About Our Lady of Manaoag
Manaoag. . . the call with a message:
Manaoag is 385 years old. Progress and modernity has altered the landscape but much of its natural features remain. The winding rivers that have carried the water from the mountain streams up north of the Lingayen Gulf still flow their course. The hills, once verdant with thick forests are still there but are now laid bold by the inroads of human civilization. The traces of its early recorded history can be seen in several places. There are the portions of the massive brick walls of the churchyard and the cemetery which have been built several centuries ago. And there are few old houses according to the design of past architectural eras which can be found standing alongside modern glass-louvered bungalows and 2-storey residences.
MANAOAG : It’s beginning:
Manaoag occupies an idyllic sit. It lies where the chain of low hills that are part of the Sierra Madre ranges meet with the wide level plains of Central Luzon. It shares a common boundary with Pozorrubio in the north; Binalonan in the east; Urdaneta and Mapandan in the south, and San Jacinto and Sison in the west and northwest. It is traversed that the three narrow rivers and several streams that wind their way up west. Centuries of sitting raised the bed of these rivers and during the rainy months they swell up easily. Very often they cause floods that cause havoc to life and property. Almost every year, the southern barrios get cut off from the poblacion when the flood waters carry away the weak wooden bridges that span these rivers.
Manaoag has an area of about 9,600 hectares and a population of about 57 thousand. The chief industry of the people is farming and the main crops are rice and sugar cane. Other crops are tobacco, vegetables, peanuts and corn. Minor industries are handicrafts, animal raising and quarrying.
The town boasts of the first mechanized sugar mill in the country but at the present its Hind Sugar Central is the smallest in the country. The reason for this is the absence here of the large sugar cane haciendas. Millers here are small cane planters who own small-sized plantations. There are many marginal planters who sell their cane to quota holders of this and other centrals in neighboring Tarlac province. Others mill their cane in small presses called “darapilan” and produce molasses which they sell to manufacturers of “bucayo” in Calasiao and Dagupan City. Still others ferment the cane juice into vinegar or “basi.”
Outside its boundary, Manaoag is known more as a pilgrimage town than anything else. Every Saturday and Sunday, thousands ofpeople converge in this town to attend Mass in the venerable Catholic Church. Center of devotion is the Lady of the Holy Rosary, otherwise known locally as Nuestra Senora de Manaoag or just plain Apo Baket.
The ivory image of the Lady which is enshrined in the high altar of the Church is several centuries old and is said to possess miraculous powers. Pilgrimages reaches their peak during the Lenten Season and in May and October during the feast of the Holy Rosary.
The earliest known history of Manaoag tells as that it began as a small settlement of Cawili, now the town of San Jacinto. In about the year1600 some people set out settlement on the west side of what is known today as the Baloquin River. They built their houses of bamboo and cogon grass, both of which grew abundantly in the hills nearby. The settlement grew and prospered and became the envy of the mountain tribes in the north. Very often these hardy mountaineers would come down and raid the settlements. The inhabitants would flee in terror and seek refuge in the nearby bamboo forests.
Later on, a Christian mission was set up in the place. There were times when the priests came and could not find the natives. Then they would say “fugaron” (they have fled) and would point to a place nearby where the natives fled for safety. From the word came the name “pugaro” which became the name of the barrio north of the Poblacion.
The Early Missions:
The earliest Christian mission in Manaoag was established by the Augustinians sometime between 1595 and 1600. The province of Pangasinan was then under their pastoral care and missionaries from Lingayen occasionally visited the settlement by the Baloquin river. In time the people of the settlement were converted to Christianity and a small mission chapel was built to serve religious needs of the settlers. The mission was placed under the patronage of Sta. Monica and for sometime, Manaoag was simply known as the mission of Sta. Monica.
At about the same time however, the Augustinians began withdrawing from Pangasinan to Zambales and the Ilocos Region. So Bishop Diego de Soria, O.P. who was at that time Archbishop and governor of Manila and also administrator of the province of Pangasinan, offered the province to Dominican confreres. The earliest Dominican arrived in Pangasinan at Binalatongan (now San Carlos City) in 1598, and in the year 1600, they took over the Mangaldan mission. Since Mangaldan was the nearest Dominican outpost to Manaoag, the mission of Sta. Monica by the Baloquin river was taken over by the Mangaldan mission. The first Dominican priest to work in the mission was Fr. Juan de San Jacinto, O.P. who was also the curate of Mangaldan. It was not until 1608, however, that the Sta. Monica mission was formally accepted by the provincial chapter of the Dominican Order. In 1600, Fr. Tomas Jimenez, O.P. took over the mission as the first resident priest.
