The local government of Palo has scrapped a plan to remove a “heritage cross” in the central Philippine province of Leyte after Catholic pilgrims protested.
Vice Mayor Ronnan Resposar said the plan was cancelled for “further study” although repairs are being done on the steps leading to the cross.
The cross on top of Guinhangdan Hill, which offers a panoramic view of Leyte Gulf where American General Douglas MacArthur landed in 1944 during World War II, has become a landmark in the province.
The hill is also a favorite pilgrimage site during Holy Week when thousands of devotees climb 522 steps to the cross where candles and flowers are offered. In 2016, some 21,000 climbed the hill on Good Friday.
Resposar said the government is planning to regulate the number of people going to the cross because of the amount of garbage usually left by pilgrims.
“It is not just about the cross but the whole hill,” said the vice mayor, adding that the history of the place also has significance. “You can find a shrine, a mini-forest reserve, and remnants of World War II,” said Resposar.
Father Ivo Velasquez, coordinator of the Archdiocesan Commission on Culture and Heritage, said the church welcomes the improvements being done on the hill.
“We are with the government in this endeavor,” said the priest, adding that improvements “should be guided by respect to the religious belief and heritage of residents.”