The Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City in the province of Misamis Oriental is just a brief drive from our place in Cagayan de Oro. Since its inauguration in 2008, many pilgrims have been visiting this site. Some are praying for a miraculous healing of a sick loved one, while there are those who have made it a solemn vow to visit regularly the place after experiencing one. There are also many others who are just faithful devotees of the Divine Mercy, who do not consider the shrine as a mere tourist spot.
But I’ve only visited this pilgrimage site one afternoon last year. My sister and I were running errands in the city back then, and I managed to convince her to make an unexpected detour to El Salvador before heading back home. I explained to her that this could be our only chance to visit the place and that this is one of the many overdue items in my imaginary bucket list. I was surprised that she agreed with the plan knowing that if she was given the luxury of a choice, she would do something else than frolic under the unforgiving midday sun.
The shrine’s premises was largely empty when we arrived. But if we should visit it again on a weekend or during a special event, the 11.5 hectare property would be swamped with devotees. I could say that except for some staff, we had the entire complex and its sprawling lawn to ourselves that time.
The Shrine is said to be the largest statue of Jesus Christ in the Philippines. At 50 ft and located in a hill 500 ft above sea level, it seems to watch over the beautiful sea and the nearby municipalities as well. Two rays, red and white, radiate from the center of the statue, symbolizing the blood and water that flowed from Jesus during his crucifixion. The rays hide the staircases that allow the pilgrims to climb to the top. Around the shrine are a church, retreat centers and sites for future buildings.
All these were not the product of someone’s random wish. According to a prayer group that conceived this vision, God has been telling them since 1993 that they build the shrine. It took them awhile though considering the sizable amount they have to raise to purchase the lot and the materials in building the statue. But out of sheer faith, they were able to gather more than enough funds from various donors worldwide. They were finally able to build the shrine in just three years, from 2005 to 2008.
We only spent a few minutes at the shrine as I have to catch the afternoon flight back to Manila. Despite the hurried pace, I still treasure our unexpected yet memorable drive to the Divine Mercy Shrine.
How to get there
There are jeepneys and buses that regularly ply from Cagayan de Oro to El Salvador. Just to tell the conductor that you are headed for the Divine Mercy Shrine. After you alight by the junction, you may hire a habal-habal (motorbikes) to get to the complex.
Please also take note that one has to be in modest clothing before granted entrance to the shrine’s premises. But in case you are not in the prescribed attire, an appropriate body cover is provided for you to use.