Marian Pilgrim Sites in Metro Manila PDF Print E-mail

by Tess Lopez

The Philippines is a country which consists of 7010 islands, teaming with diverse cultures and languages, separated by rugged mountains and coastal terrains. Pulsating through the winding rivers and merging tides is one heartbeat that vibrates in the hearts of millions of Filipinos. It is a heartbeat that thumps for the love of a woman. ..a mother whom they call Mama Mary. Like a mother and child, there exists an intimate symbiotic relationship between the Filipino and Mary. She is affectionately embraced as a Mother of Perpetual Help, a Mother of Good Counsel, a Mother of Divine Grace, a Mother of the Sick and many more.

Mama Maria embodies the epitome of the perfect woman and mother. Filipinos look up at her as a woman for all times, an exemplary model of womanhood to the modern Filipino woman, wife and mother especially when the feminine role is being challenged with much ambiguity today.

The Marian phenomena in the country is attested by the presence of more than thirty Marian shrines, not including the numerous churches and chapels dedicated to the Mother of God. A Marian shrine is a holy place marking an apparition or other miracle ascribed to the Blessed virgin Mary , or a site on which is centered a historically strong Marian devotion. Such locales are often the destination of pilgrimages From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Venturing into a Marian pilgrimage throughout the country will attest to a Marian mystique deeply entrenched into Filipino customs and traditions.

Manila, alone, is spiritually rich with more than twelve Marian shrines. The oldest one recognized by the Church is the Ermita Church, dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance). Situated in the heart of Manila, which was once a plush residential place for the “familias buenas” of the city, the church maintains its original structure amidst the various metropolitan developments in the area. It is believed that the image of the dark virgin was brought to the Philippines by Magellan in 1521. The image was then given to the rajahs of Manila by the Cebu native chiefs. When Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Manila in 1571, he saw the “natives” venerating an image of the Virgin which was placed on top of a trunk surrounded by pandan leaves. In a royal decree dated August 9, 1578, the King of Spain proclaimed the Nuestra Señora de Guia as the “Sworn Patroness” of Manila by virtue of the many miraculous favors granted by this Virgin. (The Roman Catholic Archdiocesan of Manila website)

Several blocks from the Ermita Church is the Malate church which is the shrine of Our Lady of Remedies, the patroness of women in childbirth. The first church was constructed by the Augustinians in 1588 under the protection and care of the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios The image was brought from Spain in 1624 by Rev. Juan Guevara O.S.A. The Muslim-Baroque-style church enjoys a scenic view of the Manila Bay. It is one of the oldest churches in Manila outside of Intramuros. Upon orders of Governor-General Sabiniano Manrique de Lara, the church was destroyed in 1661 over fears of an attack by the pirate Li Ma Hong but rebuilt in 1677-79. British soldiers took refuge in this church during their attack on Intramuros in 1762-63. An earthquake destroyed the church in 1863 was rebuilt by Fr. Francisco Cuadrado, OSA. The church was administered by the Augustinians, secular clergy and Columban Fathers. During the Japanese Occupation of Manila, the shrine was badly damaged and many of the Columban Fathers were victims of Japanese atrocities. Some were killed during the shelling of the Americans. The shrine was again restored after the war. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malate_Church)

Entering the quaint walled city of Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral looms as a monumental testimony of the 400 year old history of the Catholic faith in the Philippines. It was first built in 1581 of nipa and bamboo, destroyed, and then rebuilt with a structure of stone. Succeeding destructions wrought by earthquakes especially the big Manila earthquake of 1883 and World War II forced the reconstruction of the cathedral for five times until its present structure which was rebuilt by Cardinal Rufino Santos from 1954-1958. The Manila Cathedral was raised to the rank of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1981. The shrine is also the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manila_Cathedral)

Nestled near the banks of the Pasig River, is another old stone church which is the shrine of the canonically crowned Our Lady of the Abandoned also known as Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados. It has a unique feature of having a hexagonal bell tower. The church built by the Franciscans was originally made of bamboo and nipa which harmonized with the surrounding rural countryside overlooking the Pasig River. Eventually, the Franciscans changed the structure to stone. The church was built under the supervision of Fr. Vicente Ingles, OFM. The cornerstone of the present church was laid on September 12, 1720 by Francisco de la Cuesta, then Archbishop of Manila and Acting Governor General of the Philippines. The image of the Virgin was carved in Spain in 1713 and brought to the Philippines in 1725.

