April 13, 2022
MANILA — After two years of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kamay ni Hesus (KNH) shrine in Lucban, Quezon, is now ready to welcome Lenten pilgrims and devotees this Holy Week.
“The shrine is very much ready to welcome them back. They will again feel the spiritual bliss that they missed during the past two years,” Fr. Joey Faller, the popular “healing” priest and administrator of the shrine, told the Inquirer last week.
“I’m expecting this. I long for it, I prayed hard that our gate will reopen again for the pilgrims and devotees from different parts of the country,” he added.
Avalanche of faith, devotion
Before the pandemic struck, devotees would flock to the religious complex in Lucban’s Barangay Tinamnan at the base of the mystic Mt. Banahaw every Holy Week. Faller once described the scene of arriving pilgrims as an “avalanche of faith and devotion.”
In the past, local police estimates showed that the number of visitors to the shrine exceeded 3 million during Holy Week.
The shrine was closed to Lenten pilgrims in 2020 and 2021 amid community quarantines and travel restrictions as the country dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Faller continues to hold daily Masses, with religious rites streamed live on his Facebook page and other social media platforms.
The priest said he was expecting more than 2 million shrine visitors from Palm Sunday (April 10) to Easter Sunday (April 17). The KNH gate had been installed with an automatic counter.
No vax card, no entry
Lucban, the cities of Lucena and Tayabas, and eight other towns in Quezon province have been placed under alert level 1, the most relaxed in a five-tier alert status of the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But to ensure the safety of staff and visitors, KNH requires that all guests 18 years old and above present their vaccination cards.
According to Faller, KNH staff has been preparing the shrine for the past three months for the arrival of Lenten pilgrims.
“We have planned for this. People are already bored. They need to come out and recharge their faith,” he said.
Faller said “Noah’s Ark,” a two-story structure housing 25 air-conditioned rooms, refectory and seminar room, was also booked. At the bow of the ark is a private chapel for guests.
Devotees visit KNH to climb the 300-step “Stairway to Heaven” leading to the 50-foot (15.24-meter) statue of the resurrected Christ on top of the hill. Faller said guards and volunteers would arrange the climb in controlled batches to prevent overcrowding on the hill.
Devotees will be given time for a short prayer and, after resting, they will be asked to go down to free up space for other pilgrims.
Faller holds Masses at the newly built and open-air “healing dome” that accommodates up to 7,000 people.