Religious sculptures in Albay seen to draw over 100,000 pilgrims during Holy Week
LIGAO CITY — The life-sized sculptures depicting the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are expected to draw more than 100,000 pilgrims this Holy Week to this city, now that travel restrictions imposed during the past three years due to the pandemic have been lifted.
Mayor Fernando Gonzalez said everything, particularly security and safety measures, is in place for the influx of pilgrims that would troop to Kawa-Kawa Hill and Nature Park in Barangay Tuburan.
The estimate of more than 100,000 pilgrims is based on past records of visitors every Holy Wednesday until Easter Sunday, when the number would at times triple, before the pandemic caused lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, Gonzalez said there were still less than 100,000 visitors amid low vaccination rates against COVID-19.
With the return of pilgrims to the site dedicated to the Roman Catholic Lenten tradition of following the “Way of the Cross,” medical stations and tourist assistance desks are scattered in the 25-hectare nature park. The Way of the Cross is a traditional devotion in honor of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Free rides will also be offered for elders and persons with disability.
“There are no specific guidelines to be followed. Just observe the proper good conduct and behavior and respect for fellow devotees,” Gonzalez told the Inquirer in a chat message on Wednesday.
Place for prayer
Lieutenant Colonel Ruel Pedro, officer-in-charge of Ligao City police, said traffic re-routing was enforced from the entrance to the exit of Kawa-Kawa Hill and Nature Park to prevent clogging of vehicles on the national highway this Holy Week.
Teresita Borja, 88, a resident of Magarao town in Camarines Sur province, went to the popular pilgrim site to do the Way of the Cross on Wednesday to avoid the huge crowd expected this weekend.
“This is my first time and upon stepping on the ground, I really felt the presence of the Lord. I asked my grandchildren to bring me here so I can say a prayer, particularly for my good health and, of course, for lasting peace on Earth,” Borja said in an interview.
She said the life-sized sculptures of Jesus Christ, the disciples, the Virgin Mary and the other Bible characters were almost made to perfection.
For Dennis Gomez, a resident of Naga City, visiting Kawa-Kawa Hill during Holy Week is very meaningful for him and his family as it is also a time for bonding.
“It’s serene and cool because of the many trees surrounding the place. Very perfect stress-buster [after] the busy life in the city,” Gomez said.
The 250-meter-high Kawa-Kawa Hill, known as “the hill without a hilltop,” was first opened to the public in 2008.
The hill has an 836-meter crater rim where the life-sized sculptures of the 14 Stations of the Cross depicting the Passion of Christ are installed, connected by a series of stairs that visitors would climb while reflecting on the journey.
At the crater, a circular flowerbed is full of hundreds of blossoms from different types of flowering plants.
Holy Masses are celebrated at the Divine Mercy Monastery at the foot of Kawa-Kawa Hill. The monastery is run by nuns from the Carmelite Order of the Holy Trinity.
A five-hectare bambusetum with 38 species of bamboo is also found in the place. A stone church building covered with bamboo and wishing well also attract visitors to the bambusetum.