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The Javier Shrine & Chapel in Hanginan, Maasin City, Southern Leyte

San Francisco Javier Shrine

Massin City is blessed with 3 pilgrimage destinations: the first is the Saint Francis Xavier Shrine known locally as San Francisco Javier located at Barangay Hanginan. The second one is Our Lady of Assumption Shrine, a 36-foot giant statue of Mama Mary at Jalleca Hills in Barangay Mantahan. The 3rd one is the Montecueva or Cave in a Mountain officially called as the Shrine of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus on top of a hill about 2.5 kilometers north of downtown Maasin, the capital of Southern Leyte.

The pilgrimage devotees can reach the chapel which is built on the highest mountain as seen from the Maasin City seaport. From Barangay Soro-soro, there is a concrete road from the junction partially concrete on one lane to the right, and it becomes 2-lanes road leading up to the concrete steps prior to the climb towards the San Francisco Javier Shrine inside the chapel, which is on the mountain top of Barangay Hanginan and north of the boundary between barangays Isagani and Ibarra. The other one is over 2-kilometers hiking trail from the highway at Barangay Isagani. There are over 300 concrete steps to go all the way up to the paved path which leads to the entrance of the chapel. It takes several minutes to climb up & walk to the chapel depending on the physical health and fitness of the individual devotee.

To the pilgrimage trekker, he or she can see the green, panoramic, scenic views of downtown Maasin and as far as the islands of Bohol, Camiguin and Limasawa islands when the weather is clear. At the pathway and from the windows of the cafeterias, restaurants, the pilgrimage devotee can see and enjoy a much spectacular view of Bohol, Camiguin, Limasawa islands, and sometimes northern Mindanao directly behind that of Camiguin island. As the Vice-mayor Maloney Samaco wrote: “The air is soothing amidst the heat of the sun, thus the place is called Hanginan."

Furthermore, Vice-mayor Samaco further wrote in his blog, during the years when he was the mayor of Maasin City: “The miraculous icon was privately owned by a big family from the time of the Spanish Jesuits then handed over through generations. Sometimes the icon would be brought to Isagani chapel along the highway. But still people would climb to Hanginan for sacrifice.

“The saint is a favorite of soldiers and students.  Most of them are soldiers who are going to combat and students who are about to take the Board examinations.  Many testified that their prayers were answered by Saint Francis Xavier when they prayed in Hanginan.

“During Good Fridays, the shrine is full of thousands of pilgrims. It is the peak season for pilgrimage.  Usually San Francisco followers would flock Hanginan on Fridays.  But today, everyday of the week, we see pilgrims climbing the steps to the chapel for blessings. The feast of the saint is held every December 3. Many devotees would offer food for other visitors during fiestas and Good Fridays.

“There was even a story that the icon was originally intended for San Francisco at Panaon Island in Southern Leyte and the image of San Isidro Labrador was aimed for Hanginan.  But fate had it that they were interchanged and the patron saint of San Francisco is now San Isidro, while the San Francisco Javier went to Hanginan.”

Over 55 years ago, my teenage friends and I hiked for the first time all the way to the back and up of the pilgrimage chapel. At the very top, we saw the 360-degree breath-taking view of the landscape of some barangays in Maasin, and the next town to the east which is Macrohon, the islands Limasawa, Camiguin, and Bohol. We also hiked all the way to the base of the eye-catching big white rock or wall, the ultimate, tallest part of Hanginan, which one could see with the naked eyes on a clear day from the boats and ships at least 5-kilometers away.

Those were the early years when Hanginan did not have the electricity. No piped-in water supply. No landline telephone. No mobile phone service. No direct satellite TV service. However, the residents had the strong AM and short-wave radio signals from their battery-operated radio receivers due to the very high elevation at 276 meters above the sea level of Hanginan. There was no dirt road even for a motorcyclist to ride up to the concrete steps. We had to hike up from the road junction of barrio Isagani or Pugaling, which is about 60 meters from the seashore. Some local residents of Hanginan hired or used their friend's carabao to carry the heavy material & supplies up to the San Francisco Javier Shrine.

