Pueblo Amante de Maria: A People in Love with Mary PDF Print E-mail

by Josemaria Antonio "Anton" Quintos Luat

"Pueblo Amante de Maria." These are the words that describe most Filipinos. Why? It is because of the very rich Catholic background and Marian history the Philippines has since the 1500s when the Spaniards arrived up to this very day. The Filipinos love Our Blessed Mother very much and everyone knows, with no doubt, that she loves the Filipinos very much as well. Mary is a mother who would love to spoil her children! She is a mother who always stays with her children and that she will never let go, even in their darkest moments.

In the Philippines, this is very evident. Our Blessed Mother has never left and she will always be with us. Many times and up to this present day she keeps telling her Filipino children: "I am here, my children, I will hold onto you." And how has she shown it? In fact, she has always showed it...from the very beginning.

The oldest Marian image in the Philippines dates back to 1571. One of the soldiers of Miguel de Legazpi, the first Spanish Governor-General in the Philippines, found the pagan natives worshipping a statue on top of a pandan bush as he walked on the shores of Manila Bay. When the soldier took a closer look, he found that the image looked very much like the Blessed Mother. The soldier took her image, first to the Cathedral in Intramuros. Later a church was built where many devotees, including Spaniards, came to venerate her. Not long after, her image became known as Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance).

Over the years, more devotees poured into the church, now called Ermita Church in Manila, and prayed before her. On August 9, 1758, a royal decree declared Nuestra Señora de Guia as the "Sworn Patroness” of the city of Manila.


Our Lady is also venerated as "Virgen de la Naval de Manila." This image of the Blessed Mother dates back to 1593 when the Spanish Governor General Luis Perez Dasmariñas commissioned Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel to have a Marian statue sculpted. A non-Catholic Chinese sculptor was commissioned for the task. Later the sculptor converted through the intercession of the virgin.
The image is about 4'8" tall and is made of hard-wood, with ivory face and hands. She has Oriental- Filipina features and her face is almond-shaped, with high-set cheekbones and slanting eyes. On her left arm, she holds her beloved Holy Child Jesus. With her right arm, she holds a royal scepter and staff and her Rosary. The beautiful image was presented to the Dominicans in Manila and was first enshrined in the old Sto. Domingo Church in Pasig.

In 1646, Dutch invaders who wanted to rule over the archipelago and who wanted to replace Catholicism with Dutch Protestant Calvinism threatened to attack Manila. Although unprepared and hardly armed, the Spanish and Filipino troops were forced to face the Dutch invaders. Seeking divine intervention, people prayed fervently before the image of the Blessed Mother in Pasig before each battle. Unexpectedly, the Spanish fleet won all five bloody naval battles against the Dutch invaders. The victory in all the battles were all attributed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. On April 9, 1652, the Spanish fleet’s victory on the five sea battles was declared miraculous by the Cathedral Chapter of Manila after a thorough canonical investigation. This gave rise to the century-old festivities of La Naval de Manila, celebrated every second Sunday of October.

The commemoration of the victory of La Naval de Manila has since become a Marian tradition that brings together generations after generations of Filipino Marian devotees. Today, Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila is one of the best loved Marian images. Her shrine is visited by hundreds of devotees at the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City every single day, and up to hundreds of thousands on her feast day, to thank her for the numerous graces she grants to the devotees.

Another interesting piece of information worth mentioning is the devotion to Mary of the first Filipino Martyr and Saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz. Since Lorenzo was a young boy, he was very devoted to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary and showed his love to Our Blessed Mother very dearly in his daily tasks. His mother, too, was a remarkable devotee of Mary that she would regularly attend novenas and processions in honor of Our Lady. When St. Lorenzo Ruiz was executed in Nagasaki in Japan, he looked up to Our Blessed Mother as he offered his life to his faith. A surviving witness to the courageous martyrdom of St. Lorenzo Ruiz is a lovely image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. Today, this image is called "La Japonesa" by the Filipinos because of her Oriental features. This image of Mary is now displayed in the same church where the “Virgen de La Naval de Manila” is currently enthroned.

On the outskirts of Manila, in the province of Rizal, we have two images of Virgin Mary that are flocked by hundreds and thousands of people. The first one is the Ina ng Kaliwanagan (Our Lady of Light) in Cainta. This devotion to Our Lady of Light was introduced by the Jesuits of Cainta during the 1800s. A little farther, in the town of Antipolo, is the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage), or better known as Our Lady of Antipolo. This image of Our Lady came from Mexico and was brought to the Philippines in 1626 during the height of the galleon trade. Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje was credited with saving the Spanish galleons from destruction by pirates, and Dutch and British blockades. The galleon's safe arrivals were attributed to the miraculous powers of the icon. Her image is reputed to be miraculous and many devotees come to her shrine in Antipolo, especially throughout the whole month of May, to pray and ask for special favors.

One of the famous stories of the miraculous prodigies of Mary’s statue happened in 1639. Chinese residents in the town of Antipolo rioted and started to destroy the whole village. They broke into the church and took everything that they could burn. They lit a fire where they threw the image of Our Lady along with a crucifix. To the amazement of the rampaging Chinese, the image of Our Lady was not consumed by the fire! Also, the corpse of Jesus on the crucifix didn't burn, although the cross did. Angry, the rioters drove lances into the face of the statue of Mary. But shortly thereafter, the civil authorities arrived and arrested the rioters. The statue was recovered and when examined, it bore almost no markings of burning. Miraculous! But the image’s right cheek and neck were gouged by lance blows. To this day, one can still find the marks on the face of Our Lady. This is similar to the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland where two scratch marks made by the Moors are found on the face of Mary’s image.

