Food Trips | Buffet Lunch at Festival Cuisine - Lubao

Festival Cuisine - Lubao
Road trip is synonymous to food trip for me and my friend. We usually look for a place to eat on our way to our destination and for our Araw ng Kagitingan (Filipino Day of Valor) road trip, we ended up at Festival Cuisine in Lubao, Pampanga.

We left Quezon City late in the morning so we were just in Pampanga during lunch time. We were looking for a place to eat and were resigned to the idea that we'll end up having our lunch in one of the fast food chains available in the area when we spotted Festival Cuisine's poster ads along the road. We saw from the ads that they're offering buffet lunch for 199 Php so we slowed down a bit and look for the restaurant. The restaurant is located along Subic-Olongapo Road in Lubao, beside Lubao's stopover terminal. It offers mainly Filipino dishes like adobo, sinigang, kare-kare and the likes. 

The restaurant has no air-conditioning but the wide screened windows give the diners a fresh feel. And the dining area is big, going to and fro the buffet table is easy. I also noticed function rooms adjacent to the restaurant so I guess it caters to special events, too.

the restaurant's interior

Batangas | Trekking (Mt. Gulugod Baboy)/Swimming (Philpan Dive Resort) in Anilao

@ Mt. Gulugod Baboy, Anilao, Mabini, Batangas

Last April was my brother's scheduled vacation from his overseas job so I went home. I was just supposed to spend the weekend chatting with him and bonding with my nephew but since he just bought a car, we decided to just go on a road trip. We were supposed to go to MonteMaria in Batangas City but later on decided to just go to Anilao and hit the beach. I then remembered that I want to climb Mt. Gulugod Baboy so I suggested we climb it first then go on swimming later.

Cebu | Solo Trip to the Miraculous Shrine of Simala in Sibonga

First Shedding of Tears
For the past one year and a half, Cebu City has become a regular travel destination for me; not for leisure, but for work-related endeavors. Last March however, though again with teammates, it wasn't for work. Since the project of which I am a part of was about to end, the whole team had scheduled its last bonding session, which also doubled as the team's early summer getaway. However, since it would probably be my last visit to Cebu, I included Simala Church in my personal itinerary.

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, popularly known as Simala Shrine or Simala Church, is a castle-like church located in Marian Hills of upper Lindogon, Simala, Sibonga, Cebu. Simala Shrine was built in 1998 by the Marian Monks from Pampanga, after the occurrence of several miraculous events, including that of Mama Mary's shedding of tears. Because of the said miracles, Simala Shrine became so popular that devotees and believers flock the shrine, hoping and believing that their prayer requests would be granted. The shrine's castle-like and picturesque structure makes it even more popular, drawing local and foreign tourists, alike.

Anyway, to get to Simala, I took a bus going to Cebu City (we're staying in Badian), got off in Carcar and then took another bus (a mini-bus) going to Sibonga. It's a grueling 3-hour ride on ordinary buses and then a 10-15 minutes tricycle ride to Simala Church. And another 5-10 minutes walk/climb (depends on your pacing) from the entrance.

I was supposed to attend the 10:30AM Saturday mass but I didn't make it. The priest is already giving his final blessings when I get there so I just stayed at the back and wait for most of the churchgoers to leave. When almost everyone was gone, I went on one of the pews to pay respect and pray; to thank Him for all the blessings that He has given me and my family and all the people I care about. After which, I took some photos of the altar and then joined the line heading for the statue of the Blessed Virgin. 

Simala Shrine - Marian Hills, Lindogon, Simala, Sibonga, Cebu

Though it's already holy week season that time, there weren't lots of devotees during my visit. I mean, there were lots of people there, yeah, but unlike queuing up for the altar in say Manaoag or Antipolo which usually took around 30 minutes to one hour, here it only took me around 10-15 minutes. By the way, if you're going up to the altar, you need to leave your shoes/slippers at the entrance; footwear is not allowed inside. Another thing, please make sure to wear proper attire when going there, shorts and/or sleeveless shirt/blouse are also not allowed.

the altar

After paying respect, I then roam around the convent admiring Mama Mary's statues in different colors and features, mostly depicting that of the country where the statue came from. I also saw cabinets from cabinets of letters and memorabilia from devotees whose prayers and requests were granted; from passing the board to getting a job abroad and healing for the sick.

some of Mama Mary's statues

More of Simala Shrine (in photos)

souvenirs/"thank you" letters from people whose prayers were granted

The last photo shows a painting of a pious old man telling his prediction to the local folks. It is believed that the prediction, made around sixty (60) years earlier, is all about Mama Mary and the miraculous shedding of tears and other phenomenon that happened in the area. Here's what's written on the painting's caption:

Ireneo Villamor or Inkong Niyong, a native of Lindogon, once predicted and said "Here comes a time a hill of Lindogon will become balaan (blessed). A white lady will stand soon and she will be the center of all people, but her pious servants will endure great sufferings and persecutions."

Schedule of Masses

Monday - Friday: 12:00PM
Saturday: 10:30AM
Sunday: 12:00PM, 3:30PM
every 13th of the month: 10:30AM, 3:30PM

How to get to Simala Shrine

To reach Simala Shrine, one can take a bus or a van from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City (click the link to know how to get to South Bus Terminal) near Elizabeth Mall. My colleague advised me to take a bus instead since it's more comfortable. She said van ride is a bit cramped making it uncomfortable. I didn't get to try this route though since I joined them to Badian first. From Simala drop-off point (if you take a bus), you can either take a tricycle or take a habal-habal (motorcycle) for a 20-peso fare. I haven't tried riding a habal-habal yet (don't even know how to ride a bicycle) so I opted for the tricyle. Cebu City (South Terminal) to Simala travel time is around 2-3 hours while tricyle/habal-habal ride will take around 10-15 minutes.

~ oo00oo ~

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist
Marian Hills, Lindogon
Simala, Sibonga, Cebu
Date of Visit: March 28, 2015