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|Our Lady of Light of Cainta, Rizal|
by Jovi Atanacio
In 1571, November 30, observed as the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, the first mass in Cainta was celebrated. As such, the town’s parish was referred to as San Andres de Apostol de Cainta during the Spanish time. This date has since become the official founding of Cainta and the start of the Christianization of the lakeshore towns bordering Laguna de Bay.
Cainta's first evangelizer, Fray Alfonso de Alvarado, OSA, also planted the seeds of Catholicism in the towns of Pasig, Taytay and Bay. A small chapel of wood and nipa branches became the central place of worship of the Cainteños.
After the Franciscans, the town was ministered by different religious orders. The Jesuits served from 1591 to 1689, followed by the Augustinians from 1689 to 1696. The Jesuits returned in 1696 and during this time introduced the devotion to Madre Santisima del Lume in 1727. The veneration of Our Lady under the said title is attributed to Fr. Bartolommeo Cavanti, SJ, who hails from Ferrara, Italy.
After the Jesuits came the secular priests who stayed from 1768 to 1931. This group initiated the Holy Week Processions in Cainta in 1790 and Simbang Gabi in the year 1820. An earthquake damaged the church in February 23, 1853. Our Lady of Light was then considered Patrona Segunda. In 1884, Don Luis Remedios prepared the first Tagalog version of the Novena to Our Lady of Light entitled "Pagdedevocion at Pagsisiam sa casantasantahang Virgen ng Caliuanagan." (Devotion and Novena to the Most Holy Virgin of Light). This was petitioned by the parish priest, Don Mariano San Juan, and was approved by Archbishop Pedro Payo, OP, on September 16, the same year. By this time, Our Lady was considered titular of the Church of Cainta.
During the American-Filipino battles of March 1899, the church and rectory were burned. The Americans took down the church walls and used the stones to build roads.
In 1931, the pastoral care of the Cainteños was entrusted to the CICM priests. Fr. Jose Tajon was assigned and since the stone church was in ruins, he had a small wooden church built, which also burned down. It was replaced by a semi-concrete church.
National Artist Fernando Amorsolo was commissioned to paint the present image of Our Lady of Light based on a picture from Guanajuato, Mexico. Construction of the stone church began in 1966 and upon completion was solemnly blessed by His Eminence Rufino Cardinal Santos on February 25, 1968. The Amorsolo painting was installed in her own chapel inside the church. From 1977 to this day, Cainta has been put under the supervision of diocesan priests. On her feastday of December 1, 2007, led by Msgr. Arnel Lagarejos, the newly renovated altar and restored image of Our Lady of Cainta was unveiled and blessed by the Most Rev. Gabriel V. Reyes, D.D. Bishop of the Diocese of Antipolo.
Devotion to Our Lady of Light started in Palermo, Sicily in Italy. The Blessed Virgin appeared to a pious lady and requested that a painting be commissioned and venerated under the title of Maria Madre Santissima del Lume (Mary Most Holy Mother of Light). She is shown in a glorious light surrounded by seraphims. On her head is an imperial crown held by angels and on her waist a girdle adorned with jewels that surpassed the stars. A blue mantle covers her shoulders and head. She is carrying the Child Jesus on her left arm. Her right hand is clutching the arm of a soul saving it from the devouring mouth of Hell. A kneeling angel presents the Divine Child with a basketful of hearts. He has a heart in each hand, inflaming them with His love.
This Marian devotion was also introduced by the Jesuits in Loon, Bohol (1753) known as Birhen sa Kasilak and another version in Horoan, Tiwi, Albay as Nuestra Señora de Salvacion (1776). Her feastday is celebrated every December 1 and a secondary feast every Thursday after Pentecost Sunday.