In Bicol, we have another well-known image of Mary, whose feast day on the third Saturday of September, is said to be one of the biggest Marian celebrations in the Philippines. "Ina" (Mother) is what Filipinos in the Bicol region endearingly call her. One her feast day, the image of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia is carried in a slow moving fluvial procession to the other side of the Bicol river in a boat transformed into a pagoda. Hundreds of people crowd the pagoda while others join the procession in smaller boats. Many favors have been granted through the intercession of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia  is now spreading abroad, thanks to the Bicolanos who always carry with them her image abroad.

Today, in Paco Manila, a church has also been named Our Lady of Peñafrancia where her image is now enthroned and her feast day is celebrated in a festive fashion. The image of Peñafrancia de Manila is said to have been found in the riverbanks of Paco, by the Pasig river, in the 1700's and was immediately brought to the church. But the image disappeared a number of times, only to be found again in the Paco riverbanks. They people realized that Our Lady wanted to stay there, and so a chapel was built on the spot where she was always found. Eventually, a church was built for her where the original image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia de Manila is now enthroned on the altar, adorned by crowns and jewels.

In other places around the Philippines, many other miraculous images of Our Blessed Mother could be found. In the province of Pangasinan, there is the image of Our Lady of Manaoag, which is one of the most venerated Marian images in the country. This famous image is officially known as the patroness of the sick, the helpless and the needy. Thousands of Filipinos visit and pay their homage to Our Lady of Manaoag on her feast day celebrated on the second Sunday of April.

In the town of Piat in Cagayan Valley, we have Our Lady of Piat, now known as the Patroness of Cagayan Valley. The miraculous image of our Lady of the Rosary, as Our Lady of Piat, was sculptured in Macao, then a colony of Portugal. The image was brought to the Philippines by the Dominicans sometime in the year 1604, and placed in Lallo, then the Episcopal See of Nueva Segovia, for the veneration of the people. Thousands of Marian devotees flock to the Basilica Minor de Piat in Cagayan to venerate her image. On June 20, 1954, in a ceremony led by Papal Delegate Egidio Vagnozzi, she was named “Queen of Heaven and Earth.” The Ibanags call her “Yena Tam Ngamin” (Mother of Us All) and to the natives of Piat, Cagayan, she is known as “Apo Baket” (Grand Matriarch).

In the southern part of Luzon, in the town of Taal, Batangas, is Our Lady of Caysasay. Our Lady of Caysasay (Nuestra Señora de Caysasay) is a celebrated 17th-century image of the Immaculate Conception. The image was found by a man named Juan Maningcad while casting his net in the nearby Pansipit River. The image was canonically crowned in 1954 and was later given the title the "Queen of the Archdiocese of Lipa." The feast day of Our Lady of Caysasay is celebrated every December 8 and 9.

In Cavite City is the iconic image of Our Lady of Porta Vaga, also called "Reina de Cavite" (Queen of Cavite) and "La Virgen de la Soledad." The icon of Our Lady is painted on a canvas framed in carved wood. Legend has it that this image of Our Lady was found on the shores of Cavite after a man saw an apparition of Mary in 1692. An inscription found at the back of the painting says: "A doze de Abril 1692 años Juan Oliba puso esta Stma. Ymagen Haqui" ("This most holy image was placed here by Juan Oliba on April 12, 1692").

In the nearby town of Pakil in Laguna, Marian devotees celebrate the Turumba Festival. The festival commemorates the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is held seven times each year between the months of April and May. The first is held on the Friday before Palm Sunday and the last falls on Pentecost Sunday. In Iloilo, the image of Our Lady of Candelaria is believed to be growing. Over the years, the clothes of the statue had to be fixed and repaired frequently. Stories say that when the statue is measured, its height has indeed become taller!

These are just some of the numerous and endless stories about the Blessed Mother in the Philippines. Many stories of Our Blessed Mother -- rescuing people from drowning, saving towns from plagues, from fires and other dangers are common among the Filipinos. Reading these stories, we now know that the Blessed Mother has never left and will never leave us. Our Blessed Mother gives us signs of reassurance that she is truly with us through these miraculous images and through stories of intercession for her children in need of help.

One of the more recent and memorable support and guidance we got from Mother Mary was during the EDSA Revolution of 1986. People turned to Our Blessed Mother and to Our Lord Jesus for help. At EDSA, millions of Filipinos held their hands and prayed the Rosary for days to ask for peace in our country. Many people brought statues and pictures of Our Blessed Mother in the streets and set up altars to seek her intervention. Many people attest to seeing Our Lady appearing in Edsa dissuading the soldiers from attacking the forces of Gen. Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile. The story of Mary’s apparition during the Edsa revolution proves that Our Blessed Mother is always present and truly with them. And Filipinos know that.

Today, if you look at the busy streets of Manila, you will always see a statue or picture of Our Blessed Mother. No matter where you are, you will always see one -- from the sides of jeepneys, to small altars in buses and offices to the market places and to shopping malls; to the bedrooms of houses, to street grottos where candles are lit day and night; to posters that are hung in the busy streets, to the wallets of people, and to the shirts of people. OUR BLESSED MOTHER IS EVERYWHERE! It is evident that Our Beloved Mother still holds our hand and she is always watching her children from above along with Our Lord Jesus. By looking at these, we shouldn't be afraid or worried. We should rejoice that we have a Mother who truly guides us to her Son and Our Father. It is very evident that she loves us without limits and it shows how the Filipinos love her as well. We are people who are in love with Mary and as long as we hold Our Blessed Mother's hand, we are assured that we are going to the right path to Heaven.


Anton Luat is 16-year old high school student. He loves to read religious books and is fascinated with Philippine religious history. He also loves to listen to stories of miraculous images of Our Lord and Our Lady.