Simala Parish Church, Sibonga, in Cebu is known as Simala Shrine, Simala Church, Mother Mary Castle Church, Birhen sa Simala, Mama Mary Shrine of Simala, and Miraculous Mama Mary Church.
Its real name is Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, and although it’s not the oldest Church or the Holiest Church in Cebu, it’s one of the most well known and most visited new Churches in Cebu. For believers, Simala Church is said to be a solemn place to reflect, and a visit will give your life more perspective.
Described by many as one of the most beautiful Churches in Cebu, Simala Shrine is a place of pilgrimage for devotees. Known as the Miraculous Mother Mary Church after the Virgin Mary statue housed within the Shrine was seen crying, it attracts hundreds of people every day hoping their prayers will be answered.
In a series of articles showing day trips from Moalboal, Miraculous Mama Mary’s Castle Church is one that can be added to your list of things to do in Moalboal. For visitors wishing to embrace the Filipino Catholic faith and culture, Simala Shrine is one of the best Churches to see.
Moalboal Eco Lodge share all you need to know about visiting Simala Shrine Castle Church.
Entrance Fee: FREE
Parking Fee: P20 – P50
Opening Hours: 8am – 8pm
Toilets on site: Yes – pay P20
Food/Drinks for sale: Outside the Church there are a few food and refreshment stalls
Additional Note: Simala Parish Church is an active place of worship. Modest dress is required or you will be refused entry by the security guards. Carry a sarong or cardigan with you to wear in the church.
The Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, more commonly known as Simala Shrine or Simala Church, is located in Simala, Sibonga near Argao, which is just over an hour away from our Eco Lodge (directions at the bottom of this post).
The easy, scenic journey to Simala Church took us across the island, so we experienced more of the mountains instead of the coastal road. Wanting to make more of a day trip out of our visit, Lusno Falls is on the same road through the island, so we were able to combine the two activities in one day. We visited on a cloudy day, so when you are in the Philippines, this could be an alternative to going to the beach or visiting waterfalls.
Why Simala Shrine is an important Church in Cebu
The Philippines is a devoutly Roman Catholic Country, and for the faithful, Simala Church has been a sacred place of pilgrimage since 1988, after a miracle was witnessed here.
A replica statue of the Virgin Mary was seen crying, and shedding tears of blood on her birthday, 8 September. This is why the Church gained the name “Miraculous Mama Mary Church”.
Simala Church was built by the congregation of the Marian Monks of Eucharist Adoration in 1998 to house an image of the Virgin Mary known as The Marian Shrine. The image was brought here by the Monks from Pampanga, and during the height of a dengue fever epidemic that killed many people in the local community, stories of miracles were told. When worshippers heard the Blessed Virgin Mary had shed tears, the Church became a pilgrim site for the devoted wishing to see the miraculous Mama Mary image, and to grant their prayers.
Visiting Simala Church
After parking our scooter, we walked through the entrance passing security guards who checked our bags, and made sure we were appropriately dressed.
In front of us was a huge castle like structure with landscaped gardens and a fountain. It’s still a work in progress, and donations from worshippers, and sales from the souvenir shop and candle-lighting help with its continuing construction.
Some say Simala Church is becoming more beautiful, some say it’s more Disney-like, others feel it’s now more of a place for Instagram selfies, and believing that donations should be spent towards schooling and feeding local children in need.
We always read reviews on Trip Advisor before we visit a place, and we recommend you do the same before embarking on any day trip.
To enter the church, we walked up a wheelchair friendly ramped path, through the turrets, and along an arcaded corridor. The façade was very grand.
To the right was a lovely view of the Marion Hills where Simala Shrine is located, and after whom the monks were named. A sign reminded visitors they are here as pilgrims and worshippers, and not as tourists. With the many selfie and photo opportunities at Simala Church, a polite notice how to behave at religious sites is good.
Looking down from the entrance, the landscaped garden displays the words “We Love Mama Mary”. During our visit the gardens were not open to visitors so we couldn’t walk around to get a closer look. There is a fountain here but sadly that wasn’t working at the time of our visit.
Inside the Church and straight ahead was the alter (which was undergoing maintenance and had scaffolding at the time of our visit). Looking up we saw the colourful frescoes on the domed ceiling.
Souvenir Shop & Lighting a Candle
Religious or not, people like to light a candle in Churches for various reasons. For tourists, it could be to remember loved ones who have passed away, but for Catholics, each colour represents something different. Candles can be purchased for P35 each or P100 for three from the souvenir shop, which also sell rosaries, crucifix, prayer books, plus Jesus and the Virgin Mary statues.
Mama Mary Shrine – The Crying Virgin Mary Statue
Before entering the prayer area, we removed our shoes, walked past the letters of prayer, and straight up the stairs. At the top we saw some stain glass mirrors which caught my eye.
To pray in front of the Virgin Mary, or to kiss the shrine, you will need to queue, possibly for as long as an hour. This is the most sacred part of the Church. People come here praying for the health and recovery of loved ones, or to give thanks for various things such as passing exams, or the sun shining for a special occasion.
If you want to see the clothes the Miraculous Mother Mary wore on the day she shed tears, visit the museum on the next level down. There are also various statues and replicas of the Virgin Mary.
Walking down the steps from the Virgin Mary statue, we passed through the Prayer Room. Displayed all around were countless letters from worshippers thanking Mother Mary for healing them. Wheelchairs and crutches have been donated from people who were once paralysed but can now walk, thanking the Virgin Mary for their miracle. There are also hand-drawn paintings, graduation robes, books, and many different stories of miracles, prayers to be answered, and blessings which have taken place.
As a change from the normal beaches and waterfalls in the Philippines, why not try something spiritually different, and take a day trip to Simala Shrine.
When is the best time to visit Simala Shrine Church?
Weekdays are best and as early as possible because it gets very busy with locals coming to visit the Blessed Virgin Mary and to pray. The Church opens at 6am. As a place of Worship, Mass is held daily Mon-Fri at 12noon, and on 13th of each month at 12.00 noon and 3.00pm. Weekends are very busy, with Mass held twice Saturday & Sunday at 12.00 noon and 3.00pm.
How to get to Simala Shrine Church
From Moalboal, head north to Rhonda and you will see a brown tourist sign “Argao Town Proper”. This takes you onto Ylaya Road to Argao which crosses through the island of Cebu from West to East. After around 50 minutes (33.9 km), take Mama Mary Sanctuary Rd to the Municipality of Sibonga and Simala Parish Church.
Tip: Download Google Offline Map for the area, and type in Simala Parish Church which will navigate you to your destination.
Where to stay in Moalboal
When visiting Moalboal, Moalboal Eco Lodge is the perfect place to stay. Located in the middle of a peaceful field, it’s close enough to amenities, but far away so you can have a good night’s sleep. There is plenty of space to observe physical distancing at the Eco Lodge. Please read our COVID-19 Care page for more information regarding your safety.
Nestled in amongst palm trees, bamboo and coconut trees, Moalboal Eco Lodge have Bamboo Nipa Huts suitable for solo travellers, couples and friends. We have two private rooms and a spacious 4-bed dormitory, a breakfast area, and a beautiful hammock/yoga/sunset deck. Bicycles are for hire if you wish to slow travel in the most environmentally friendly way, or you can rent a scooter. Take a look at our rooms!
For help regarding travel and Visa requirements, visit our Travel Information page
Want More Day Trips from Moalboal?
Montpeller Waterfall, Alegria
Taginis Falls & Budlot Spring
Basdaku "White Beach", Moalboal
Mantayupan Falls, Barili
Lambug Beach, Badian
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