As part of their formation, the members of the Third Order of the Institute of the Incarnate Word had a pilgrimage in the City of Manila last September 30, 2017.

It was a sort of ‘welcome’ to the month of the Holy Rosary since they visited different major Marian shrines of the City, while praying a decade of the Rosary in each shrines, praying and discovering the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines.

First Stop: The Church of the Our Lady of Abandoned, Sta. Ana Manila. 

The Church of Sta. Ana was the first mission of the Franciscans outside Intramuros (Intramuros was the Manila during the Spanish times). The mission began on 1578 and the construction of the present church finished on 1725. The image of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados is a faithful replica of the one venerated in Valencia, Spain. As time passed by, the devotion to this Marian title increased and Filipinos would flock the church asking Mary for her wonderful intercession.

We visited the ‘camarín’ or the dressing room of the Virgin. There we prayed a decade of the Rosary and a short prayer to the Our Lady of Abandoned. The camarín itself is a symbol of Filipino Catholicism, the paintings of the life of Christ which reflects of Filipino art, the Ming-Dynasty Chinese tiles, and the pedestal where the Virgin stands is made of the wood from the Spanish Galleon Sto. Cristo de Burgos. These three races forms the basis of the present Filipino Society, all united with the light of the Gospel.

The church features a Spanish-baroque (Churrigueresque)  styled retablo which features many Franciscans saints. It is one of a kind in the Philippines wherein most of the ancient churches built during the beginning of the nation were bombed by American ‘friendly-fires’.

Behind the church, there is a well of miraculous water, Pozo de La Virgen it was called. We were able to descend down the well and prayed especially for healings.

Second Stop: Our Lady of Remedies Church, Malate, Manila

The 17th -century image of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is enshrined in an old church built by Augustinian missionaries in Malate (from the word maalat, salty), Manila facing the famous Manila Bay. Our Lady of Remedies is invoked as patroness of childbirth. Wars with the English and the Japanese has destroyed the church, but it has been rebuilt while the exterior remained intact.

Third Stop: Our Lady of Guidance, Ermita, Manila

Of particular importance to the history of the Catholic Church in the Philippines is the image of Our Lady of Guidance in Ermita (formerly La Hermita), Manila. In 1571, a Spanish soldier who accompanied Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in his expedition to Manila, discovered the image of the Immaculate Conception being worshiped by the pagan natives on top of Pandan tree. Since there were no documents testifying to its origin, it is presumed to be brought together with the image of Sto. Niño de Cebu by Ferdinand Magallanes. This image of Our Lady might have been given as a gift to one of the local kings of Manila. In 1578, King Philip II declared Nuestra Señora de Guia as the sworn patroness of Manila. This is is the oldest Marian image in the Philippines. The church is built on the place where the image was found. Presently, the image sits on a pandan leaves-styled pedestal.

Nuestra Señora de Guia, as the name suggests, could be the ‘praeparatio evangelica’ of the Filipino people. It has prepared the hearts of the natives to accept the Blessed Virgin Mary as their mother, to embrace her as the Immaculate Conception, and make the rosary as their, using the same words of Pius XII, “national devotion of the Filipinos”.

When St. John Paul II visited Manila in 1995, the original image accompanied him in his room at the Apostolic Nuntiature. The chair he used during the World Youth Day ’95 is also found in the church.  This image was also present during the Papal Masses of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, both having the largest attendants in the world history.

The district was called La Hermita, after the Mexican hermit who lived there with his lay confraternity ‘Misericordia‘, dedicated to the works of mercy and charity. Later, it became a district of Manila’s well-to-do, even speaking a variant of the Spanish language (known as Chavacano. Chavacano Ermitense is now extinct). Among those who lived where the greatest Filipino poets who wrote in Spanish: Leon Maria Guerrero and Jesus ‘Batikuling‘ Balmorri.

During the Second World War, the whole district was bombed and ruined, including the revered church. However, the miraculous image was spared and a new church was built in 1947.

Fourth Stop: Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Intramuros, Manila

We prayed the fourth decade of the Holy Rosary at the Manila Cathedral found in Intramuros. Intramuros was the Manila during the Spanish times, the center of the government of the whole Filipinas. The Cathedral was first built in 1581, but fires, earthquakes and war have since destroyed it. The present one was built on 1958 under the leadership of Rufino Cardinal Santos.

The Immaculate Conception is the principal patroness of the whole Philippines, as confirmed by Pope Pius XII.

Fifth Stop: Sto. Niño de Tondo Church, Tondo, Manila

Our last stop was the Church of Sto Niño de Tondo, to signify that every Marian devotion leads to a greater love for Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary. There, we were able to venerate the centuries-old image of Sto. Niño de Tondo, which originally came from Mexico in the year 1572.

The Augustinian Missionaries  built the church in 1625. The present one was built circa 1873.

The devotion to the Sto Nino de Tondo is one of the most popular in the Philippines–as the Sto. Nino itself was used by the missionaries to propagate the faith in these islands. Once, the Kingdom of Tondo had Lakan Dula as its ruler. The light of faith came to this marvellous land and since then, it has been the Sto. Niño who is ruling over the Philippines.

We thank God and the Blessed Virgin Mary to organize this first pilgrimage of the Third Order. May inspire more people to deepen their devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially in this country who proudly calls herself pueblo amante de María.

*photos courtesy of Marilyn Malaluan