Mystical Mt. Banahaw

By Kimmy Baraoidan, VERA Files

Photos by Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan

Faith and mysticism are deeply embedded in the daily life in Dolores, Quezon, a quaint village at the foot of Mt. Banahaw.

Where the concrete road ends is a flea market where, aside from farm produce, one finds fascinating items: stones and tree barks from the mountain, crystals, religious items, and amulets. Vendors claim that these charms, when worn, can protect one’s health, ward off danger and bad spirits, or bring good fortune.

Going up to Mt. Banahaw, there’s the mystical Sta. Lucia waterfalls.

The way to Sta. Lucia Falls is as spellbinding.

One weaves through coconut trees that tower over a winding trail. At the end of the trail are around 300 steep stone steps that descend to the falls. Along the way, statues are perched on large rocks that serve as altars where one can light candles and pray. The sound of rustling water grows louder as one nears the bottom of the steps. A rocky stream of cold, crystal clear water welcomes the visitors.

The area is believed to be sacred and to have healing properties. Tourists visit the holy site to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Townspeople and devotees bathe in the water which is said to have healing powers. People suffering from serious medical conditions go to the falls praying for a miracle.

Faith healers bring their patients to the falls where they are bathed and prayed over. Nimfa, a local healer, bathes her newborn child Madeline in a mini waterfall called Tulo ng Birheng Maria, which trickles down the side of a cliff through tree roots. Her “patient”, a middle-aged woman, bathes under the Tulo ng Birheng Maria while she chants and prays.

Mt. Banahaw is home to many cults and religious sects. One is the well-known Rosa Mistica, one of the many registered groups collectively known as Rizalista. The Rizalista is a religious movement that venerates the national hero Jose Rizal.

In this age of modernity, Mt. Banahaw continues to weave its mystic.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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