December 2, 2022

It is almost Easter and among the Catholics, sacrifice is a way to reminisce how Jesus died to save mankind, doing the stations of the cross is one way of celebrating it.
My Catholic education has taught me to lick the stamps in grade school that I happily stuck on my Easter devotional book for every little pleasure that I abstained from like eating candies or for the good deeds that I did like give it to my classmate instead.
This piece is about the early penitencedone for the past year’s sins at the Lourdes Grotto steps and the walkabout at the Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House at Mirador Hill, Baguio City.
There are 252 steps that scale up to the grotto where the statue of Mary sits in a lovely garden. The warm days could double this pain but there are so many other visual pleasures on the way up. The best is to have a friend to chat and gasp with. The first break comes with the main road leading up to the villa. One is given the choice to proceed or to turn right to “Balay ni Maria”, an old structure that houses religious novelties and other items, I surmise. It was still under renovation as of this writing.
There is a church called “Kapilya nina Jesus at Maria” beside the grotto if one proceeds up the stairs. Here, one can make wishes and prayers similar to other pilgrimage sites. A book logs these for posterity and for the prayer offerings that are to be made on your behalf. Masses are said in this site and everyone is welcome to pray together. There are tents and chairs prepared to catch one’s breath too or to relieve oneself because this is also the area where the rest rooms are available and kept clean. From here one can return to the road and make a left to see the other gardens and sites of Mirador Hill. One can also turn right and see the Cordillera Heritage Garden that has a handloom weaver to demonstrate how it is done.
The left turn will lead to the Japanese tori that is the Mirador Hill peace memorial which was put up in December 2020 commemorating the 75th anniversary of the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bell is a reminder of the Japanese war which was made out of half of the unexploded American bomb dropped on Mirador Hill in 1945. The villa was used by the Japanese troops to set up artillery against the advancing American forces to liberate the city. After the war, the halves of the bomb were used to call the Chinese Catholic missionary refugees to prayer.
This walk proceeds to skirt the property on the back side where pleasant and canopied walkways lead you on. Along the way are the Stations of the Cross where one can stop and pray before heading on to the next one. There are various gardens that are marked where one can take time to view the different plants and take photos. There is no dull moment in this walk.
There are interesting pieces to ponder on, the nutshell or Hershey’s kisses lookalike woven installation that doubles as a nook to rest or the pink seat for its geometric patterns, or the sculptures that are made by masters, or half buried horse cart wheels made into benches. How can you not please anyone with the variety of objects of art.
But the more fascinating part of the tour belong to the part of history that this landmark has written about the city.
I came upon a piece that said that the Jesuit order brought state-of-the-art weather tracking equipment to Baguio at the turn of the century because of the location. Among these was the seismograph that was still used in the 1990 earthquake and soon after malfunctioned due to age.
I also heard that one of the oldest employees was a certain Mr. Dicang, a relative of Manong Swanny Dicang. It has now become the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology under the Department of Science and Technology and has long been transferred to another site. The building is still at the premises for posterity.
It has also been written that this order intended to build a school at this site, but the intervening events destined the school to be a sanctuary for refugee missionaries and the retreat house. But my fondest memory of all is that of the garden of roses that was here a decade or so ago that filled this place with the magical scent. Sad to note that the retreat house is not open to the public for touring.
The geologic story of the city also rests in this place, Mirador limestone is what it is called, perhaps the very reason for the name of the area. If one should enter the premises from the western part, the Mirador heritage and eco-spirituality park welcomes visitors for a fee.
One is glad that this scientific character of the city could be preserved a little longer. The paths have been carved from this limestone to make a meandering walkway into the park. This is one that is meant for the agile bodied because there are no provisions for wheelchairs in this part. But indeed, this is meant for the quiet and somber moments when one can commune with nature or God who may have a message for you. There are other sculptures in this up and down trail to pray with. Bring water with you, if you may, to hydrate. On a nice summer day, the sunset should color the sky shades of red and orange in this corner of the hill with a horizon of rooftops.
I cannot claim that my day was spent in penitence because there was no pain in this adventure. My faulty heart did not skip a beat nor did it palpitate at 232 beats per minute. This visit is recommended for those who want to do the Stations of the Cross this Holy Week to reminisce and celebrate God’s love for us or for those who need the break from this quarantine.

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