Ash Wednesday last February 14 marked the start of Lent. For Cebuanos, this is a very important tradition where families take the time to come back home in the province so they can do different Holy Week traditions together as well as make use of the time to bond.
If you want to experience Lent in Cebu, here are a few things and places that you must list down in your itinerary:
Celestial Garden Cebu
Owned by the Tanchan Foundation, Inc, Celestial Gardens is a prominent garden on a 12-hectare property. It is best known for its imposing arches and life-size statues depicting the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Thousands of Cebuanos come to Celestial Garden to meditate and pray the Via Crucis.
Celestial Gardens is in Banawa Hills and is accessible by public transportation.
Q Park, Compostela, Cebu
Another destination of many Cebuanos during Lent, Q Park in Compostela, is owned by the Quisumbing family. Its most prominent feature is the 41-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which can be reached by climbing up the 100+ steps. During Holy Week, Stations of the Cross are also put up.
Our Lady of Manaoag, St. Benedict Monastery, Carmen, Cebu
In the northern town of Carmen, Our Lady of Manaoag, St. Benedict Monastery is nested on a hill. It has a huge statue of the Sto. Niño de Cebu. Also featured here are life-sized statues depicting the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Chapels are also available to cater to the faithful who want to meditate.
Southern Cebu Heritage Churches for Visita Iglesia
If you want to have a more meaningful Lenten observation and still enjoy going around places, you can go to southern Cebu where there are many heritage churches waiting for you. Here, you can try the Visita Iglesia, or the tradition of visiting seven different churches.
Sugat Kabanhawan of Minglanilla
On Easter Sunday, churches all over the world stage a play depicting Christ’s resurrection. For the people of Minglanilla though, this is a time to show how happy they are to be saved. They would show stage the Kabanhawan Festival, a grand celebration of Easter. Through the years, this celebration has gained attention and many Cebuano visitors who come here during Lent would never miss the festival.
Many people abstain from eating meat and from “celebrating” during Lent as a form of sacrifice and for cleansing themselves but for the people of Bantayan Island in Cebu, this is the time of celebration. Instead of abstaining from meat, this is the time that they are allowed to enjoy as much as they can.
Because people in Bantayan’s main livelihood is fishing, a Papal Indult, which is now on display at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Museum, was released exempting the people of Bantayan from not eating meat for Lent.
Thousands of tourists flock to the island to enjoy the white sand and crystal clear waters of the beach while they also get to enjoy a festive vibe.
Controversies, however, hounded the celebrations in the past few years, especially because of some parties and activities that government and church leaders consider as inappropriate. If you visit the island during Lent, always remember to respect traditions and customs.