Location: Barangay Hanginan, Maasin, Southern Leyte, Philippines
Note: This is a part of my 4-day Maasin City Trip which includes: Shrine of Our Lady of the Assumption and the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, Shrine of Our Lady of the Assumption at Jalleca Hills, Our Lady of the Assumption Parish Cathedral of Maasin, Maasin City Tour, Saint Francis Javier Shrine and Canigao Island.
Saint Francis Javier was born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta on April 7, 1506. He died on December 3, 1552, and the shrine in Hanginan, Maasin City celebrates his feast day every December 3.
As far as I can remember, my host Annamarie Supremo, a native of Maasin City, accompanied me to the shrine where we boarded a "habal-habal" from the city proper to its jump-off point via Soro-soro village riding a private vehicle through an uphill access road until the junction for P200 for the two of us riders just one way with a duration of 40 minutes. We passed through a foliage of trees and wild shrubs and the drive was ascending slowly giving us the overlooking view of Maasin City. The shrine itself was built on top of a hill at 400 MASL or 1,312 feet.
Aside from its name, the locals call the shrine as Dagkutanan (where one lights candle to offer a prayer and make wishes). Before the shrine is only visited by devotees and pilgrims every Friday. However, being known by the saint's miraculous healing power, people visit them anytime of the week. But the most remarkable is during the Good Friday of the Holy Week where believers start trekking as early as 1 A.M.
Because the shrine is becoming known to believers, settlers were evident on top of the hill near the shrine. Notably, they sell candles, snacks, refreshments and other basic necessities to serve the thirsty and hungry pilgrim or devotee. Approximately this length of concrete stairs will take more than an hour to scale towards the top except for those who are already weak and old who will be frequently taking rest every few steps.
Unlike any other shrine, St. Francis Javier shrine is just like the size of a chapel. I am just wondering how the pilgrims be accommodated if they come to visit in hundred thousands. Along the narrow concrete trail near the shrine are already houses of the residents.
From an online article I read, it has been revealed that close to 300,000 pilgrims from Eastern Visayas and other parts of the country visit the shrine to thank Señor Francisco for all the favors granted them or to ask favors, according to Fiorello Demeterio, Jr. city administrator. Demeterio said that the local government unit has extended extra police enforcers spread in the area to secure the tourists and pilgrims.
I have read a lot of testimonies who experienced the miraculous power of the saint. Some of them students who take licensure examinations, the sick and soldiers. A soldier who has been interviewed attested that he always visit the shrine before going to combat and he arrives safe after the combat operation.
After we descended from the 306 concrete stairs which serves as the jump-off point or junction, we have not seen a habal-habal and so we decided to trek for more than an hour. It was not exhausting then because we can see the magnificent view of the low-lying areas considering that we were in a higher elevation. We can partly see Maasin City.
The locals said that from the tail end of the concrete stairs or junction down to the national highway is only 2 kilometers. But we really had a long trek and there were some parts which were muddy and some points were cemented. Aside from the breathtaking scenery, the local community where we passed through was just so amazing. We happened to meet elementary pupils who were residents around the shrine and they are studying in Isagani Village which is too steep to scale and muddy at some points coming from their point of origin. But you can see them very happy as they shared their joy of being pupils of the public school.
Finally, we completely descended to the national highway and took a jeepney with a fare of P10 per head going to the city proper. It was again another worthwhile experience.
HOW TO GET THERE
The nearest airports to Maasin are Cebu City, Ormoc City and Tacloban City. But plying from Cebu City would require you to board a ship from Cebu City's Pier 4 to cross to Hilongos, Southern Leyte for P286 which is around 5-6 hours sea travel of which we boarded M/V Joyful Stars. Then from Hilongos to Maasin is a bus service of P87 for more than 1 hour road travel.
If you are coming from Ormoc City, then it is approximately 3 hours drive for 131.9 kilometers via Baybay-Inopacan Road for a fare of P150. While if you are coming from Tacloban City Airport, then it is approximately 4 -5 hours drive at P270 for 194.8 kilometers via Bato - Bontoc Road and Eastern Nautical Highway.
If you opt to take a land travel via Bicol Peninsula and Samar, take Pintados Airconditioned Bus for P1,688 fare including ferry fare in Matnog (Sorsogon)-Allen/Alegria (Northern Samar) crossing or with the same route with Philtranco airconditioned buses for P1,706 excluding the ferry fare. This is either coming from Cubao or Pasay terminals to Maasin City. The travel time is approximately 26 - 28 hours excluding the waiting time for the availability of the ferry boat from Matnog to Allen.
From the city proper, you have the option to take a habal-habal via Soro-soro Village for P100 per head with a maximum of 2 riders just for one way up to the jump-off point of the 306 concrete steps or junction and the trekking starts till you reach the shrine. Another alternative is the shorter way, take a jeepney from city proper and disembark at the entry point near Isagani Village. You can either walk or take a habal-habal and the trail is good for 2 kilometers which will take you to the jump-off point (junction) of the 306 concrete stairs. You can have an alternative whichever is practical of the two when descending back to the city proper.