St. Joseph as the imposing guardian of Rotunda de San JoseWhen you talk of pilgrimage venues in Luzon, Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan, Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City and the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo would definitely come to mind.
Let us take a closer look at one of the lesser known pilgrimage areas—Regina RICA in the province of Rizal.
Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia or Regina RICA is a venue for serenity, silence and stillness in this noisy and harried world. It sits on a 13.5- hectare parcel of land in the hills of Tanay, Rizal, envisioned by the Dominican sisters of Regina Rosarii to be a place of pilgrimage, prayer, contemplation, ecological sanctuary and wellness.
We arrived at the site after more than two hours’ travel from Quezon City. Since we brought a car, we paid the parking fee; there is no entrance fee at Regina RICA, but donations are welcome.
At the souvenir shop near the parking area, we entered our names in the registration folder at the counter
There are free copies of the venue map. Unfortunately, they tend to run out, so make sure to download it off http://reginarica. org/rica before coming over.
We were provided a welcome drink of tarragon tea, which was good for blood cleansing.
Since we were all first-timers to the place, we attended an orientation provided by RICA volunteers.
The first part of our “journey” was trudging the so-called S-trail of El Shaddai Hills consisting of 308 steps and 13 candle stations going towards the 71-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary.The first part of our “journey” was trudging the so-called S-trail of El Shaddai Hills consisting of 308 steps and 13 candle stations going towards the 71-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary.
For those who believe that they could not climb these steps, there is a shuttle that can take you up to the statue for a nominal fee
At the top, you will be amazed at seeing the gigantic statue up close. Turn around and you will see the Sierra Madre mountains as well as the Regina Rosarii chapel.
There is another brief orientation before visitors are allowed in the Sanctuary of Universal Love and Devotion or SULOD (an Ilonggo word meaning “inside”) within the enormous statue. Photography and all kinds of footwear are prohibited in this adoration chapel.
Behind the statue is the Pilgrims’ Labyrinth. It is used as an avenue to pray as one walks towards the center, symbolizing man’s search for God at the center of his being. It is a journey of meditation. On the left side is a gazebo called “Tilipunan,” an Ilonggo word for gathering place.
Walking downhill towards the Regina Rosarii chapel, we passed by a few Way of the Cross markers. A huge Dominican star can be seen in front of the chapel. At the back is the multipurpose hall where you could see religious statues.
Further downhill is the Rotunda de San Jose, which displays a 13- foot statue of St. Joseph looking at his family from a distance
We then trudged uphill towards the “handong” (also an Ilonggo word meaning “shade”), where a restaurant called Pasilungan is located
By the way, Regina RICA serves only vegetarian dishes.
As far as pilgrimage or contemplative places are concerned, Regina RICA would not be one of the preferred venues for soul-searching among the majority. Since it is barely being promoted or advertised, it is not likely to become a byword for religious travel.
But why not give it a try? You do not have to wait for the season of Lent to visit this magnificent place. It is worth the trip! (Excerpted from http://larga-bista.blogspot.com)