The shrine houses beautiful church treasures which have been preserved from the ravages of earthquakes and devastations of war. Interest in the Santa Ana Church may have increased because its camarin, or the dressing room, of the image of Our Lady of the Abandoned, was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum. The church is also known for its beautiful baroque retablo, the only one of its kind that can be found still intact in Manila.

On October 1966, the inner patio and surrounding areas of this centuries-old church were excavated by the archaeologist team of the National Museum headed by Doctor Robert Fox. The project yielded rich materials on pre-Spanish Manila. The oldest artifact found in the inner patio of Santa Ana Church dates back to the late 11th century A.D. – a beautiful blue and white Chinese bowl with floral designs. The rest are potteries and Chinese artifacts which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries A.D.( Philippine Diary: The Old Franciscan Church in Santa Ana by Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M.; http://gridcrosser.blogspot.com; http://simbahan.net

A few kilometers away, another shrine is also frequented by devotees in the month of September. This is the Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia de Manila.

In another section of Manila called Sampaloc, the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto is another wellspring of Marian devotion. It was built in 1613 by the Franciscans.

Traversing further down Manila’s Roxas Boulevard, another popular shrine placidly rests facing the Manila Bay where one can witness spectacular sunsets. This is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Pasay City. Also known as the Redemptorist Church, this Romanesque style church houses an icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help. Throngs of devotees flock to this shrine every Wednesday, which has become popularly known as Baclaran Day as the first novena was conducted on a Wednesday, June 23, 1948. Wednesdays in Baclaran come alive with devotees streaming in and out of the hourly Masses as hundreds of vendors peddle candles, religious articles, flowers and live plants, clothing of all kinds, food, toys and everything else one can think of at bargain prices. It is quite a sight to see old and young people kneeling from the entrance of the church grounds to the altar, seeking favors or offering gratitude for answered prayers. The Perpetual Novena started in the province of Iloilo at the Redemptorist Church of San Clemente. The devotion of the Ilonggos (Iloilo natives) to the Mother of Perpetual Help Novena was later brought to Baclaran by the Irish Redemptorist Father Gerard O'Donnell. It is interesting to note, however, that the oldest image of the Our Lady of Perpetual Succor is enshrined at the Binondo Church. (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Our_Lady_of_Perpetual_Help)

East of Manila, amidst the rolling hills of a rising sun, Antipolo City is home to another shrine, another popular place for pilgrimage for Marian devotees. This is the shrine of the Virgin of Antipolo. This brown image of the Virgin was brought to the Philippines during the era of the galleon trade. The person responsible for its travel to the Philippines was Governor Juan Niño de Tabora. Amidst ravaging seas and a fire on board, the El Almirante arrived safely in the ports of Manila on July 18, 1626. Realizing that the galleon’s safe trip was attributed to the presence of the image of the Virgin on board, Governor Tabora named this image Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Its arrival was marked with colorful pageantry and fireworks. A procession was held which commenced from the Church of San Ignacio in Intramuros to the Manila Cathedral which temporarily housed the image. When Governor Tabora died, the image was given to the custody of the Jesuits who were then constructing a church in Antipolo. However,The image was supposed to be housed in another church in a nearby barrio of Antipolo called Sta. Cruz. However, as if in protest of leaving the town of Antipolo, the holy image was always found on the trunk

of a tree called the Tipolo which grew in the original site of the old church. Because of these manifestations, a pedestal was carved out of the trunks of the said tree, and thus the Blessed Virgin became locally known as the Virgin of Antipolo. During the occupation of the Japanese, the Blessed Image of our Lady of Antipolo was evacuated to the mountains of Angono, then at Santolan. For a while, the Blessed Virgin was housed in the Ocampo residence at Quiapo, previous to its transfer to the Quiapo Church where it stayed until October 15, 1945. It was finally transferred to its original and permanent sanctuary at the Church of Antipolo. Every year, devotees commemorate this transfer, as they join the "Alay Lakad" from Quiapo Church to the Antipolo Cathedral starting at around 8:00 PM (30th of April) until dawn of the following day (1st of May). Today, this well loved patron has a shrine at the Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion in Washington D.C. (http://www.interfaithmarianpilgrimages.com)

Quezon City, the former capital, is home to three popular Marian shrines, the Santo Domingo Church, which is the residence of Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as the Virgin of La Naval, the shrine of the Our Lady of Lourdes and the Mount Carmel Shrine.

