Today’s fast-paced world can be exhausting due to never ending day-to-day responsibilities. Because of this,most people often sacrifice their time to reflect—to get in touch with inner peace in solitude and devote time to ponder the real meaning of life. Somehow, we long for spiritual encounters, not only for Christians, but also from mystics and other religious beliefs. We long to experience something that is beyond tangible and concrete, something that is larger than life. This unique experience is the objective of religious tourism, which Batangas is now embarking on. With Batangas’ serene landscapes, pilgrims can come full circle as spiritual beings hurdling with human experience.
Montemaria, a 130-hectare uphill property in the south eastern part of the province is developing the newest religious tourism destination, and is set to bring the pilgrims’ and tourists’ journey towards renewing their faith to the next level. With the upcoming developments within the area, pilgrims and tourists can enjoy holistic experience—from dining, accommodations and recreation services.
Positioned to break a world record by creating the world’s tallest Virgin Mary statue, set to out tower that of Brazil’s Statue of Christ the Redeemer and the U.S.’ Statue of Liberty. Infusing environmental protection and international heritage around the globe, this development is expected to intensify and complement the spiritual dimension of Batangas, a quiet, yet booming province otherwise known for its ancient basilicas and old churches.
MOTHER OF ALL-ASIA TOWER OF PEACE
While other nationalities speak of the Virgin Mary or Blessed Mary, Filipinos fondly call her “Mama Mary”. In an article by Josemaria Luat, entitled, “For the Love of Mama Mary: Who Mother Mary is to Filipinos, Fr. Reuter said, ”Only the Filipinos call her “Mama” Filipino Catholics are so much devoted to her that you can find relics of Mary literally everywhere– from small statues placed in jeepney and taxi dashboards, grottos in houses, and images in prominent areas in Filipinos Catholics’ houses.
Filipino Catholics’ devotion is so deep and unique that Spaniards have this phrase about Filipinos: pueblo amante de Maria (people in love with Mary ) The statue will finally mark Batangas City a home to Montemaria’s icon, the promising 96-meter (316 feet) tall monument of Mother of All Asia-Tower of Peace.
“This will be the tallest statue of Virgin Mary In the world,” said Arnold Gutierrez, the vice president for business development and marketing of Abacore Capital Holdings, Inc., the company that owns and is developing Montemaria.
The Mother of All Asia-Tower of Peace is taller than the current tallest statue of Virgin Mary, which is the Peace Sculpture, more popularly known as Our Lady of Peace, located in Santa Clara, California which measures 32 feet. The Mother of All Asia-Tower of Peace is “dedicated to Unity and Peace of the people and countries of this part of the world.
It will be the icon and pilgrimage destination not only of the entire Philippines and eventually of all Asia and the World, as the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Statue of Liberty in New York, USA,” reads the official description of the shrine.
This “livable” monument is a first of its kind in the Philippines. With its spacious floor area, amounting to 1.2 hectares or 12,000 square meters, the monument is equivalent to 32 floors when compared to a regular building. The monument houses the St. John Paul II Shrine at the ground floor, reception halls, 21 Marian chapels on the third floor, a food hall on the fourth floor, two mini theaters on the fifth floor, conference rooms on the sixth floor with balcony displaying the national flags of different countries in Asia, commercial and residential spaces which will serve as a second home and weekend office at the seventh to the tenth floor, and a view deck located on the seventeenth floor.
Verde Island Passage (VIP) Marine Sanctuary, Inc.
Considered the “Center of Marine Biodiversity of the World,” Verde Island Passage Marine Sanctuary is a resort which aims to preserve Batangas Bay, and of course the Verde Island Passage through its environmentally-sustainable practices. According to research, this is where shore fishes in the world thrive. A good number of Philippine-documented fish, including those considered threatened species, are found here.
Cenacle, derived from the word “cenakulo” is the site where the last supper was held. The seven-floor building which will be dedicated to restaurants that will focus on international cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, American and Filipino, to name a few. Aside from international gastronomic treats, religious merchandise will also be sold here.
“Gusto namin, mas madami kaming ma-accommodate, ma-please na bisita, pilgrims na pupunta dito. So idea is covered everything parang Sentosa, may mga shops, mga religious artifacts,” said Gutierrez.
(We want to accommodate more, and please visitors and pilgrims who will come to visit. The idea is like the one in Sentosa where there are religious artifact shops.)
Montemaria’s targets are the baby boomers, whom Gutierrez said, belong to the generation who has proclivity for spiritual matters. With the holistic approach to the needs of the pilgrims and devotees, Montemaria likes to take religious tourism to a whole new level.
“We like to make them [devotees, pilgrims] comfortable when praying,” said Gutierrez.
“Our goal is to build religious tourism, a pilgrimage destination. [This is] the only tourism destination which will provide you first class facilities.”
When fully operational by March 2021, in time for the celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines, Montemaria intends to have around 3,000 rooms within the vicinity of the property to accommodate the influx of both local and foreign tourists. One can be a member to this promising religious tourism development and enjoy exclusive perks. There are two kinds of membership scheme that a potential member may choose from— proprietary and associate membership.
For Proprietary (Founder) Members:
1. Entitled to enjoy the use of the facilities;
2. Exclusive use and disposition of a Memorial Vault for valuables, memorabilia, and other personal and family relics or equivalent;
3. Entitled to vote and be voted as member of the Board of Directors or as Officer and has a pro-rata share in the assets and properties of MAPI;
4. Assign, sell, or dispose his rights, and transfer membership when fully paid;
5. May invite guests and extend the privilege to use the facilities of MAPI, subject to the rules and regulations prescribed by the Board of Directors. The same entitlement goes to associate members, except for the qualification to vote or be voted as a member of the Board of Directors or as Officer.
Retiring To A Divine Place
Montemaria also aims to be a “retirement village”. According to Gutierrez, most of those who apply for membership are from the different parts of the world. The majority of them, of course, are Filipinos. Indeed, there is nothing more comforting than hearing the words, “ I’m finally going home and rediscovering the country we missed for several years.”
“Oo, mga balikbayan. Yung iba ay ginusto nila na ‘dun na manirahan at magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Pero habang sila ay tumatanda ay nangungulila sila sa kanilang mga kamag-anak at kaibigan na naiwan nila sa Pilipinas (Yes, these are the balikbayans. Some of them wanted to stay and work there for good. But as they grow old, they are longing for their loved ones and friends and wish to come back to the Philippines),” Gutierrez said in retrospect.