Thanks to Penfires’ visitor Angela for inspiring me to finally write this post about our local church, Parish of the Virgen de la Regla or simply Opon Church to us. =)
Titus aka FTB could not believe his eyes when our usually sleepy city (take out the export zone, the resorts and the airport and you are left with a city that is mainly residential and yes, sleepy. Come here on a Sunday and you can see what I mean).
Back to the story… as I was saying he could not believe his eyes when streams of people began to pour in to Opon last year November 20. And he keeps asking me “where are all these people coming from?!”
Opon is the old town name which later on became Lapu – Lapu City.
It was fiesta day for Lapu – Lapu City in honor of our city’s patron saint Virgen de la Regla. Pilgrims, visitors, locals and dayo walk all the way from the old bridge to the town proper where the church is located. It is about 10 kilometers walk on sweltering heat, but you won’t mind because you are walking with thousands of people who are smiling and happy.
The main highway and road of Opon is closed every November 20, and traffic is so bad that people from nearby Cebu City and Mandaue City knows it is far better to cross the old Mactan-Mandaue Bridge by walking to get to Opon proper, rather than be stuck in unmoving traffic.
For those who are heading to the airport, no worries for you only need to take the 2nd bridge as it is business as usual on that part of the city and the traffic is normal all the way from Marcelo Fernan Bridge to Marina Mall, airport and resorts as almost everyone is heading in the opposite direction to Lapu – Lapu City proper and church.
And no, many of the people who come to Opon fiesta every November 20 and 21 do not come here for the foods and for merry-making; they are mostly pilgrims that aim to visit the Blessed Virgen as their “panaad” or “promise”.
Blessed Virgen of the Rule / Virgen de la Regla
Opon Church or the Parish of the Nuestra Senora Virgen de la Regla in Lapu – Lapu City is a national shrine. Locals and visitors from other provinces come to her to hope and pray for a miracle, and there had been many stories and testaments of miracles interceded by the Blessed Virgen.
Altar of the Virgen de la Regla Parish – Opon
If you plan to visit Opon Church, please make sure that you will go up and climb to the special chapel where you can come close and touch the Blessed Virgin. Note that there is usually a long line especially on Sundays.
Virgen de la Regla Chapel on the church’ 2nd floor
During fiestas a lot of people come and line patiently to visit, touch and kiss the Virgen of the Rule and to line again to light a candle in the main “dagkutanan” area. And we are talking about thousands of thousands coming in all throughout the day. The line is never broken, it continues on and on.
Blessed Virgen de la Regla at the Candle Offering / Lighting Area
I found this really comprehensive article authored by a parish priest who has served the Parish of the Virgin of the Rule. Please visit Father Stephen’s brief historical sketch of the Opon church at this link: The Parish of Virgen de la Regla.
How to get to Opon Church?
No matter where you start as long as you can hop onto a multicab bearing the Opon “Merkado” signage, you are sure that the route will end in the public market of Opon, and the church is just a few minutes walk from the center of the market. Better yet, hop on a multicab bound for Cordova via “Simbahan“. These multicabs passes by the road separating the back gate of the Church and the entrance to the Muelle Osmena Wharf.
If after visiting the Virgen of the Rule Church in Lapu – Lapu City, you plan to go to Cebu City, you can choose to sail on a ferry or a pumpboat which docks at the Muelle Osmena mini-port. This will take you to either Pier 3 (from Pier 3 you can go to SM or downtown Cebu City by jeepney) or to the Mandaue Ouano Wharf, where you can also catch a jeepney onward to your next destination.