Tuesday, March 3, 2015

6,000 Albayanos, visitors trek barefooted to atop Kawa-Kawa Hill for Lenten practices
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LIGAO CITY, March 2 (PNA) -- At least 6,000 youths, priests, nuns and devout Catholics in Albay and from other regions walked barefooted under the heat of the sun starting 2 p.m. on Saturday for the 6th Diocesan Way of the Cross held at the Kawa-Kawa Hill in this city.

Led by Bishop Joel “Bong” Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi and Albay Third District Rep. Fernando Gonzalez, the yearly trekking on foot was organized by the Commission on Youth, in partnership with Kawa-kawa Natural Park management headed by Gonzalez.

This year’s Youth Way of the Cross is themed “Jesus looked at Peter (Luke 22: 61-62)… Jesus looked at the youth.”

The event marked the start of Lenten Season activities in the religious hill.

On the way to the top, life-size sculptures were put up to represent the Way of the Cross.

The first eight stations can be seen along the walkway, while the remaining six stations stand around the 836-meter oval crater ring of Kawa-Kawa Hill, a hollowed hilltop that resembles a giant cauldron, locally called kawa.

The usual Agony in the Garden is no longer the first station as it was replaced by the Last Supper, while the last station is the Resurrection.

The hill is located in California Village in Barangay Tuburan here, some 1.5 kilometers away from the Maharlika Highway or 30 to 45 minutes’ drive from Legazpi City.

It is not only the top tourist destination in Albay but also serves as the heart of Lenten rites where thousands of devout Catholics flock here as a way of penitence and atonement for sins.

This practice started six years ago and annually since then, the devotees have been increasing in number.

This year, the devotees of the Way of the Cross ballooned to more than 6,000, from the original small number of devotee-parishioners.

Most of the participants are youths across the province, seminarians, clergies, nuns and members of multi-sectoral groups.

From the foot of Kawa-Kawa, life-size images of the Way of the Cross were conceptualized, designed and put up by a sculptor from Paete town in Laguna.

Kawa-Kawa hill is about 236 meters above sea level and offers the panoramic view of Ligao City and the Mayon Volcano.

Downhill are the Carmelite Sisters’ convent and the resettlement camp of families displaced by typhoon “Reming” and Mayon eruptions.

Sunflower plants abound in the area.

The Lenten rites in Kawa-Kawa Hill started after Gonzalez, who actually own the place, donated an 800-square-meter lot at the foot of the hill to the Carmelite nuns.

Eventually the Divine Mercy Monastery of the Carmelite nuns of the Holy Trinity of the Diocese of Legazpi put up the life-size images of the Stations of the Cross.

Today, Kawa-Kawa Hill is the top ecotourism destination in Albay province where tourists could commune with nature, thus, it has become a center of religiosity.

Religious activities during Lenten Season, Christmas, Three Kings and other religious events are also being held in Kawa-kawa Hill.

By the way, there is no entrance fee. (PNA) FFC/FGS/RBB/CBD/EBP