Relocation of the Mission:
The residency of a priest in the small Christian community of Sta. Monica did not, however, stop the predations of the mountain tribes upon the settlement. Moved by his concern for the safety of the settlers and upon the urging of Fr. Juan de San Jacinto, Fr. Jimenez moved the settlement across the river in what is now the present poblacion. But even with this move, the Dominican father knew the incursions of the pagan tribes will continue, and that only the super power of Divine Providence can assure the safety of the people. And so, as true advocates of the Virgin Mary, the Dominican fathers placed the settlement under her care and under the title as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.
Accordingly, Fr. Jimenez built a chapel of light materials for the relocated community and placed in its altar the ivory image of the Lady of the Rosary which Father Juan de san Jacinto brought along from Spain via Acapulco.
For their part, the people matched the fervor of their pastor thru their devotion to the Mother of Christ. They learned the prayers and devotions fervently and for this, they earned bountiful merits from her.
The plea : “Son I want a Church . . .”
Folk tradition has it that the Blessed Mother showed herself to a middle-aged farmer and gave him a message on where she wanted her church to be located. The meeting was dramatic. She showed herself on a low tree amidst the glow of heavenly light.
It is said that the man was on his way home from a grueling day in his farm. Foremost in his mind of course, was his family. He worried about his home and his crops which he knew would be laid to waste anytime the raiders come for another depredation. Faced with this hopeless prospect, he resorted to the wellsprings of his faith. He has been taught by the good Padre to have full trust and faith in the goodness and mercy of God and in the protection offered by the Heavenly Mother. These thoughts came to him. He sighed resignedly to Virgin Mary and somehow his fears vanished as he continued his slow pace homeward.
As he followed the path from the hill in the deepening dusk, he became aware of a mysterious light coming from somewhere. He turned to the west to assure himself that he was not being deceived, and sure enough he saw that the sun has set. He made a full stop and turned his gaze to the light - - a tree nearby. Instantly, he recognized the radiant face of a woman holding an infant in her arms. Unable to grasp the significance of the phenomenon and overcame by superstition, he wanted to run. In a
moment of hesitation he heard a sweet voice called out his name. He stood transfixed at the smiling face of the mysterious lady. He knelt down. She continued in her singularly sweet voice, “Son, I want a church here in my honor. My children shall receive many favors in this place.”
We can surmise that such joy from the extraordinary experience would not remain locked up in the breast of the man but would overflow to others. Conceivably, he told his tale to his wife and children then to his close relatives and friends. But when he went to tell it to the Padre, he got a different reception. The old Padre not only did not believe him but went on to insinuate that the man was suffering from hallucination that was induced by the extreme heat of the day.
We can imagine the dismay of the man about the reaction of his spiritual counselor. He and his fellows in the settlement have been monitored on the love and veneration of the Blessed Lady of the Rosary and in a moment of truth, should be asked to reject the revelation of Herself. And yet he was a witness of it all!
Nevertheless, the story spread fare and wide. People in the neighboring settlements heard of it and they came to verify it. These went home not only assured in the truth but they also felt that their petitions have been answered. The pilgrimages to the Lady developed into a tradition, They felt they had to make a visit to the Shrine at least once a year to fulfill a vow, make new petitions to Her, and offer the devotion.
The birth of the tradition came with the birth of a new name for the settlement. Coming home from their visit to the Lady and on being asked along the way from whence they came, the early pilgrims would point to the general direction of the settlement and answer, “Dimad Apo ya mantatawag,” or “from the Lady who calls.”
It is significant to note in their answer showed their spontaneous belief in the “revelation’ of the Blessed Virgin. That they referred to the place as“where the Virgin calls,”rather than Sta. Monica, means that they placed more significance to the “incident”rather than the place.
In time the rest of the words in the phrase were dropped and a derivation was substituted - - MANAOAG- -. Thus remained the name of the town.
