Mindanao pilgrim sites attract thousands for Holy Week

More than 91,000 policemen placed on security operations across Philippines during Easter holiday
Mindanao pilgrim sites attract thousands for Holy Week

A cross is what remains of a Catholic cemetery in the village of Bonbon in Camiguin province after it was swamped following a volcanic eruption. Pilgrims and tourist visit the site, especially during Holy Week. (Photo by Jigger J. Jerusalem)

About half a million people were expected to visit various pilgrim sites in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Oriental during this year's Holy Week observance.

Most are expected to flock to the Divine Mercy shrine in the village of Ulaliman in the city of El Salvador, according to local tourism officer Jeffrey Saclot.

The shrine is one of the country’s most popular.

Last year, more than 200,000 people visited the shrine to pray before the 15-meter image of Jesus, the most prominent structure in the so-called Divine Mercy Hills.

Pilgrims are also expected to visit the Our Lady of Lourdes church, known for its "healing pool," in the town of Binuangan.

In Medina town, the annual "Hinuklog," a street play depicting the passion of Jesus, also attract people on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

On the island of Camiguin, the "Panaad," a ritual that requires people to walk around the island’s 64-kilometer circumferential road, also attracts tourists and pilgrims alike.

Timoteo Pacleb, head of the regional police office, said he has ordered the deployment of officers at various sites to ensure the "tranquil observance" of Holy Week.

The Philippine National Police earlier announced the deployment of more than 91,000 policemen for security operations related to the observance of Holy Week across the country.

The environment group EcoWaste Coalition, meanwhile, reminded Catholics for a zero-waste observance of Holy Week, saying it was the "perfect time" to reflect on wastefulness.

The group urged Filipinos to "break from wasteful habits" that destroy communities and ecosystems.

Catholic priest Aris Sison, meanwhile, urged people to go beyond the symbolism and rituals of the Lenten season.

"Make our sacrifices meaningful," said the priest in a television interview for the Holy Week. 

"For all you know, you're not really praying, you're not doing it for the Lord, you're doing it for yourself," he said.

He emphasized the importance of prayer, sacrifice and alms-giving as the "three pillars of Lent."

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"Without prayer, our sacrifices do not mean anything.... It is important to make sacrifices, to abstain, to fast, but we should always be praying and our sacrifices and our prayer should be seen in our alms-giving, in our reaching out to our needy brothers and sisters," said the priest.

Holy Week in the Philippines sees a huge exodus of Filipinos heading back to the provinces as they spend the holidays with their family.

Many go on vacation by planning weekend trips, usually to the country's beaches. 

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