Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto complex , San Jose del Monte City – Bulacan province
I woke up early morning and quickly packed my things, this is like a yearly retreat to the famous Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrine in San Jose del Monte City of Bulacan.
Our Lady of Mercy Shrine in Novaliches
I then rode a jeepney going to the town of Novaliches visiting Our Lady of Mercy Shrine in the heart of the town. I would visit the place on a regular basis. This is my first time to bring a camera to document the pilgrimage together with some friends waiting at the grounds of the church.
When I was in elementary, my classmates and teachers in school would always ask me if I was able to go to the famed grotto. Knowing my roots, I would tell them that we always visit the place during summer time and the place was quite rugged then with asphalt-paved roads leading to the shrine.
statute of Blessed Immaculate Concepcion within the main plaza
My aunts and uncles always tell me that they would come in the 1960’s and 1970’s to the place to participate in Via Crucis (way of the cross) on their way to the shrine. They would recount that they would buy fresh vegetables, fruits, live poultry and native orchids after they visited the place.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church complex located in Barangay Gaya-gaya , San Jose del Monte City , Bulacan
Most people in Metro Manila and even in Novaliches area will always refer the place as Our Lady of Lourdes Novaliches- Grotto rather than San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. I tried to ask some old –time residents of the town. Some say that before the development of the San Jose del Monte area, Most of the public utility vehicles would ply the route of Quirino Highway ( formerly called Manila -del Monte Garay Road or Ipo road before 1960’s ) passing Novaliches, Quezon City area of Fairview, Barangay Pasong Putik , Barangay Nagkakaisang Nayon, and then passing the Caloocan – Novaliches areas of Tala, Amparo, and Tungkong Mangga ( Tungko ) of San Jose del Monte .
trash are left within the ground by thousands of devotees , while camping tents showed that some of the visitors held over night vigils at the premises
Another resident told me , That due to the proximity of the grotto to Novaliches and during old days ( since there are no proper demarcation lines dividing Novaliches to San Jose del Monte City ) Most people would recall Novaliches as a reference. The journey from Novaliches ( town proper ) to the shrine would be anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes .
Bicycle groups from different parts of Metro Manila and nearby areas would come to the grotto
enterprising residents of nearby subdivisions rent their garage and vacant lots for minimal fees for those who brought their cars, bicycles and motorbikes.
” Noong 1960’s and 1970’s hindi pa konkreto ang daan papuntang grotto , ang kalimitang daan ng mga namamanata ay mula sa Quirino Highway dating tawag na Manila -del Monte o Ipo Road , Novaliches bago pa maayos ang Commonwealth Avenue. ” ( During the 1960’s and 1970’s when the road are not yet concrete going to grotto most of the devotees would use Quirino Highway formerly called Manila-del Monte or Ipo Road , Novaliches before Commonwealth Avenue was finished) .
main plaza as viewed from the second floor of the church
Another popular route is via Fairview – This is the jump-off point going to the famed grotto. There are jeepney routes , bus and AUV plying the route . there are buses from Baclaran which have GROTTO or Tungko signage .
welcome arch of Barangay Graceville , San Jose del Monte, Bulacan
Residents of Tungkong Mangga would rather dispute the name ( Novaliches Grotto ) . They would recount that the area boast of big mango orchards and market , Hence the name of the place was derived .
The famed grotto is near Tungkong Mangga so we normally called the shrine as ” Tungko Grotto” or even ” Santa Maria Grotto” . It must be the visitors which probably named the grotto as part of Novaliches , since there are regular jeepney route going there . This was according to one of the resident of Barangay Graceville .
Eventually bus and jeepney drivers would shorten the name to Tungko .
Other Names: Grotto- Bulacan , Grotto- Spring , Grotto- Vista Church , Grotto Church , Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto , Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto and Church , Guanzon Estate Grotto , San Jose del Monte- Grotto , Santa Maria Grotto , Bulacan Grotto , Lourdes Shrine .
This mango tree is located within the property and long lines of devotees trek the hilly terrain going to Calvary hills
Aside from mangoes , There are vegetables , camote , cassava, rice fields , corn, banana , ilang-ilang plantations in the locality . Native orchid gatherers would peddle their orchids on the roadside.
plant peddlers selling ornamental plants, flowering plants, liliums and orchids near the grotto
Now, most of the area are highly urbanized and most of the old plantations are now converted into subdivisions or commercial zones.
main altar of the church
Another route going to the grotto is riding the bus from different parts of Metro Manila . There are also special buses and private vans for hire that ply the route during Holy Week. Another route is via Trinoma , and SM North Edsa .
