The month of May is designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. After a recent spate of violent attacks in our country on Americans of Asian origin, it seems particularly urgent that we would observe this month. Here at Sacred Heart, I’m blessed to serve alongside Catholics who were born in various places throughout Asia. To reference the faith tradition of all their countries of origin would take far too much space, so I’ll focus here on the Philippines.
May is also a month during which we approach our Blessed Mother with particular devotion. At the intersection of these two special months, it seems opportune to share a story of devotion to the Mother of God in the Philippines. Recently I read the story of the Virgin of Antipolo, to whom devotion is especially strong on the Filipino island of Luzon. Here’s just a brief summary of this exciting story:
“In Antipolo, one finds the religious shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, popularly known as the Virgin of Antipolo (Birhen ng Antipolo). The origin of our Virgin of Antipolo dates back to the Spanish era, when galleon trade between the Philippines and Mexico were at its height. On March 25, 1626, Don Juan Niño de Tabora left the shores of Mexico aboard El Almirante to make its voyage to the Philippines. On this trip, Governor Tabora brought along the brown image of our Blessed Virgin Mother.
For three months, the El Almirante safely braved the dangers of the stormy seas and a fire aboard the ship, arriving in the ports of Manila on July 18, 1626. Governor Tabora, realizing that the galleon’s safe and successful journey was due to the presence of the image of the Blessed Virgin on board, called for the pompous celebration of the image’s arrival. Amidst pageantry and fireworks, the procession started from the Church of San Ignacio, the Jesuit Church in Intramuros, up to the Manila Catholic Cathedral, the first house of the Blessed Virgin’s image. It is said that the events surrounding the safe voyage, the Blessed Virgin was named Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje.
During the Japanese occupation, the Blessed Image of our Lady of Antipolo was evacuated to the mountains of Angono, then at Santolan. The five hundred people who journeyed with the Brown Virgin all felt safe through their trips along steep mountain trails. For a while, the Blessed Virgin was housed in the Ocampo residence at Quiapo, previous to its transfer to the Quiapo Church where it stayed until October 15, 1945, then finally got transferred to its original and permanent sanctuary at the Church of Antipolo. Every year, devotees commemorate this transfer, as they join the “Alay Lakad” from Quiapo Church to the Antipolo Cathedral starting at around 8:00 PM (30th of April) until dawn of the following day (1st of May). It is a national tradition in the Philippines to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Antipolo, particularly before departing for a long journey.” (from www.dsj.org)
Do any of our Filipino parishioners have clarifications to what I’ve written above? Are any important parts of the story left out? Do you have stories from your own experience of pilgrimage to meet the Virgin of Antipolo, or of other Marian devotions from the place where you’re from? Please share them with me. I’d love to hear them!
Still today, our Blessed Mother can assist us in finding safe passage during the storms that punctuate our lives. Let’s never cease to seek her intercession to Jesus.