Maasin City, Southern Leyte, Philippines

Recommendations & Suggestions to make San Francisco Javier Shrine and Hanginan as one of the top pilgrimage & tourists' destinations in Central Philippines:

  • Provide garbage or trash cans every 100 meters on both roads from barangays Isagani and Soro-soro all the way up to the start of the concrete stairs, and every 25 meters on the steps and pathway toward the chapel.

  • Provide restrooms before ascending from both barangays Isagani and Soro-soro junctions, another restrooms mid-way of the concrete road from Soro-soro and the trail from Isagani, and the restrooms prior to the concrete steps leading up to the pathway which connects to the chapel's steps to the entrance. The barangays in Soro-soro and Isagani should hire regular custodian crews to maintain, supply & monitor the cleanliness of the restrooms, the 2 roads, & the barangay in Hanginan to do the same to their restrooms, concrete steps & pathway all the way to the San Francisco Javier Shrine.

  • All owners of the homes, stores, restaurants, “bibingka” bakeries, etc. must maintain cleanliness to their respective domains including under & behind their buildings on stilts.

  • From the end of the concrete road next to the stairs, the barangay must provide access road or cable car all the way up to the chapel for the persons of disabilities, on wheel-chair, etc. to do their pilgrimage.

  • We hope that each pilgrim or family of devotees would take time to bring one or two of their favorite fruit tree seedlings &/or potted-flower plants to donate to the barangay personnel for transplant later. If they wish to be acknowledged, they have the option to write their donor's name or family, barangay, city or town & province address on the logbook, which would be transferred later on a plastic or waterproof plate. The donor's name plates will be placed next to the fruit tree or potted-flower seedlings.

  • All owners of the homes, stores, restaurants, “bibingka” bakeries, gift shops, etc. should have some potted flowers, vegetables & other plants placed or planted in front of their buildings so as to add color and varieties to the eyes, sights of hundreds to thousands of the visitors. The barangay residents must have their own sources of raw materials, arts & crafts, etc. rather than buy everything from downtown Maasin to serve the pilgrimage customers.

  • As a cooperative efforts, the residents in Hanginan should build some cottages for the guests & visitors to check-in to stay overnight or 2-days to see the beautiful sceneries, to inhale the fresh oxygen, to feel the breeze, & enjoy some other doable projects.

  • Some college students should be encouraged to work part-time with scholarships to get involved in the planting of the fruit trees, flowery plants along both sides of the roads, & the concrete steps as well as the cleanliness of the environment. They should also operate a variety store, snacks & restaurant as part of those who are studying for hotel & restaurant management, tourism industries, etc.

Road to San Francisco Javier Shrine & Chapel in Hanginan, Maasin City, Southern Leyte

Road to San Francisco Javier Shrine & Chapel in Hanginan, Maasin City, Southern Leyte

Road to San Francisco Javier Shrine & Chapel in Hanginan, Maasin City, Southern Leyte

Three-fourth from the start of the junction in Soro-soro, we saw the
spectacular panoramic view of Maasin City from the left to rightl.

The numbers of devotees got larger near the concrete steps to climb up to the chapel.

The numbers of devotees got larger near & on the concrete steps to climb up to the chapel.

Hundreds of the devotees climbed up & down the concrete steps.

Hundreds of the devotees climbed up & down the concrete steps. "Bibingka" bakery & store!

Stores & gift shops!

Store & facade of the chapel

San Francisco Javier Shrine & the chapel!

San Francisco Javier Shrine & the chapel!

Candles were lit & prayers were silently uttered outside to the left of the chapel.

The pilgrims fellowshipped in the facade of the chapel & under the century-old acacia tree.

Many of the pilgrims took their lunch at the cafeterias/restaurants from which they saw a
great view of the concrete zigzag road amidst the green hills, mountains under the rains.

After I slowly climbed down the concrete slippery steps, I took again more photos
of the stores, vendors, & parked motorcycles at the end of the concrete road.

You may send your suggestions & recommendations via email or through some of the FB accounts on San Francisco Javier Shrine & Hanginan.

References, links on San Francisco Javier Shrine, Hanginan & other related information to the tourism industries in Central Philippines: