MEET THE PILGRIMS.  Traveling with friends I haven’t seen in years is a special occassion to touch base and recall the good old days when we were in what used to be an all-boys Catholic school in Mendiola.  The itinerary set for us by Moses, who came to town after recently passing the bar exam in Australia covers a thanksgiving pilgrimage in Manaoag, lunch in Alaminos, dinner in Pampanga, and several hours on the road. The pilgrims aboard two SUVs rendezvoused at a 24-hour burger joint along NLEX. In the one SUV were Moses, Niño, JM,  Rod, and myself. In the other were Traj, Laica, Lailani, Mickey, and Casey.

At 5 a.m., like rowdy school children on a field trip, we rolled northwest through Bulacan and the last town of Tarlac to reach urbanized Urdaneta City.  We knew we were in rural Pangasinan when the monotonous view of rice fields and sugar cane plantations were broken by alternating vistas of nipa mangroves, fishpond, and stalls selling freshly harvested oysters along the highway.



SITIO SANTA MONICA. The town of Manaoag was originally named after the mother of the saint that founded the Augustinian order. The Augustinians established Sitio Santa Monica in 1595 and was succeeded by the Dominicas in 1605.

Wedding rites were being held when we arrived in Manaoag Church at mid-morning. Under the enormous, octagonal dome in front of the main altar were a couple exchanging I do’s before the ivory image Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Manaoag.



THE LADY WHO CALLS. How the town was renamed
Manaoag is narrated in a folk story. A farmer on his way home from a day on the field was surprised to see a glowing tree that took the shape of the Virgin Mary. A voice from the apparition instructed him to build a church on the site. He rushed to the mission house to report the message but he was dismissed by the friar. The story of the apparition spread throughout other towns and soon pilgrimages were made on apparition site of the Dinad Apo ya mantatawag (the Lady who calls). The phrase was eventually made shorter to Manaoag.

Just like the generations of pilgrims who came to the town of Manaoag, our group whispered our prayers to the Lady who calls.



PILGRIM RITUALS. It has been a tradition among pilgrims to light candles with their petitions at the candle gallery behind the church. Prayer candles with printed image of the Virgin are sold by ambulant vendors and at the church’s souvenir shop. Some votive candles come in different shapes and colors.

At the souvenir shop, pilgrims buy statues of the Virgin, rosaries, and bottles of coconut oil that is believed to be a cure-all for different illnesses. Some bottles sold along the roadside contain roots and sundry objects infused in oil. Pilgrims gather around a priest stationed near the holy water dispenser to have their religious articles blessed. Some pilgrims request the priest to recite prayers and sprinkle holy water into their vehicles.



THE ROADSIDE EMPORIA. Outside the church complex is a kaleidoscope of local colors, flavors, and shapes from the yellow green banana leaf wrapped around the yummy tupig and the glossy golden basket that contains the patupat, an Ilocano version of suman to the sweet chico pineras and cylindrical rootcrop called togue.

From the roadside emporia, I finally choose to bring home an alat basket with its flexible bamboo cone lid called the hasang where freshly caught fish is dropped into this wide-shouldered fish creel.



LUNCH AT ALAMINOS.  With our souls nourished and tummies starving, we left Manaoag an hour before lunch and raced further into Pangasinan to Alaminos, a town famous for the Hundred Islands. But for a group of hungry friends, Alaminos will forever be synonymous to the warm hospitality and sumptuous lunch prepared for us by Hecson Lee.

For lunch, Hecson served us with food to die for begining with the papaitan. Paired off with steaming, fragrant rice, the shrimp and crabs dish were heavenly. The longanisa, the bangus, and the chopseuy are found elsewhere but the fliar and flavor is endemic only in the Alaminos home of Hecson Lee. Before leaving, our thoughful host gave each of us a personalized souvenir.



PALUTO IN PAMPANGA. We reached Angeles City to meet our friend Harvey just in time for dinner. A well-loved public servant, councilor Harvey served as our student council president back in college.

Just like how we were back in the day, we exchanged stories and reminisced college days while we feasted on Kapampangan-style paluto of chicharon bulaklak, liempo, bulalo, pork and chicken barbeque, stuffed hito and squid that Harvey personally selected for us from a smorgasbord of meat and seafood.


EPILOGUE. Just like for most of us with the Christmas season, December is a busy time for councilor Harvey especially a week before the Lantern Festival in San Fernando. We’re thankful we found time to reunite.

Harvey proposed to set another get together this time at Abe’s Farm in Magalang or at Atching Lilian in Mexico or witness the Mal a aldo on Good Friday. He promised to give us the front seat to this bloody street theater in barrio Cutud. With all these, we found another reason to gather for another roadtrip just like how we did in Manaoag and Hecson Lee’s Pangasinan. Pampanga is an equally interesting province waiting to be explored with friends.

-10 December 2016
Feast of the Our Lady of Loreto | Human Rights Day

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 7:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Intramuros Grand Marian Procession

Grand Marian Procession

FIESTA OFICIAL. There are two dates in December that were assigned by the Catholic Church as holy days of obligation, one is the birthday of Jesus on the 25th and the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion on the 8th. I remember back in grade school when the 8th of December was declared as fiesta oficial and our teacher would remind students to go to mass on that day.

In the Spanish colonial days, everyone attended the solemn
Te Deum at the Cathedral in Intramuros. In the evening, the Walled City was illuminated by candles from carrozas carrying images of the Blessed Mother and from every window hung the blue and white colors of the Virgin.



GRAND MARIAN PROCESSION. The tradition continues to this day in Intramuros as the Grand Marian Procession that is usually held on the Sunday closest to December 8. Venerated images of the Blessed Virgin from Piat to Zamboanga are brought out from the church’s altar and from private homes to Intramuros for this annual congress of magnificent carrozas and images of the Virgin Mary dressed in extravagant embroidery studded with gold thread and gemstones and ostentatiously accessorized with gold and silver fittings.

The procession is the longest and most flamboyant religious parade of different representations of the Mother of God in country. Images are accompanied by joyful marching bands and colorful folk dancers complete with fiesta props.

Grand Marian Procession Consolacion y Correa

Grand Marian Procession Piat

MARY LAND. The Marian cult in the Philippines began with the finding of the image of the Lady on top of a pandan bush. According to the legend, when Magellan arrived in Cebu, he presented to the wife of Rajah Humabon the images of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The converted queen chose to keep the Child Jesus. The image had become the venerated image known as the Sto. Niño de Cebu. In 1571, the a member of the Legaspi Expedition found the image of the Virgin Mary enshrined on a screw pine on a beach in the village of Lagyo. It is believe that this is the same image that Magellan presented to the queen years earlier. This image is enshrined in Ermita Church as the Nuestra Señora de Guia.

From the Nuestra Señora de Guia, a Marian cult multiplied in different parts of the country as the Nuestra Señora de la: Inmaculada Concepcion, Consolacion y Correa, Paz y Buen Viaje, Santo Rosario, Medalla Milagrosa, Dolores de Turumba, Soledad de Porta Vaga, Piat, Pronto Socorro, Perpetuo Socorro, Buensuceso, Regla, Desamparados, Divina Pastora, Porteria, Carmen, O (La O of Pangil), los Remedios, Pilar, Peñafrancia, Manaoag, Casaysay, Salambao, Aranzazu, Montserrat, Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Estrella, Angeles, Gracia, Rosa, Candelaria, Caridad and so on.

Grand Marian Procession Aetas

Grand Marian Procession Ina Poon Bato

OUR LADY OF THE AETAS. In Zambales, there is legend about the image of the Blessed Mother that antedates the arrival of the Spaniards. According to the legend, an Aeta chieftain named Djagig was resting after an unsuccessful hunt when he heard a woman’s voice calling Djagig take me home. Turning around, he found an image of a woman perched on a rock. The chieftain took it home but his disappointed wife threw it into the fire but the image did not burn. Djagig announced the the miracle to his tribe. When the first Recollect friars came to Zambales in 1607, they went to the Aeta village to see the famous wooden icon. The friars were surprised upon seeing the image of the Blessed Mother that came before them.

The image was brought to the parish church. It stayed there until the Philippine Revolution when a group of katipuneros killed the parish priest Fray Julian Gimenez and brought the image to an Aglipay Church. In 1976, a Columbian priest commissioned famous santorero Maximo Vicente to sculpt a replica of the
Ina Poon Bato.

Grand Marian Procession Intramuros


EPILOGUE. As we have seen in the Intramuros Grand Marian Procession, there are hundreds of icons of the Blessed Mother all over the country that are enshrined and venerated in churches and are in custody of families and private individuals. Each are surrounded with legends and stories of miracles like Pakil’s Turumba, Quezon City’s Santo Rosario de La Naval, San Mateo’s Virgen de Aranzazu, Antipolo’s Virgen dela Paz y Buenviaje and so much more.

But more than the many ways we call the Blessed Mother and the several ways we celebrate her fiesta, it would seem of the several wishes and pleas from the people described as pueblo amante de Maria many have been granted in the mysterious workings of prayer to the first follower of Jesus Christ.

8 December 2015
Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion

Published in: on December 8, 2015 at 12:01 am  Comments (1)  

Traveler on Foot Year 6


TOF is six years old today. Thank you for traveling with us.

Published in: on January 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm  Comments (5)  

La Naval de Manila Procession


PROCESION DE LAS PROCESIONES. I like reading essays about Intramuros that refer to this now popular tourist destination in the past tense usually with reference to prewar Old Manila or even older like Ciudad Murada. Writers like Nick Joaquin and Alejandro Roces immortalize Intramuros, its cobbled streets, its seven glorious churches, its traditions and processions.

October in the old walled city was so famously nostalgic because this was the month of grandest procession called La Naval de Manila. Touted during the prewar years as the procesion de los procesiones, the event pays tribute to the Blessed Virgin as Nuestra Señora de Santissimo Rosario for Her miraculous intervention during a series of naval battles in 1646. The battle concluded in favor of the Spaniards over the Dutch pirates.

LA NAVAL DE QUEZON CITY. Nick Joaquin left us with a description of Old Manila’s procesion de los procesiones. He said that in an October evening while watching this procession of La Naval, and having divined, by a general excitement, the approach of the image, he has heard the cries of trumpets of the passing concourse. He has seen her blazed into vision against the skies of his city, born upon cloud of incense and music, her face on fire with jewels and mysterious with the veneration of centuries, with gleaming rainbows forming and falling all about her and silken doves bobbing whitely among her flowers of gold and silver –Oh, beautiful and radiant as an apparition! –the Presence at Lepanto, Lady and Queen and Mother of Manila and Virgin of the Fifteen Mysteries.

Centuries passed, La Naval remains one of the most venerated images of the Blessed Virgin in the country. While the procession is no longer held in Intramuros since the Gothic Dominican church where the image of the La Naval was originally enshrined was destroyed during World War II. Today, the grand procession is held at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.

TREASURES OF LA NAVAL. The image of the La Naval was a legacy of Governor General Luis Perez Dasmariñas. He wanted a statue to memorialized both his deceased father who was murdered by the Chinese and the his own regime. The beautiful image was carved from ivory by a non-Catholic Chinese who was later converted. Governor Dasmariñas entrusted the image to the Dominicans. During World War II, La Naval together with Her vestments, jewels and crowns miraculously survived the inferno that reduced the old Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros to rubble and ashes.

The image we see today follows the Old Manila tradition of dressing the La Naval in yards of precious tisu de oro embroidered with silver gilt thread. The high-karat golden crowns of the Virgin and the Infant Jesus are studded with various precious jewels mostly gifts from generations of devotees who considered the Virgin as another heiress of the family jewels. True story or myth, the treasures of the La Naval range from a red gem on the image’s head said to have come from the mouth of a giant serpent in the Pasig and the jewels given by Prince Norodom I of Cambodia to two maidens in Bulacan, Josefa and Ana Roxas during his 1872 visit to Manila. These jewels were donated to the La Naval but was never seen. Also, we have yet to see the National Artist medallion offered by Nick Joaquin to the Virgin.