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes statute within the ground
We quickly lined-up and rode the jeepney going to GROTTO. We were amazed that all the people were also pilgrims like us!
arch leading to stations of the cross, calgary and rosary hill , spring water , grotto and picnic grove and amphitheater
Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine Complex located in Barrio Gaya-gaya , San Jose del Monte City , Bulacan .The six hectares Lourdes Shrine Complex was formally inaugurated on February 11, 1965 . Some local say that there were already pilgrims going to the shrine as early as 1963 .
Our Lady of Lourdes grotto replica within the complex
Several thousands of people from all walks of life came to give thanksgiving, gave flowers and to offer prayer. Some would also came to bathe in the natural spring, located below the statute of Our Lady. According to her biographer, it was the happiest moment of Mrs. Anita Guanzon’s life after over 4- years of hard and backbreaking works that stands her faith –copying the exact replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France to her native land for all people to witness and experience the miracle that healed her. It was her greatest gift to all humanity in this part of the world.
discarded crutches seen on the left side of the grotto, these are apparently left by the devotees who were cured of their disabilities upon visiting the place.
It was on February 1961 when Mrs. Anita Guidote-Guanzon had barely 6 months to lived when she went to Lourdes, France on a pilgrimage . When she was declared cured of her cancer upon her return from France , she decided to built a grotto as an act of her Thanksgiving. From the early 1960’s till her death on March 31, 1990 Mrs. Guanzon and her husband would try to supervise the improvements , fund raising and construction of the church within the property.
benefactors who donated for the causes , construction of the church and complex.
Among the notable contributors are Doña Josefa E. Marcos mother of President Ferdinand E. Marcos , Doña Trinidad de Leon vuida de Roxas, Doña Leonila vuida de Garcia, Doña Luz Banzon vuida de Magsaysay, Secretary and Mrs. Jose Aspiras , Reverend Father Patrick Peyton , Don Gonzalo Puyat and Family , Don Vicente Madrigal and Family , Mr. and Mrs. Juan A. Nakpil Sr. , Elizalde and Company , Guanzon family and long list of contributors.
The property is now being supervised by her daughters . The heirs also recognizes Bishop Cirilio Almario Jr. of Malolos , Bulacan who approved the complex to have their own chaplains . His eminence Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin had performed mass in the church twice . President Gloria Macapagal -Arroyo inaugurated the carillon bells in the church in 2010 .
Attraction and Landmarks :
Aside from the spring water which is believed to be miraculous that is located just beneath the grotto , pilgrims can visit the other attractions like life-sized statutes of the stations of the cross.
devotees light blue and white candles in front of the crucified Christ
Rosary Hill with 155 giant concrete beads, Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes where people can pray in silence for good health, the Grotto of the Resurrection.
life sized statutes of the crucifixion
The area is also good for photographers and bird watchers , They can easily spot lowland bird species during early in the morning or early evening within the complex.
scale model of the Basilica of Lourdes in France
There is a Little Poland Museum which features the house and the basement where Pope John Paul II lived, the chapel where St. Faustina had a vision of the Divine Mercy and the eerie Prison Cell of St. Maximillian Kolbe where he was martyred. The complex is now run by Mrs. Marietta Guidote-Guanzon viuda Picache de Holmgren.
mini- amphitheater and picnic grove where families can use for eating and picnic activities.
Grotto Religious Store located within the complex sells religious item, calendar, rosaries , candles , spring water from Guadalupe chapel near the grotto , books and postcards.
native delicacies for sale within the vicinity
Interesting Note : It is best to come early to visit the site ( especially during lent , summer months and weekends ) , some streets may be closed to traffic due to increase number of people visiting the pilgrim site. Jeepneys plying Novaliches route would park about 500 meters from the gate of the grotto while bus will only allow up to Tungkong Mangga ( Tungko) and visitor to the site may walk for about 1 kilometer . Traffic is heavy along the Quirino Highway .
References and Bibliography:
The Grotto Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes by Ms. Marietta Guanzon -Holmgren copyright February 11, 1992
Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 52.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto pamphlets
personal interview with some residents of San Jose del Monte , Novaliches- Bayan, Novaliches – Caloocan city and Tungkong Mangga
Website : San Jose del Monte government : http://www.csjdm.gov.ph/
Website : Bulacan Government : http://www.bulacan.gov.ph/sjdm/