Hundreds of people, young and old alike, continue to troop to the most popular sanctuary for those who seek healing and spiritual fulfillment on a hill in Sampaloc Village in Tanay, Rizal. This came as the Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia (Regina RICA), located at Sitio Aguho along Marcos Highway on Barangay Sampaloc, will be observing its anniversary on October 7, 2013.
Sister Mary Epifania "Eppie" Brasil, a Dominican Sister of the Regina Rosarii and in-charge of the Regina RICA sanctuary told Manila Bulletin that they expect hundreds to thousands of people to come to their place until the facility's anniversary in October, especially those who want inner peace and spiritual contentment.
Sister Brasil, a contemplative nun, along with her biological sisters, Sisters Mary Amelia Brasil and Mary Matthew Brasil, and co-founders of a consecrated community SALT of the Earth namely Sisters Mary Carmen C. Advincula, OP, Sister Mary Violeta P. Sobremisana, OP, and Sister Mary Sarah R. Ronda, OP, see to it that the sanctuary will remain a sacred place for prayer, pilgrimage and peace. The Regina Rosarii Sisters said pilgrims flock to the 13.5 hectare prayer facility to find healing as a 71-foot high statue of the Virgin Mary known here as "The Lady on Top of the Hill" appears to welcome every visitor.
The huge statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus here also serves as a place for prayer and meditation. It is called Sanctuary of Universal Love and Devotion or "SULOD", which means "enter" in Ilonggo, the dialect which the Dominican sisters and the sanctuary staff speak when they are conversing among themselves. The monumental statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is not an ordinary one, it is functional as it can accommodate up to 70 people at a time inside it.
Brasil and her fellow Dominican nuns also teach and share contemplative praying with the pilgrims before every mass, every Sunday morning and during special days. The place has the so-called 'S-Trail' or the Sacred Trail, which are steps leading to the functional monumental statue of the Virgin Mary where one can go up and come inside the 71-foot statue, surrounded by organic gardens with fruit-bearing and flowering plants and trees including rambutan, calamansi, papaya, and sunflowers, to meditate and experience healing. There are also nipa huts for resting and dining; a place called "Pasilungan," where one can find souvenir items and food products made by the Dominican sisters themselves and the volunteers; a New Way of the Cross; a mini forest with three natural cascading waterfalls and stream called "Kakahuyan;" a manmade fish pond; a mini zoo with monkeys, birds, 46 heads of black-bellied lambs, geese, chickens, rabbits, and even horses which are allowed to graze all over the place during the day.
A multi-level chapel is already nearing completion but still needs a generous amount from donors for its interiors, altars, stained-glass windows, according to Sister Eppie.
"Everything that you see here is like a miracle because we have no financial capacity to buy these things," said Sister Eppie.
Donations come from pilgrims who either adopt trees and flowers, tiles for the chapel, give water bottles filled with coins known as "Bote-Bote" and offer them during the mass. The nuns also manufacture and process breads, and other products which are sourced from their garden.
"When you come here, you will feel that you will be one with God, one with the earth/nature, and one with others," added Sister Eppie.
Sister Eppie and her fellow nuns see to it that they welcome and have a brief chat with the pilgrims. Most often, it is Sister Eppie who blesses the pilgrims whenever she gets a chance to mingle with them as they roam around the sanctuary.
The Regina RICA was constructed on October 7, 2009 after Sister Eppie and the founding sisters searched for two months from one place to another to find a right place where 'one can find God in everything.'
A cool breeze provides a calming atmosphere in the prayer sanctuary which attracts some 5,000 to 8,000 visitors every week.