The hymn of the International Eucharistic Congress in Manila in 1937 speaks of Filipinos as “a people in love with Mary.”
Filipinos have a love for the Blessed Mother that has brought them through the joys and uncertainties in life. For them, her connection to Jesus, her son, is what keeps their relationship to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts real. They often credit the Blessed Mother and her apparitions with maintaining the Catholic faith in the Philippines.
While the month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, many feast days or fiestas throughout the year are dedicated to representations of the Blessed Mother. In fact, many cities and towns are dedicated to her because of how she prefigured in the establishment of these early settlements.
The following representations of the Blessed Mother are a few legendary apparitions in the Philippines that have saved the people by a variety of miracles, from disastrous fates from foreign invaders to the ensuring of a safe voyage.
Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario - La Naval de Manila (Our Lady of La Naval)
Filipinos say that the Blessed Virgin’s intercession under Our Lady of La Naval helped successfully dismiss invading forces of the Protestant Dutch Republic during the Battles of La Naval de Manila in 1946. The combined Spanish and Filipino forces who fought are said to have prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary before battle.
A lovely statue of Our Lady of the Rosary sculpted in 1539 by a Chinese artist commissioned by the Spanish Governor of the Philippines is today considered a Philippine National Cultural Treasure. Pope Pius X authorized granting the statue a canonical crown in 1906.
The statue later given to the Dominican friars and is now installed at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.
Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia (Our Lady of Penafrancia)
The story of Our Lady of Peñafrancia began in Paris Sept. 4, 1401, when Simon Vela was awoken by a voice, telling him to travel to Peña de Francia (Rock of France), where he would find an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Simon travelled for years and nearly gave up. Then, with the help of five men from a nearby town, he began to dig where the voice had directed. On May 19, 1434, they uncovered an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.
The Filipino tradition of honoring Our Lady of Peñafrancia began in the Bicol region in 1712, when the son of a Spanish government official fell very ill. He and his family prayed to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, and he vowed that if he recovered he would construct a shrine in her name.
When he recovered, he went on to become a priest in Naga City, and started to construct the shrine. During the construction he also ordered for an image to be made, similar to the one he prayed to while he was sick.
Nuestra Señora de la Porta Vaga (Our Lady of Porta Vaga)
According to local legend, a Spanish sentry on duty saw a halo of bright light in storm clouds above Canacao Bay in 1667. The sentry shouted a challenge to the lights as they approached him, but a calm and soothing voice replied to him and told him she was Mary.
The following morning fishermen and workers at the Cavite Royal Arsenal who usually passed through the Porta Vaga gate found a framed image of the Virgen de la Soledad lying on the sandy shore close to the spot where the Virgin appeared the previous night.
They presented the image to a parish priest, who temporarily installed it in a nearby church. Devotees decided to build for her the Ermita de Porta Vaga, a small chapel near the gate of the Porta Vaga, the fortlet guarding the entrance to the Puerto de Cavite. For three centuries, it was a shrine to Our Lady.
In March 2018, the image was granted an official decree of canonical coronation by Pope Francis. A similar Blessed Mother icon called Soledad de Nueva Ecija can be found in San Labrador Parish in Nueva Ecija.
Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Manaoag (Our Lady of Manaoag)
The statue of Our Lady of Manaoag is a 17th-century ivory and silver image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus on display in the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.
Historical documents dating back to 1610 say a farmer walking home heard a mysterious female voice in a treetop, and saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary holding a Rosary and the Child Jesus surrounded by clouds. Mary pointed out to the farmer where she wanted a church to be built. A chapel was constructed on the hilltop and the area is now the centre of the town of Manaoag.
Our Lady of Manaoag is recognized as a patroness of the sick, helpless and needy.
Nuestra Señora de Salvación (Our Lady of Salvation, or Our Lady of Light)
According to written documents, a tenant farmer named Mariano Dacoba was clearing land on an estate in Joroan in the 177os when he chopped down a Calpi tree and noticed that its leaves would not wilt. He informed the landowner in Buhi, who told a local pastor about it.
The pastor commissioned a sculptor to carve images out of the Calpi tree of Our Lady of Salvation, Our Lady of Solitude, and St. Anthony of Padua.
One of the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Salvation was the inability of Muslim invaders to ignite fires to pillage the town, and the people claimed it was because they were praying to the Virgin prior to and during the attacks.
The image was canonically crowned Aug. 25, 1976, as the patroness of the province of Albay.
Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage)
Governor-General Juan Niño de Tabora brought an image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage to the Philippines from Mexico in 1626. His safe passage was attributed to the image and led to six other voyages taking the image aboard, all of which were safe and successful.
Construction of a church for Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage began in the 1630s after the image arrived on the shores of Antipolo, Rizal. The image was said to mysteriously vanish several times from its shrine and reappear atop a tipolo tree, so the church was moved to the site of that tree and its wood was apparently used in some of the construction.
During a revolt in 1639 the image was temporarily transferred to Cavite, then in 1648, moved to Mexico. It would return to Antipolo 100 years later.
Our Lady has truly captivated the hearts of many devotees through the centuries. Altars in Filipino homes are decorated with images of the Blessed Mother, especially those that represent one’s region, and children grow up praying the Rosary every day or as frequently as possible.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has said the Blessed Mother has always shown mercy to Filipinos, especially in the middle of challenges, because “Mary had gone through all that.” He said the connection between Mary and Jesus is what sustains the Filipino faithful, and this devotion is what can help us become channels of mercy for others.
Rosette Correa is a member of the archdiocese’s Filipino Ministry and a teacher at Immaculate Conception school.
To mark the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, The B.C. Catholic is partnering with the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Filipino Ministry to tell stories and personal reflections on Filipino Catholic life and service throughout the year.