoing tensions in southern Philippines

Published: August 21, 2017 10:48 AM GMT

Updated: August 21, 2017 10:49 AM GMT

Giant Christ statue pulls pilgrims in Mindanao

The statue of Jesus Christ towers from a platform. (Photo by Bong S. Sarmiento)

A giant statue of Jesus Christ in the troubled southern Philippines is drawing pilgrims to a rural town famous for indigenous art.

The Divine Mercy Shrine towers over Lake South town in South Cotabato province, home to the T'boli tribe known for their intricate, geometric T'nalak textiles.

The 10-meter high Christ statue, robed in white and red, is a beacon for travelers at night.

The statue's height (33 feet) commemorates the age of Jesus when he died, according to Jesus Esquillo, assistant manager of the four-hectare, mountain retreat named for the devotion started by St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun.

At least a hundred people gather every Sunday to hear Mass in a chapel at the foot of the statue in Lamdalag village. Many pilgrims sit for vigils on Saturday nights.

Other religious images nestle by man-made pools and fountains, beneath scattered groves or at a nearby lake.

Across the shrine is a facility for visiting families and retreat groups.

A businessman and his wife developed the shrine five years ago. They opened it to the public in 2015 "to bring the people closer to God" and encourage more to pray to Jesus Christ as "the god of Mercy."

Religious tourism has since brought crowds from across Mindanao, mostly praying for peace amid political upheavals and terrorist attacks. Lent sees thousands of visitors, Esquillo said.

Entrance to the shrine is free and all collections go to the host parish of St. John The Baptist.

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