The Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) say it well: “Welcome to the mountain experience!” This is what best describes their Mary Help of Christians Center of Spirituality at Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas. The whole complex is actually a center for spiritual experiences such as retreats and recollections, with amenities and facilities such as rooms, dormitories, function rooms or conference halls. But its most famous facility is the Chapel on the Hill. Providentially, “Batulao” means “light on the hill”, and this is what the chapel seems to be: a sanctuary providing light to those who seek inner peace.
Dedicated in memory of Aurelio and Antonia Reyes by their daughter Rosario Reyes Bartolome on October 27, 2004, the Chapel has a circular structure resembling a gazebo. However, unlike another landmark circular church in the country, the Church of the Holy Sacrifice at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City which has open side panels, the Chapel on the Hill has glass-enclosed panels. This allows a fantastic yet serene 360-degree view of the valley and the West Philippine Sea (also known as the South China Sea).
But perhaps the most famous feature of the Chapel is the circular floor pattern called the Labyrinth: “a sacred circle with a single path that leads to its center. Walking the path lends itself to prayer and meditation. This kinesthetic style of prayer is especially valuable during those times when words cannot express the depths of heights of our experience.” The SDB proposes four movements to use and prayerful ways of approaching “the Labyrinth walk”, which is a simulation of a pilgrim practice during the middle ages.
These are some of the reasons why the Chapel on the Hill is not only a spiritual retreat center but a favored wedding venue as well. The serenity is awe-inspiring; the ambience, cozy with the native-inspired chairs, the wood accents – both in the exterior and the interiors, the stained glass window above the altar, the subdued lighting and the airy feeling brought about by glass door and windows. Weddings at dusk or early evening would especially benefit from the dramatic natural light from the setting sun. The cool clime resulting from the elevation is a major plus, too.
The wedding fee, payable at the parish office which is located in nearby Canyon Woods, is on a first-come, first-served basis at P15,000, inclusive of the sound system. The couple is advised, though, to provide their own priest, choir service and flower arrangements. The church administration is strict about punctuality, and prohibits the throwing of rice, confetti and petals inside the Chapel’s premises. The Chapel seats about a hundred guests. Parking slots are available all the way up the street.
Chapel on the Hill is about a two-hour drive from Metro Manila via Tagaytay City. At Tagaytay City, turn right to Nasugbu, and at the welcome arch, turn left to Evercrest Hotel and Resort. Road signs will lead to the site which is about a kilometer away. The church uses the same main gate entrance as another favorite wedding venue, the Transfiguration Chapel of Caleruega.
Possible wedding preparation and reception venues abound, as anyone familiar with the area or nearby Tagaytay City knows. There are the nearby resorts in Canyon Woods, Sonya’s Garden, Ville Sommet, Taal Vista, Josephine’s Restaurant and the like.