An amazing religious complex, two hours from Cebu City, is visited by scores of pilgrims attracted by reports of miracles and divine intervention

Magnificent and colossal are two words that aptly describe the Simala shrine in Sibonga, Cebu.  Established in 1998, it was built by the congregation of Marian Monks of Eucharistic Adoration. They brought the Marian image from Pampanga, which was believed to have wrought miracles during the height of an epidemic that snatched the lives of many in the community.   
A bronze marker on the site reads: “This crown structure is memorial of the victorious and powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother through the Penitential Rosary Walk in 1998, against the killer epidemic that struck the place, where several lives of poor children and infants had died (sic). Built to honor Mary on the 8th year anniversary of the Monks arrival in Lindogon. Blessed on the 27th day of February 2004”.

The miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin is one of the reasons devotees make the journey to Simala.  

Some of the miracles said to have taken place include the shedding of tears by the Blessed Virgin image; a white candle shedding red wax; and the changing skin color of the Blessed Virgin image (people say it was pinkish one day and brown the next). Meanwhile visitors have reported hearing children singing even when no one was around.

The popular attraction, commonly known by locals as “Birhen sa Simala Church”, can be compared to an amusement park with a religious theme. Substituting for the rides would be the countless flights of stairs leading to the different parts of the complex as pilgrims give reverence to the saints in form of petitions and thanksgiving for wishes granted, or for wishes waiting to be granted in God’s time. These are displayed in the wooden cabinets where written petitions and “thank you” letters from as far as the US and other countries are prominently posted.  

The requests range from asking divine cure for ailments, tracking down a lost family member, passing the bar or board examinations to seeking employment here or abroad. In another cabinet, “thank you” letters are displayed for answered prayers, and alongside them are wheelchairs and crutches left by those cured of their disabilities. The tableau reminds one of the miracles worked by Jesus Christ during his journeys around Galilee.

To quote “Isaac V”, who wrote on Trip Advisor: Simala is “a masterpiece that keeps growing”. That is definitely the case with its construction that has been ongoing since 1998. Somehow, the time it has taken to build this shrine seems to run parallel with our existence. Especially if we believe that we are all a continuous work in progress until we become the masterpiece that God wants us to be.