Simala Shrine: The Magnificent Castle-Like Church in Cebu

The Simala Shrine is an iconic church in Cebu that welcomes thousands of visitors every day.

Cebuanos regard the Simala Shrine as one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines. Located atop an uphill area in the southern town of Sibonga, this Catholic church is famous for its castle-like design and the alleged miraculous incident that took place inside.

Locals and tourists have gone in and out of the church to witness its magnificent structure. Every day, devotees visit the site to offer their prayers to the Virgin Mary, while non-devotees take their time admiring the impressive architecture.

This castle-like structure is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the Philippines.

HISTORY OF SIMALA SHRINE

Though it is commonly known as the Simala Shrine or church, its original name is the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist. It was built in 1998 by the Marian Monks of Eucharist Adoration (MMEA) so they could house an image of the Virgin Mary known as the Marian Shrine.

Simala is a miracle church attributed to Mama Mary.

The shrine is associated with a number of miraculous events, including the healing of several dengue fever patients during its outbreak in the late 90s.

The most important among them, however, has to be when the image of the Virgin Mary inside the church was said to have cried tears of blood during her birthday, which is on September 8. This miraculous incident gave it the moniker of the Miraculous Mama Mary Church.

The miraculous feats continued until the 2000s and 2010s, with many accounts of people reportedly healing from diseases and disabilities after praying to the Virgin Mary at Simala.

The church dedicated an area to store items like crutches and wheelchairs used by devotees who were healed after praying at the Simala Shrine. They also have letters, stories, and photos recalling these moments.

WHAT IS INSIDE THE CHURCH?

One of the main features of the Simala Shrine is its enormity, a rare sight when compared to other historical churches in the country. Its uphill location was intended for visitors to take a penitentiary walk before entering the church.

As you climb up the steps, you will see the enormous structure and the bright green gardens below it. You will also find bushes that were cut and aligned to spell out WE LOVE MAMA MARY.

The intricate architecture complements the beautiful scenery outside, leaving people in awe once they step foot on the premises. It goes without saying that the enormous structure and impressive design are enough to captivate visitors and tourists alike. 

The interior is reminiscent of older churches, like the ones in southern Cebu. Stone walls and ceilings, with paintings similar to the Sistine Chapel, create a mesmerizing atmosphere.

The Crown of Our Blessed Mother is the newest addition to the church’s architecture, built during the pandemic in 2020. It stands 25 feet in height and 14 feet in width, and it was handcrafted by one of the pioneering monks of the church. 

The sign along the bridge going to the church says that it was made as an offering for Mama Mary. 

Simala Shrine has a candle lighting area that uses color-coded candles based on specific prayer intentions.

There is also a candle lighting area where you can use color-coded candles based on your prayer intentions. Here is the list of colors and their specific prayer requests:

  • White – Purity, guidance, or the right path
  • Black – Praying for loved ones who passed away
  • Green – Prosperity or success (financial or business, passing exams)
  • Gold – Healing or good health
  • Orange – Reconciliation with partner/enemy/family
  • Pink – Blessing or forgiveness
  • Yellow – Peace, strength, courage, or hope
  • Red – Love
  • Gray – Deliverance from evil ways/things/spirits
  • Brown – Vocation
  • Blue – Perseverance
  • Violet – Achievement

You can also buy some souvenirs at nearby shops that sell religious items, like rosaries, crucifixes, and prayer books.

PROHIBITIONS

There are a few things that you have to remember before visiting the Simala Shrine.

They are very strict about what you wear when you enter the church. Security personnel will check your attire before you enter. Here is a list of the pieces of clothing that you are not allowed to wear inside:

  • Short skirts
  • Shorts above the knee
  • Sleeveless or backless clothes
  • Sleeveless tank tops
  • Cropped tops showing your stomach
  • See-through/transparent clothes
  • Tight-fitting clothes
  • Baseball caps

You are also not allowed to use flash photography while you are inside the church.

No matter how beautiful the structure may be, visitors will be reminded that it is mainly a place of worship, so you are expected to be on your best behavior so as to not disturb those who are there to pay their respects.

The Simala Shrine has cemented itself in history as one of the most magnificent churches in Cebu and in the Philippines. Not only is it a major attraction, but it’s also a symbol of hope for many Filipinos who are devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and believe in the splendid miracles that help strengthen their faith.

You can visit this miracle church as a devotee or worshiper, or as a tourist who simply wants to witness the breathtaking monument. So if you’re curious, don’t hesitate to give this place a visit the next time you travel south.

HOW TO GET THERE

Exact Location:

Sitio Lindogon, Barangay Simala, Sibonga, Southern Cebu

Operating Hours:

8:00 AM – 8:00 PM

  • BUS

The most budget-friendly option would be to take a bus at Cebu South Bus Terminal. Fare will be less than a hundred pesos, but it will take you around 2 hours and 30 minutes to get there. 

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