Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Manaoag, Pangasinan, Philippines
Commemorated on April 21
In the 1600s, not long after many natives converted to Catholicism, word spread that a Pangasinan man coming home from his farm had seen the Virgin. As night fell, the man saw a light on a hill; drawing nearer, he saw the radiant form of a mother holding her infant standing in a tree. She called him by name, then said, “Son, I want a church here in my honor. My children shall receive many favors in this place.” Although the local priest discounted the man's story, pilgrims began coming and miracles occurring. A surge of grassroots devotion organized around a bamboo chapel at the apparition site, containing a Spanish ivory statue brought in 1605 by Dominican missionary Juan de San Jacinto. The place began to be known as Manaoag, from "mantatawag," the call. Around 1670, Dominican pastor Diego de Ballesteros built a new church for the image near the old mission chapel of Santa Monica on the Baloquin River. But on the day the statue was to be transferred, the new building had vanished without a trace. Everyone, including the skeptical clergy, decided this meant Heaven was serious about the desired location of Our Lady's church. In 1710, some Spanish benefactors, Gaspar Gamboa and his wife Agatha Yangta, funded construction of a magnificent church at the apparition site, officially donated to the Dominicans in 1733 and dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Santissimo Rosario. A hundred years later, a series of earthquakes ruined the structure, but the statue survived and continued to receive pilgrims in the rubble. In the late 1800s, work began on a new church, almost completed when the Philippine Revolution broke out against the Spanish. Both the priests and the Virgin went into hiding; rebels looted and burned the shrine. When the Dominicans returned in 1901, they found a lone saint, Fr. Mariano Pacis, tending to the spiritual life of Manaoag. By 1920, they had rebuilt the church. Msgr. Guillermo Piani, Apostolic Delegate of the Philippines, crowned the statue on April 21, 1926. Pilgrims continue to flock to the shrine, for Saturday blessing of vehicles, fiestas on the third Wednesday after Easter and the first Sunday of October, and for help throughout the year from the patron of the sick, needy, and helpless and the province of Pangasinan.
Picture from Fr. Daniel Couture, "The Philippines: Kingdom of the Rosary!" Newsletter of the District of Asia, Oct.-Dec. 2001, Society of St. Pius X, www.sspxasia.com. Information from "About Our Lady of Manaoag," Devotees of Our Lady of Manaoag (Chicago), www.dolmanaoag.com.