The traditional pilgrimages continue to this day. The early pilgrims came in animal-drawn carts from as far as the Ilocos Region, Zambales, and Tarlac. Old people recall the long caravans that use to come during the Holy Week. Now they come in chartered busses from as far as Cagayan Valley and Southern Tagalog. Others come in Cadillacs, Mustangs, Toyotas, Beetles, and Minicas. The poor, the wealthy, the educated, the ignoramus, the sinners and the near-saints- - all come to the “calling Virgin”to find favor and spiritual consolation from Her. And they go away feeling satisfied and rewarded.
The Sanctuary Church of Manaoag:
History tells us that a crude chapel made of light materials and nipa was erected on the spot where the Virgin is said to have appeared .On its altar was placed the Spanish statue of our Lady of the Rosary which Fr. Juan de San Jacinto brought from Mexico. But in order to give the Virgin a more fitting house of veneration, a large wooden church was erected by Fr. Diego de Ballesteros. He erected it side by side with the original mission Chapel of Sta. Monica in Baloquin. The construction was meticulously supervised by the priest who all the time believed that the alleged vision of the rural folk was merely the product of the tropical heat in the side of the world.
However, about the year 1699 or 1670 when the new church was completed and the transfer of the Image was set, a mysterious incident happened. In the morning of that day a large crowd assembled by the nipa chapel to accompany the Lady to Her new home. But the devout congregation was struck dump when some people rushed in nervously shouting that the new church has disappeared. The priest and some of the people rushed to verify the news. Indeed what they found told the truth. They could not find any trace of the church – not even a scrap of wood could be found on the hard beaten ground. The event left no room for suspicion of arson or any sort of banditry for the site looked as if nothing had touched the virgin soil. The people gave countless interpretations of the mystery, but everybody agreed that the Lady did not want her throne in any other place except at the spot she indicated in her appearance several decades ago.
The enthusiasm of the inhabitants and the pilgrims became even more ardent after the disappearance of the Baloquin church. Everyone was more convinced that the vision was true, that it was a Divine plan and no one could hinder it. Hence, plans were laid out to build a larger and stronger church made of bricks to replace the run-down chapel.
At the start of the eighteenth century, in 1710, a very devout Spanish caballero and a member of the Dominican Third Order, Don Gaspar Gamboa and his wife Dona Agatha Yangta, came out with a promise to shoulder whatever cost the construction would incur. In the same year, the construction was started. Many laborers were hired
while there were others who volunteered their services. As others baked clay for the bricks, others would carry the finished material to the construction site where they were placed on the planned area. Day after day, the new church took shape. In no time it was finished. And look and behold, it was a magnificent edifice. The natives and especially the pilgrims were delighted at the new home of the Blessed Mother.
The façade of the church gaped with three big doors. Above each of these were three huge wooden windows that gave enough light and color to the choir loft. To the left, a soaring cylindrical tower of monumental beauty was built, of solid cut stones.
Simultaneous with the construction of the new church, Don Gaspar built a big chapel of bricks near the Baloquin river. This was not to replace the church that had disappeared mysteriously, but as a repository of the image since all penitential processions of the pilgrims traditionally started at this point. Surely not a trace of this church can be found today; for each stone and brick has been carried away by pilgrims who treasured relics or souvenirs of their visit to the ever watchful Virgin of Manaoag.
The Turn Over:
In 1722 Don Gaspar, the chief patron of the new church, signed the perpetual documents turning over the edifice and the Balaquin chapel to the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary. He did not however, live long to enjoy praying in the church he built; he was called by his Creator soon after. On April 13, 1733, his wife, Dona Agatha Yangta ratified the donation of her husband before the civil court in Lingayen.
Having taken possession and care of the Sanctuary Church, the Dominican Fathers started renovating the interior in 1739. Rosary imageries were installed to enhance the splendor of the interior. Then a thick wall was built dividing the nave in order to give room for a spacious sacristy. The remodeling took 30 years to finish but the real artistic touch was yet to follow. In 1777, huge columns were erected at the side chapel of Our Lady. Each one supported a medallion representing each one of the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. Also in addition that year, the Lady was enthroned in a case gilded with solid silver.
THE CHALLENGES: And Disasters Came . . . .
As years went by, countless merits of the church were recorded. It withstood several calamities but in 1832 to 1833, four successive earthquakes so weakened the structure and it crumbled to pieces. After that catastrophe, a makeshift shelter inside the remaining walls was built for Our Lady so the congregation and pilgrims could continue their devotions to Her. And they came despite the inconveniences.
