Written by Angelie Sorcoso, B.S. in Applied Mathematics III.
Maasin, a fourth-class municipality and one of the nine municipalities on the third district of Iloilo Province, got its name from a salt spring located at Barangay Magsaysay, Maasin, Iloilo. The spring was the local settlers’ source of the needed supply of salt. The municipality is located at the west central part of the Iloilo province and has a watershed and its terrain ranging from plain to strongly hill and mountainous.
Being a terminal town, Maasin has inadequate source of income to sustain the demands and needs for the development of its projects. Despite having the struggles for the stability and development of its economy, Maasin had some interesting sites. One of these was a product of the early Maasinanon settlers’ “bayanihan”, a term derived from bayan which means town or community that refers to a communal unity and cooperation of the local settlers, that is a religious site situated on a hill, called the Gines Hill Via Crucis. It would take a five-minute walk from the town plaza to reach the foot of the hill. Gines Hill Via Crucis is a religious site visited during the Holy Week where Catholics, or even non-Catholics, trek the hill to commemorate and enact Jesus’ suffering and death to save the entire human race from all the sins we’ve made. It is in the form of Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross that Catholics established their solid devotion on the Passion of Christ through meditation and prayers. Gines Hill Via Crucis has 14 stations where devotees would take a short stop to chant verses and offer prayers.
Tracing back its history, Gines Hill is an unplanned project per Mrs. Mercedes “Lola Meding” Marquillero Mollenido, a devoted Christian who helps serve on church’ activities and the daughter of the late Porfirio Marquillero Sr. who is the president of Knights of the Sacred Heart during their time. According to Lola Meding, it was only the lightning rod or lightning conductor that should be placed originally on the top of the hill in the event of lightning strike but then Bishop Henricus Cornelius de Wit, a Mill Hill priest and current parish priest of Saint James the Greater Parish, suggested to have a religious site on the hill to add some other purpose besides putting up the lightning rod. Bishop Henricus Cornelius de Wit together with the Knights of the Sacred Heart, a religious organization, pursued to organize the construction of the Gines Hill Via Crucis. They spare headed the pursuance of the project but then during those times there is not enough source of fund for the construction. Mr. Porfirio Marquillero Sr., chairman and president of the Knights of Sacred Heart, initiated to ask for solicitations from different persons or organizations, that would be the main source of fund for the construction. Even the land enclosed by the religious site was a donation, for it was formerly owned by private personalities. Owners of the different parcels of the land, enclosed to be part of the Gines Hill Via Crucis site, donated their property to have a single plot.
The construction started on March 5, 1975 and was done through the “bayanihan” of the local settlers. “Bayanihan” is a significant factor that greatly affects the duration of building the structures and when would it be all done because workers are all volunteers and they might or might not come to help do the works every day. Another factor is the difficulty of manually carrying the materials together with them due to the steepness of the hill, which is a handicap for them to do finish their work in a short period. Workers who would come and aid on constructing structures on the hill offer their services without asking any payment in return. Mr. Marquillero headed the construction together with those volunteer workers. They patiently constructed series of structures that could be pass through upon trekking the hill together with the hundred and sixty steps stairs that serves as the main path upon reaching the top of the hill.
At the foot of the hill, an erected structure, that serves as a marker, was located that contains information about the construction and sponsors of the project. The structure mainly acknowledges and gives appreciation to persons related with the Gines Hill Via Crucis construction. More of this acknowledgement could be seen on the other erected structures and on
the steps of the stairs. Names of sponsors and donors are placed respectively on structures they have financed.
Upon climbing the hundred and sixty steps stairs, 13 erected structures were constructed were to be passed by. These structures are the 13 stations that depicts the 13 events that Jesus Christ experienced in the hands of the Romans and his journey upon saving the entire human race as shown in Figure 2.
It is during the Holy Week, particularly on Good Friday, when Christian devotees trek the hill to meditate and offer prayers in each of the 13 stations. Every station, a structure is erected with an image encrypted. The image significantly shows each of the 13 events which started when Jesus was condemned to death by the Romans. Followed by his carrying of the cross, falling on his knees for the first time, meeting his mother, a Cyrenian helping him carry the cross, etc., until the event of his burial. A prayer would be chanted in every station which conveys events that happened and the deep appreciation of devotees towards the sacrifice made by Jesus upon suffering in our behalf.
Located at the top the hill is an erected, huge structure of the Jesus Christ’ statue having his hands wide open and is known to be the Sacred Heart which
overlooks a panoramic view of the town site and countryside from a distant. The statue of Sacred Heart was created piece by piece, starting with the head. It was sculpted at Barangay Magsaysay within the Marquillero residence. Piece by piece, it was manually created and brought to the top of the hill to formally assemble the statue. A lightning rod was
placed on the head of the statue to fulfill the original purpose of having this rod on the top of the hill.
Beneath the statue of Sacred Heart is a cornerstone or “tanda”, which was initially created before the statue was assembled and blessed by the priest for religious purposes. The cornerstone contains basic information about the statue shown in Figure 4.
As time continuously flows, different changes also occur and Gines Hill is not an exception to these changes. The place was preserved yet certain changes
could be noticed. Changes meant were the images present within the hill such as series of trees and plants that grows and serves as borders of the site. Initially, the hill was almost bare but have few of trees and plants growing within the site. Comparison of Gines Hill’s image years ago and at the present would be shown on Figure 5.
Gines Hill Via Crucis, initially an unplanned project, have interesting stories hidden behind it. Stories that tell not just about its history but the camaraderie the local settlers had upon working hand in hand out of the kindness of their hearts. It is a concrete example of how Filipinos practice “bayanihan”. It also shows the customs and traditions of Catholics through Via Crucis. Furthermore, this makes the Gines Hill considered to be a cultural heritage that the municipality of Maasin should be proud of.