For the Love of Mama Mary: Who Mother Mary is to Filipinos PDF Print E-mail

by Josemaria Antonio "Anton" Quintos Luat

Who is the Blessed Virgin Mary to the people? Many people around the world will say, "she is the Mother of God and our Mother, my Mother." People from all walks of life honor Mary in their own ways.

What about the Philippines? Devotion for her in this small country stands out along many dimensions.

In many parts of the world, she is called the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Madonna, Notre Dame, the Theotokos, or Nuestra Senora.

But in the Philippines, we call her simply, “Mama Mary.” As put by Fr. James Reuter SJ, "Other nations speak of the Virgin Mary, of Our Blessed Mother; but only Filipinos call her "Mama." This is very unique because it shows the innocence, the child-like attitude and trust which Filipinos have for her.

In many countries of Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal, you'll find many processions in honor of Mary. Her statue is adorned with regal clothes and is borne in gilded carrozas.

The Philippines has many Marian processions too. Now, the only difference is that here you find MILLIONS joining in the procession. Think, for example, of the festival in Naga city for Our Lady of Penafrancia every September. And here’s a quirk about our versions – even criminals and thieves join the processions. They come often to ask forgiveness for their sins from God through Mama Mary's intercession.

In many countries there stand shrines to Our Lady. The Americans have built a great Basilica in honor of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, at the National Shrine. In Mexico, Mary is fervently honored as Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas. In Italy, around 85% of their shrines are all dedicated to the Blessed Mother. In Europe and in North America, some of their Shrines of Mama Mary are huge and many tourists walk into the churches to take pictures.

We too have many Marian shrines here. The difference is that in the Philippines, the shrines are always full of people. The people come not as tourists taking pictures but as pilgrims praying to God and the Mother of God. And yes, the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baclaran is probably among the very few in the world open 24/7.

We even have a Marian shrine born from a Revolution. The shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace along the EDSA highway is a reminder of our 1986 People Power Revolution. At that very spot, we toppled a dictator without using guns or bombs as weapons. Rather, we stopped tanks by massing there, praying the rosary. The event is even called the Revolution of the Rosary.

Mama Mary is ever present in common Filipino culture. In every street corner where vendors sell food, you'll always find a small picture, stampita, or statue of Mama Mary. Many homes have a grotto of her. Some are even big and capture the exact features of the grotto in Lourdes, France. In taxis you'll always find a small statue of Mama Mary and a Rosary hanging by the rear view mirror. There are pictures of Mama Mary painted on the sides of jeeps and tricycles.

She is everywhere in the Philippines. It is no wonder then why people call Filipinos the Pueblo Amante de Maria- a People in Love with Mary.

Jesus saw his own mother, and the disciple standing near whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son". Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother". And from that hour, he took his mother into his family.

-- John19: 26-27


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.