TIME-HONORED TRADITION. The La Naval procession in Old Manila only featured ten statues of Dominican saints namely San Pedro Verona usually depicted with an axe on his head, San Vicente Ferrer with angel wings, Santo Tomas de Aquino with book, Santo Domingo de Guzman with his dog, Santa Rosa de Lima with infant Jesus, San Jose with child Jesus, etc. They are interspersed with estandares of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

It was a time-honored tradition in Old Manila for the faithful to kneel reverently even on the Intramuros cobbled streets as the image of the Nuestra Señora de Santissimo Rosario passed by during the La Naval de Manila Procession.

WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN. The line-up of Dominican saints in the La Naval de Quezon City procession includes Filipino saints San Lorenzo Ruiz and other Asian saints like Sto. Tomas Khuong, Sta. Maria Magdalena de Nagazaki and San Vicente Liem de la Paz. 

Interesting are the saints with their symbols and their stories like the crowns held by a cherub on the feet of Sta. Margarita de Ungria because she was of royal descent who refused marriage to a king. The monstrance and image of Mama Mary held by San Jacinto de Odrowatz, who is also venerated by the Aglipay Church. The philosopher San Alberto Magno is depicted tilting to his right was inspiration to the tilting typeface called Albertus.

EPILOGUE. Some years ago, we took part with the thousands of devotees who thronged Sto. Domingo Church for the centenary of the canonical coronation of the first Marian image in the Philippines and in Asia.

We witnessed how a crowd went on a state of energetic calm while waving their white handkerchiefs in the air as the boat-shaped carroza bearing the La Naval exited the main door of Santo Domingo Church to the streets.

-Feast of Nuestra Señora de Santissimo Rosario La Naval 2011
Patroness of Quezon City

Felipe Soliman and the Jars of Gold

The great Nick Joaquin left us with tales and legends about old Intramuros. The story of Felipe Soliman, said to be a descendant of Rajah Soliman is our favorite. Here’s how Joaquin retold the story.

Towards the end of the Spanish era, there lived in Paco a stonemason by the name of Felipe Soliman. Like many descendants of the old kings of Maynilad, he had fallen on hard time, hardly able to support a large family on his earnings as mason. One night he was approached by a thin old Spaniard who said he had a piece of work for Soliman to do, and would pay well for it, but on three conditions: the job must be finished that very night; Soliman must swear to tell no one about it; and he must allow himself to be blindfolded on the way to and from the site of the job.

Badly needing the money, Soliman agreed. He joined the Spaniard in his rig, was sworn to secrecy and blindfolded, and taken away. When his blindfold was removed, Soliman found himself in the courtyard if a large old house. The Spaniard said he wanted a tomb built under the paving of the courtyard.

Soliman set the work at once. He dug a hole and cemented it. Then he helped the old Spaniard bury what had to be entombed, which turned out to be three big jars filled with gold coins, gold bars, and gold jewelry. After the tombs was covered and the paving replaced, Soliman was again blindfolded and taken home. On his earnings for that night, his family lived a bit more comfortably for a time.

Several years had passed when Soliman was summoned to repair an old house in Intramuros. The Spanish señora who owned it sighted that repairing the old house was really a waste of money; no one cared to rent it because it was supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a former tenant: an old Spanish miser who had died without leaving a centavo. He had been buried for years but at night, in this house, he could be heard clinking his gold in the courtyard.

One look at the courtyard and Soliman knew he had been there before. He made a bargain with the Spanish señora: let her allow him to live in the house rent-free while he was repairing it and he promised to get rid of the ghost.

He was a good as his word. The house was repaired, the haunting ceased, and the mason surprised the señora by offering to buy the property. Since the Revolution had broken out and the señora wished to retire to Spain, the sale was made. Now a rich man, and growing richer through investment, Soliman lived like a king in that old mansion in Intramuros, where, on the very same spot, his ancestor, Rajah Soliman, had palace in the bays when Maynilad was a Kingdom by the sea.

-Nick Joaquin, The Seven Golden Cities of the Sun

Published in: on August 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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