BEAUTIFUL LADY ON THE HILL
Flores Island is one of beautiful island in Indonesia where chatolisism take an important role. That's why the spot I've been visiting in 2009 is very significant for those who come to visit Flores. It is a giant Mother Mary statue in a hill called Nilo.
A Visit to Nilo
The island of Flores in East Nusa Tenggara Province is one of the spiritual tourist destination in Indonesia. In addition to Tuan Ma ritual in Larantuka, East Flores, the shrine of Mary Mother of All Nations in the town of Maumere, Sikka District, is one worth visiting.
Located about 7 km from Maumere, the capital of Sikka district, precisely in Keling-Nilo Hill, Wuliwutik Village, Nita, the bronze statue which was established from 2004 is the main attraction for pilgrims, both within and outside the country.
February of 2008 along with my mother and my uncle I had the opportunity to visit Nilo. From the town of Maumere, we went to South West and travel about 45 minutes by car. Passing through the deserted streets with bamboo forests on both sides of the road, we finally reached the entrance to the shrine on the Keling-Nilo hill. At this point the journey became interesting. Started from a few kilometers from the bottom of the hill we could see the statue of the Virgin Mary standing on Nilo hill gracefully from a distance. Firstly the statue looked very small, then gradually getting bigger and bigger. It was as if we circled the Virgin Mary, or as if Mother Mary rounded us! Wow, it was really cool to enjoy a change of scenery like that! Moreover, the atmosphere surrounding the road was still very natural, there was only grass and trees. It was green and fresh! However, according to my uncle, the hills turn green because it was the rainy season. When we arrived in the dry season, then the atmosphere would have been different; dry and brownie. Well, fortunately I came up when the season was beautiful.
Finally, we arrived at the gates of the location. There we had to register first. Because it was February, there were not many visitors. However, when we looked at the book list of visitors, for my own surprise: visitor was not only from Flores, or even Indonesia alone. There were many visitors from Germany, America and Japan as well! Usually they come in the months of May or October, the months which are known as the month of devotion to Mary. For that day, it seemed that only me and my family were visitors. Thus, the Nilo pilgrimage area seemed to be our personal property.
From this portal we still had to walk around half a kilo to get to the location where the statue was located. And finally, we arrived at the statue of Mary, Mother of All Nations. It was really amazing! The statue that has about 18 meters height for his image alone, and 28 meters along with the foundation was not only very large, but also very beautiful, with the clear blue sky as its background!
The statue which was the tallest building in Sikka district was standing on a height of 1,600 meters above sea level, overlooking the northern town of Maumere. So, the statue of Mary the Mother of All Nations leads into the Sea of Flores, with the town of Maumere just below. It was as if Mother Mary herself who maintained and protected that beautiful coastal city on the mainland of Flores. From the shrine area itself we could see the town of Maumere, with its blue calm beaches below. And it is said, from the town of Maumere the statue of Mary can be seen. I imagined, perhaps it was just like the statue of Christ the King in Sao Paolo or in Dilli.
The statue of Mary Mother of All Nations itself was built on concrete foundations in the form of four-foot pole painted brown and decorated with various motifs of Sikka’s woven. On top of the head of the statue there are stars, while her hands open. Her legs were standing on a globe circled by snake eating apple.
Beneath it there was ample places to pray, completed with candles and lighters. Not far from there was a replica of the garden of Gethsemane, with a statue of Jesus at prayer.
The statue which was built by the Order of Passionist (CP) was blessed and officially opened as a place of pilgrimage by the late Archbishop of Ende Mgr. Abdon Longinus da Cunha on May 31, 2005, the end of the month of Mary. Not long after that, precisely in December 2005, the Diocese of Maumere then formed from the territory of the Archdiocese of Ende. For Catholics of Maumere it was certainly an infinite blessing. Until now, they believe, it was the intervention of the Virgin Mary that allowed it to happened.
Yet, for this giant statue terrible thing was unavoidable. On January 21, 2006, after one full week of heavy rain and strong winds that attacked Maumere, the statue was toppled from its foundation. It was said that hands and crown of the statue touched the ground but both feet were still upright on a globe. The statue was quickly repaired and rebuilt.
After that a "strange" incident again hit the statue. On August 31, 2007, early morning, a lot of local residents reported that the statue of the Virgin Mary spinning for several minutes. At that time P. Frans Fao, The General Vicarist of Maumere Diocese responded to this phenomenon as a moment to reflection rather than temporarily sensations. After that it seemed that there was no weird news about the statue of the Virgin Mary.
For me myself, a pilgrimage to the statue of Mary, the Mother of All Nations, really gave another feeling. It was the feeling of safe, peaceful, and calm. I don’t know, maybe it was because the size of statue which was enormous big. She stood gracefully and peacefully on a green hill. When we looked at her face, it seemed that her face was glowing under the sun. Blue sky and white clouds seemed very close to her, and sometimes flock of birds flew across and scattered around her. What a priceless experience!
If you intend to visit Nilo, the following things would be benefit to you. Consider bringing your own food, because there’s no food sold there. There are small shops near the entrance gate, but the food sold there is merely a cake and drinks.
Maumere City itself can be reached from Denpasar or Surabaya by plane (usually Merpati Airlines). Do not forget to book a ticket to go home immediately, because it is usually difficult to get a plane from Maumere to another city. Lodging and meals may be comparatively more expensive than other tourist cities, and therefore prepare the budget more for it.
Note that in Maumere there’s no official taxi. There are some private cars rented instead. We do have to bargain for this kind of car. It is better if you have already known the name of the inn, because if not, you will face great inconvenience caused by those “taxi” drivers.
Actually there are public transportation from Maumere to Nilo, however, if your luggage is not much, you can ride motorcycles (locals call it “ojek”), by paying Rp. 10.000, -.
For those who were never to Maumere before all of that was a real chaos! But, believe me, all the chaos in the town was erased when you got Nilo! (db)
by: Agnes Bemoe