Paradoxically, for reasons unknown, no immediate effort was made to piece together the church; instead a hugh bell weighing 2,000 kilos was purchased in 1840. This bell pealed through the years as if it were the Lady Herself calling the faithful to Her. And whenever it rang, it added festive and soul-lifting air to the atmosphere.
It took long years to rebuild the church. The priests made study of materials and they decided that corrugated galvanized iron was a better roof than tiles. But hardly had the roof been placed, when in 1880 another intense earthquake struck and damaged the church. The soaring tower cracked from top to bottom and was condemned as a hazard. It was manually torn down and its bells were lowered down. For a long period of time the bells stayed under trees behind the church, exposed to the vagaries of nature.
Two years later, in 1882, Fr. Hilario del Campo, commenced the restoration of damaged portions of the church. Wanting to make sturdier and larger structure, he made deep drillings at the transepts and filled these with concrete. The four huge columns that support the dome of the present church rest on the 10-meter foundation which he laid. Repair and restoration work has gone for a decade and was nearing completion when a more destructive earthquake struck again. The wings of the enlarged transepts and every new addition buckled down. Thus everything that remained standing had to be razed to the ground once more.
To provide shelter of Our Lady of the Rosary and a repository of the sacred vessels including the silver altar, a small bamboo chapel was built at the site presently occupied by the new buildings of the Holy Rosary Academy south of the church. In the meantime the priests started building the church anew by making use of the old rubbles. Huge reinforcing columns, 3 meters in diameter were built to reinforce the walls. By 1896, when the winds of revolution were blowing, the thick walls were already standing and roofing it had started. The work however, was badly hampered by the revolution. The priests hid themselves from the insurgents and the laborers were outlawed.
Inevitably, the Spanish priests were captured and brought to Manila as detainees. But before that, Fr. Jose Puente, O.P. was able to smuggle the image of the Our Lady from Manaoag to Dagupan for safekeeping,
The flight of the image from Manaoag to Dagupan was no less heroic than the earlier trials. Fr. Puente knew that his attempt cannot be kept secret from the people and that sooner or later the insurgents would know about it. He was sure that there was an attempt to capture the image, and him with it. He also knew that he could rely on no one except on his faith in the Devine providence. He loaded the image in a carabao drawn cart and started for Dagupan. On the way, simple peasant men volunteered to
accompany him. Armed with bolos, these simple men fought the insurgents in Mangaldan who staged an ambush. Not a few of them sacrificed their lives in that battle.
Finally, the Lady reached Dagupan, as if in exile. She took shelter in the Dagupan church. Every now and then news would leak that the insurgents would ransack the church and divest it of its precious ornaments and sacred vessels. But every time these plots became known, pious laymen, especially the Dominican Tertiaries would secretly bring the image to their homes, Here the Lady who is the Refuge of sinners, became a refugee from sinners.
Meanwhile, on May 10, 1898, the ravaging insurgents ransacked the makeshift chapel in Manaoag and divested it of the treasures that were still housed there—the gold, silver and bronze wares, the sacred vessels, candelabra, chandeliers, the silver throne of Our Lady and numerous religious articles. After having looted the church of its valuables, the insurgents burned it down.
Looting of the churches was the order of the day during this period. The insurgents were in bad need of metals to cast into cannons, firearms and ammunitions. Even the Vicar general of Vigan, Fr. Gregorio Aglipay made several circular letters admonishing and ordering Catholic parish priests to hand over to the military at the Jefatura in Dagupan the much needed metals from their churches for the sake of God and country.
The Return of the Dominicans to Pangasinan:
The Philippine church suffered a lot during the Filipino-Spanish-American war. Parochial churches in Pangasinan that were manned by Spanish Dominicans were left without shepherds. A wave of nationalism brought about demands that these churches be turned over to the Filipino Clergy.
During these hard times, an exemplary and saintly priest came to the succor of the abandoned flock in Manaoag. He was Fr. Mariano Pacis. He built a small convent and bible chapel where the scattered flock could gather to fulfill their religious obligations and to pray for better times. It was probably because of this that Manaoag was saved as holocaust of the insurrection.
The war ended with the Treaty of Paris. The Spanish priests were again permitted to return to their former posts. But with all the raging agitation for the Filipinization of Parishes, the Spanish Dominicans refuse to return to Pangasinan. However, the Bishop of Nueva Segovia insisted on their return at least to their first establishments in Pangasinan. Finally, they acceded to the pleas of high Ecclesiastical authority, but instead of Binalatongan (San Carlos City), they chose the Sanctuary of Manaoag which was donated to the province of the Holy Rosary with inalienable rights.
