Our Lady of Solitude PDF Print E-mail

altOur Lady of Solitude or Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary during her life’s most desolate. This is the time between Jesus’ horrible death on Good Friday and His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. She has been widowed by St. Joseph and has just witnessed Her Son’s Passion, Crucifixion and Death.

This sad but meaningful title of Our Lady is portrayed in three venerated icons – one in Cavite City, Cavite; one in Binondo, Manila and another in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.

In all three icons, Our Lady is shown clad in black mourning clothes, kneeling before the instruments of torture – the nails, crown of thorns, INRI sign, spear, ladder, pliers, hammer, length of rope, scourge, etc. Angels are shown on both sides as if parting the curtains to reveal the grieving Mother.

 Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, Cavite City

Of the three icons, the one in Cavite is the most popular and honored as the Patroness of the entire city. She is venerated there as Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga. Known for her miracles, this image was canonically crowned by then Apostolic Nuncio Bruno Torpigliani, DD in solemn rites on November 17, 1978. This year, 2010 marks the 32th Anniversary of the coronation.

In the 1600s, the icon of Ynang Nag-iisa was found by Jose, a young Spanish sentry, at the entry port known as Porta Vaga (Puertang Bago or New Door). The image was said to have vanished, only to be found again at the same spot where Jose initially discovered it. The parish priest, Fr. Ignacio advised Jose to return it to the site where the image was first seen. Soon a visita, then a hermitage was built on the said location to house the icon.

Another version of the story was that the icon was found in the morning after a supposed apparition of Our Lady to a soldier. As he was keeping watch in the night, he saw a woman in black walking by the port. He called out to her to stop. A fragrance suddenly filled the air and the lady, in a sweet voice said, “Little soldier, don’t you recognize Mary? Why do you block her way?” The soldier fell to his knees and apologized humbly. The lady then, vanished.

The image has miraculously survived and remained intact after a lightning bolt hit and burned its hermitage in 1830. It also escaped unscathed from the floods of 1856. In 1857, a Spanish frigate caught in a violent storm in Albay was also saved after its crew prayed to the icon of Porta Vaga.

The hermitage was destroyed during World War II. After the war, the image was found at a junkyard. It was taken to the Archbishop’s Palace in Intramuros then to the Philippine National Bank. After the liberation, the image was returned to Cavite and installed at the San Roque Parish Church, where it is still venerated to this day.

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, San Isidro, Nueva Ecija

altA lesser known version of the Soledad is venerated in Nueva Ecija. In a leaflet written by Jaime C. Laya, he narrates that the icon has occupied a niche above a side altar of the town church and that it was honored in a fluvial procession on the Rio Grande de Pampanga. This tradition was held from the mid-19th century till the 1920s. In 1982, the image mysteriously vanished. It was thought to have been stolen but no police record exists to support this.

Sometime after its disappearance, the image found its way to an antique dealer in Manila and was purchased by a private individual. Upon hearing rumors of a missing icon venerated in Central Luzon, the buyer confronted the antique shop owner who insisted that it was taken to the shop legitimately. The owner kept the icon but informed some of his friends including Mr. Laya of its story.

In October 2002, Mr. Laya had a business meeting with Arch. Cristina Turalba who mentioned a project in San Isidro. Remembering the icon, he asked her if she knew anything about the town’s patron. Arch. Turalba also researched on the patron and upon further inquiries, it was confirmed by Mayor Sonia R. Lorenzo that their “patrona” has been missing.

An old sacristan of the church by the name of Ruperto Flores provided the icon’s description. Mang Ruping narrated that it was “ukit” or painting on wood, enclosed in an ornate solid-silver frame. It is a 19th century work, depicting the grieving Mary – similar to the one honored in Cavite. Aside from the instruments of torture, the painting is embellished by gold and silver appliques – the Holy Spirit, angels, virgin’s golden rostrillo, her cloak with its silver lining and metal stars, silver boat-like pillow, a letter “V” and a galleon.

The elaborate silver frame done in baroque, depict vines, leaves and flowers. Within this frame is a faded, crimson velvet background with silver miniatures of an empty cross, two ladders, nails and hammer. Also shown are an angel holding a chalice, Veronica’s veil with three faces of Christ, a reed, a man in priestly robes, a spear, a pitcher (Pilate), a rooster and key (St. Peter), a pillar (scourging), a sponge on a pole, and eyes (probably an ex-voto given in thanksgiving for restored sight.)

Upon hearing the sacristan’s exact description of the icon, the buyer returned the missing image to its rightful owner, hoping that it will receive better security and care. After about 20 years, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is again venerated in San Isidro Labrador Church.

altNuestra Señora de la Soledad de Camba, Binondo, Manila

Venerated in a little chapel, a few meters from C. M. Recto Avenue in Manila, is another version of the Soledad. Though not much is known of the image, it is said to have been honored since 1884.

Miracles have also been attributed to this mysterious icon. It is said that the entire neighborhood where it resides has always been protected from the fires which gutted the Binondo area many times. The Camba district has also been spared from other kinds of calamities and even the ravages of wars. Soledad de Camba’s feast day is every January 1.

Sources:
Our Lady of Solitude of Porta Vaga Ynang Maria by Mary Anne Barcelona and Consuelo B. Estepa, Ph. D.
Our Lady of Solitude A Purely Personal Book of Miracles by Josephine Clemente Darang
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad by Jaime C. Laya
The “Once Lost” Virgin of Salvation in Albay and the Mystical Madonna of Camba by Ma. Ethel V. Valiente

Compiled and photos taken by JoVi Atanacio