In the year 1587, the first fifteen Dominicans left Acapulco bringing with them the image of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was a one piece wood and measured a meter and a half high on a thirty centimeter tall pedestal. Until the 1863 earthquake of Manila, a relic of the Virgin of Guadalupe was concealed in a hollowed carved portion of the image. Although the image survived the earthquakes and fires that befell the church where she was venerated, the image was lost during the Japanese bombing of Intramuros on December 27, 1941. The second image was donated to the Dominicans by Governor Luis Perez Dasmariñas and was carved by a Chinese sangley with the assistance of Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel. The image’s hands, face and Holy Child were made of ivory.

In 1646, Manila was threatened by the invasions of the Dutch. The Spaniards were Ill prepared with only two merchant ships, the Rosario and the Encarnacion. The ships were commandeered by General Lorenzo de Orella y Ugalde and Admiral Sebastian Lopez with two companies of infantrymen and four Dominican chaplains. Realizing that they were no match against the Dutch armada, they placed their fate under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary. Both Lopez and de Orella vowed to go bare foot in a procession with their men to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros if they were granted victory. Meanwhile, the country continued vigil to the Blessed Sacrament as the men on board continuously prayed the rosary. The image of the Virgin was erected on an altar aboard the Rosario. Five battles were fought and miraculously, the Dutch armada was defeated. The fame of Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval grew in fame and devotees filled her chapel with silver lamps, candlestands and other gifts.

Ravaged by the second world war, the Dominicans decided to relocate the church to another place which is now Quezon City. It was built by Architect Jose Maria Zaragoza and designed according to a 40’s and 50’s modern style architecture. It was inaugurated on October 10, 1954 during the La Naval feast and procession. The La Naval image was taken to this church and Santo Domingo was canonically erected as the National Shrine of the Holy Rosary in the Philippines. (Sto. Domingo Church: The Saga of La Naval@2007)

The two other shrines in Quezon City, the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes is located at Sta. Mesa Heights which was formerly El Retiro and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Broadway. The latter, administered by the Discalced Carmelite Fathers, was built in 1954 and finished in 1964.

In Barangay Guadalupe Nuevo in Makati, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a citadel for the Pro-Life movement, the pro life guardian for the unborn and all forms of life. The parish was elevated to an Archdiocesan shrine by His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin to show the Church’s opposition to contraception, abortion and euthanasia as well as resistance to the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill 4110. The picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only picture of her carrying Jesus in her womb. Our Lady of Guadalupe was made “Patroness of the Philippines” in 1935. (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/192353/center-for-pro-life-advocates-in-makati-now-a-national-shrine).

Another shrine in Makati is Our Lady of the Roses. This image of Our Lady has been venerated since 1718 and is enshrined in what is now St. Peter and Paul Church, near Makati Avenue. The Jesuits brought the original image, made of ivory, from Mexico. It is reported that when the Spanish colonial regime ended, the American forces made a garrison out of the Poblacion church in old Makati in l899.There was no time to remove the statue of Our Lady when the American troops marched in and the carved ivory faces and hands of Mother and Child disappeared. When the loss was discovered, the parishioners commissioned an artisan to carve new faces out of wood. (Monina Allarey Mercado Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 01:09:00 05/18/2008).

Traveling southward of Manila, one can visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Muntinlupa City. The shrine soars above Posadas Village with a beautiful backdrop of Laguna de Bay. The image was donated by the Posadas family. Administered by the Vincentian fathers, the Muntinlupa Shrine was consecrated in September 1980 by Jaime Cardinal Sin and Julio Cardinal Rosales.

Travelling north of Manila, one can visit the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy in Novaliches but along the way, travelling along Epifanio de Los Santos highway, a towering metal image of Our Lady looms amidst the busy commercial Ortigas district .She is Our Lady of Peace enshrined in this Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Peace, more popularly known as the EDSA Shrine. The miracle of a peaceful bloodless revolution to overthrow a dictator is attributed to Mary, thus honoring her with the title Mother of Peace in this landmark.