Most moving of Mary’s title is Nuestra Señora de Desamparados (Our Lady of Forlorn) which recall how in the Spanish City of Valencia in the 15th century, some good folks grouped together to give shelter and aid to the homeless and mentally ill. This helped found the first psychiatric hospital in the world.
May 12 is when Sta. Ana and Marikina annually celebrate the feast of the Our Lady of Forlorn.
The Upriver Kingdom of Namayan
When the parish of Sta. Ana de Sapa was founded in 1578, the site was already ancient as a settlement, being the capital of a kingdom that claimed all the territories enclosed between Manila Bay and the Pasig, from Pasay to Makati. This kingdom is said to be the oldest on the Pasig, outranking Manila and Tundo.
The First Franciscan missionaries to evangelize the region chose to build another settlement some distance away from the ancient town, which was called Namayan. The present church is thus on the site of that new settlement which is why there is some doubt that the graves that have been excavated there are pre-Hispanic.
One theory is that the excavation site was the original graveyard of the church, where early converts were buried in the old native manner –that is, with their jewels and porcelains and other heirlooms. Another conjecture is that the artifacts were buried there by the Chinese who occupied the church after it was abandoned by the friars during the Revolution.
Felix Huertas corroborated the oral account in 1869 when eh wrote that “this town takes its name from the titular saint and the addition of Sapa for its having been established in a site immediately upon an estuary or rivulet proceeding from the Pasig River, which the natives call Sapa and the name of the town itself.” Huertas believed that Sapa was not one but many communities composed of Meycatmon, Calatondangan, Dongos, Dibag, Pinacauasan, Yamagtogon, Maysapan (which became Pasay), Malate, Dilao (Paco), Pandacan, Quiapo, Sampaloc, San Miguel, San Juan del Monte, San Felipe Neri (Mandaluyong), San Pedro de Makati and Taytay.
Huertas further asserted that in his time, these ancient names were still borne by some villages he had mentioned. Moreover, administrative and political records of Spanish Manila indicate that these settlements mentioned as territories of the Kingdom of Sapa were recorded in 1578 as parts and visitas of Sta. Ana de Sapa.
According to Huertas, this upriver kingdom was ruled by Lakan Tagkan or Takhan, and Lady Buan, whose primary residence was in Namayan or Sapa, the heart of the wide kingdom. The two had five children, the principal son Palaba, who sired Laboy, who in turn sired Calamayin, who then later sired a son later converted to the Catholic faith and named Martin. It was also said that Lakan Tagkan had another son, Pasay, by his Bornean slave-wife, to whom bequeathed the territory now known as Pasay.
Old Sta. Ana was a fishing village criss-crossed by brooks and creeks and chiefly noted for its carpenters and masons, its piña-embroidery and cigar factories, its tinapa-makers and brick-makers and sugar refineries. The street called Panaderos attests to a time when Sta. Ana was a bakery center. As the street called Lamayan recalls the ancient capital of King Lacatagcan and Queen Buan.
Virgen del Pozo (TheLady of Well)
Behind the Church was a holy well that drew pilgrim since 1919, when health authorities ordered it to be closed due to a typhoid epidemic. Old people say that the closing of the miraculous well brought on a typhoon and flood that lasted twenty days.
Across the street from the Chapel of the Well is a Chinese chapel also dedicated to Our Lady of Forlorn, where joss sticks are burned on the altar draws crowds of worshipers, both Christians and non-Christians, on the great Chinese holidays.
The Sta. Ana of Old Manila
In the 19th century the riverside of Sta. Ana became an elegant suburb where foreign merchants lived in fine villas and rich Creole had their summer houses.
The American era made Sta. Ana famous for a cabaret billed as “the biggest in the world.” Sta. Ana Junction was where you changed streetcars, from the Pasig shuttle to the city line, or vice-versa -but the Junction was also cultural history.
Round about was where the American soldiery of Fort McKinley shacked up with native girls, producing he mestizaje that gave vaudeville in the 1920s some of its brightest stars.
Today, Sta. Ana’s stables and race tracks, cabaret and junction are gone, but from the baroque altar still stoops the Our Lady of Forlorn and in Maytime is still fiesta time in Santa Ana, when the Patroness is borne forth in procession, accompanied by her parent: St. Joaquin and St. Anne.
Nick Joaquin’s Almanac for Manileños
The River Dwellers by Grace P. Odal
Related Link: Erratum