I remember manually tallying the steps towards the apex of the Lourdes Grotto in Baguio City when I was a kid. I was unable to recall the total count, but I remember finishing all the steps and reaching its summit where an icon of the Our Lady of Lourdes is enshrined.
Fast forward a few decades later. The morning was crisp and the air chilly as I looked out through the window of my cheap dormitel. I had an uncomfortable night’s sleep but I was still thankful that there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that happened the previous night. I arranged my gear and was soon walking briskly into the still dark morning.
I knew that the Lourdes Grotto was just near my lodging. I nodded at a passing stranger and followed up with a question for directions. I continued my solitary walk, stuffing my hands inside my jacket for warmth.
The sky still has a tinge of magenta as the 252-stepped grotto soon rose into view. A few people were already walking up its white-painted steps, looking like small ants below the encroaching giant pines.
I started my ascent but was quickly stopped by vendors selling rosaries and candles. A few of them have beads that would’ve competed with the rainbow; yellows, blues, greens, pinks, reds. I haven’t seen rosaries as colorful as these. I would’ve bought some too if not for my budget.
I continued on, silently counting the stairs as I go. Twenty three, twenty four, twenty five. I lost count somewhere around seventy and simply pushed ahead without the numbers.
Lourdes Grotto was built in increments starting in 1913 when famous sculptor Isabelo Tampingco was asked to carve an icon of Our Lady of Lourdes by the Jesuits in Baguio City. Located on top of the then bald Mirador Hill, the Jesuits continued work on the grotto, adding stone steps and planting the surrounding areas with pines and flowers.
Today the Grotto is one of Baguio City’s go to places for tourists. But the morning was still young and there were only a sparse few coming up the shrine. I still have time to take some photographs before the multitudes arrive.
A snaking road can be accessed through the sides of the hill where vehicles can scoot people directly to the grotto’s apex. But unless you’re reaching old age, I suggest you take on the steps. Climbing through all 252 steps is more than half the part of the experience.
The sun rose through the fog-ridden city as I slowly reached the summit. I looked behind me and saw Baguio City in poetic silhouettes of yellows and grays; the twin spires of the Baguio Cathedral, distinctly layered against the slopes of the houses and the hills beyond.
A few steps more and I finally reached the shrine. I lit up my imaginary candle and said my silent prayers. A chilly morning breeze swept past, rustling the pines into whispers. Birds cheerily greeted the coming day as the sun slowly rose from the horizon. I couldn’t have picked a better morning to visit Baguio City’s Lourdes Grotto.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
Address: Dominican Hill Road, Mirador Hill, Baguio City
Entrance Fee: None
GPS Coordinates: 16.409786,120.580696
Click to view location on Google Maps