The Simala Church - The Castle Near the Heavens


The Simala Church
The Simala Church - The Castle Near the Heavens

The Simala Church

It was close to 8-years ago since I last visited the Simala Church. I was happy that I was able to make the trip to Simala this week, and I was surprised to see a lot of changes. The church made huge renovations and I can notice more vendors now compared to before. The traditional sellers of bracelets, rosaries, and miracle water are still there. While the younger generation of vendors are selling tourist souvenir items.

For those who are not familiar, Simala Church is a church in Sibonga, owned and operated by the Marian Monks of Eucharistic Adoration (MMEA), and its main patron saint is Mama Mary. It is famous among Catholics because of the countless miracles it offered, and the letter testimonies of these encounters are exhibited inside its halls.

But, over the years, the visit to the Simala Shrine has not been exclusive to religious intents and is more like tourism.

And in my recent visit, I have two observations to share.

Matthew 21:12-13 

I am a Roman Catholic in religion and Simala’s Mama Mary holds a special place in my heart. I also prayed inside its holy church to seek guidance before taking my licensure exam. And with God’s grace, I passed. But, I can’t help but notice now that the Simala Shrine has become more of a tourist attraction rather than a place of worship. 

There were more people wandering around to take pictures, than people who were sincerely praying for their personal intentions. You’re too afraid to walk bare-faced without the worry of appearing on someone else's Facebook Page.

And the merchandise is just everywhere. I can’t help but compare the place to Matthew 21:12-13 where Jesus said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves”. And with cash pouring into the church, I was a bit unhappy to hear from the preacher that they were asking for donations. Though they may have reasonable purposes for it, to feed the hungry, provide scholarships, and support missionary work. But, I also hope that they’re not asking for money just to finance their massive infrastructure expansion. 

There’s still a benevolent presence inside the Simala Shrine. And I can still notice faithful devotees praying. But, I can't help to make the conclusion that the holy place is leaning towards a more commercial path, rather than keeping a peaceful place of worship.

The Massive Infrastructure Expansion of the Simala Shrine

As a place of worship, I don’t understand the intent of the massive structures growing around the shrine. The once park for resting is no longer available because there are buildings now. And this brings me concern. Has the structure been overseen by an expert architect and engineer? 

Compared to what I saw last and now, I can see towers and adjacent buildings built from the old temple building. This is a source of worry because a powerful earthquake might happen at any time. And like what happened in Bohol, the Simala Church, and its new buildings could collapse. I am having these judgments because I can see that new structures were built on top of the old shrine.

Was the foundation of the old shrine designed to carry this additional load? It may be causing stress to the foundation now and the entire Simala Shrine is in eminent danger if an earthquake happens. 

Though, I am aware that there’s a lot a don’t in the planning and execution phase of the new buildings in Simala. But, as a concerned Catholic, I can’t help but fear for everybody's safety when such a disaster strikes. 

And lastly, since the Simala shrine is making this enormous development, it would be sad to know that most of the money they receive will go to these undertakings. It’s my personal opinion that making these kinds of improvements will not boost the place as a shrine of worship. Instead, it would make the location a tourist destination. 

If one of the nuns and preachers may happen to read this article, maybe you should reevaluate the people making these building expansion recommendations. I can’t help but cite as an example the movie, The Pope’s Exorcist.

The Castle Near the Heavens

I consider my trip to Simala a success. Despite some unsettling practices that I disagree with, I can still feel the pure purpose of some of the visiting devotees. And even though it has become a tourist district, I am also happy to share that prices are not exceedingly overpriced. All Simala souvenirs were still sold at very reasonable prices.

I can still recommend Catholics visit Simala and pray to Mama Mary about their personal intentions. The walls of Simala remain warm and caring for its children.

But I also hope and pray that the facilitators of the Simala Church and Shrine will make review the direction that they’re heading. 


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