At the end of 1901, the Dominican Provincial sent three priests to Manaoag, namely: Fathers Cipriano Pamliega, Mariano Revilla, and Jose Bartolo. They were delighted to find Fr. Pacis in his small convent. Since they could not as yet stay in the old convento because it was occupied by the members of the American armed forces, the four priests stayed together in Fr. Pacis’convento hut. It was not until January 16, 1902, when the Americans moved out that the priests were able to settle in their own home.
Times were bleak and uncertain for the priests. The hangover of anti-Spanish feelings was still around. But for them, a mission has to be done, in particular to care for the Sanctuary of Our Lady. So as soon as they had settled down, they set out to roof the unfinished church.
But at the outset, they left the wings of the transept untouched because of financial difficulties. The covering of the whole church was finally finished in 1906, although much remained to be done in the interior.
Improvement of the interior of the church continued. Every day after mass, sharp staccato chirpings of chisels and hammers filled the interior of the church as workmen etched on the intricate design of the main altar, the niche and the throne of the Blessed Virgin. In 1909 when the church was again fit to be the home of the Heavenly Mother, its image in Dagupan was brought home and enthroned in her own shrine.
All major works on the church were completed between the years 1911 and 1920 except the belfry and the wings of the transepts. The restoration of the Blessed Virgin to her original home in the Sanctuary Church however brought in more devotees and pilgrims. In gratitude for favors received, they poured in their hard earned centavos and nickels. In this manner, funds were raised to purchase a nickel plated carriage on which her image is borne during processions. This also enabled the Dominican Fathers to finish the work on the colossal dome in 1913. It was in this manner, that devotees of Mary, the Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, built the present church by themselves. As it stands today, it measures 89 meters long and 13.65 meters wide. The dome is 35 meters high. The belfry is 40 meters high.
In 1937, the Sanctuary Church of Manaoag was awarded the Merit of Recognition by the Philippine Historical Research and Markers Committee. Through its chairmen, Walter Robb and Fr. Miguel Selga, S.J., the historical marker was affixed to the church’s wall near the main door in March that year. The Marker reads:
Administered since 1605 by the Dominicans, the first church of wood lasted a century. The second one which was of stone was built through the generosity of Gaspar de Gambao and Agatha Yangta, and inaugurated in 1720. In 1733, it was donated to the Dominican Corporation, but was destroyed by the earthquake of 1892. The provisional
church built of wood, was burned during the insurrection of 1898. The reconstruction of the present church began in 1901 with the return of the Dominicans.
The image of the Nuestra Senora de Manaoag is famous throughout Pangasinan. It was preserved in Dagupan during the Revolution, then taken back to the Sanctuary by the people of Manaoag where it was solemnly crowned on April 21, 1926., in the presence of thousands of faithful, by Mons. Guillermo Piani, Apostolic Delegate of the Philippines.
The plaque was solemnly unveiled on April 14, 1937, by the members of the committee of the Historical Commission, with the customary church-pageantry. The main speech was delivered by the Bishop of Pangasinan, Mons. Cesar Ma. Guererro and the response was made by Fr. Basilio Martin, O.P., curator of the Sanctuary. That day also coincided with the traditional fiesta of Our Lady, hence a huge crowed witnessed the occasion.
The Sanctuary Church During the World War II
The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of the country during World War II did not spare the Sanctuary Church from the ravages of war. During the initial stages, the priests themselves went in hiding and so, for a time, the church was closed. When fighting stopped and an uncertain peace returned, the church was opened once more. However, due to the difficulty of travel and restrictions imposed on the movement of people by the occupation forces, pilgrimages stopped. The priests came out from hiding and performed services for the few who dared attend services.
It was during the liberation period that the Church suffered slight damages. General McArthur’s forces landed in nearby San Fabian and from there, they conducted an intense bombing and bombardment of big buildings in the surrounding towns which were suspected housing enemy troops. Eyewitnesses recall how one plane dropped 4 bombs intended for the church. Three landed on the patio where they exploded causing damage to the façade. One fell through the church’s roof but did not explode. In that Trial, a religious brother was killed. He was rushing to the church to secure the Image of the Virgin w hen the bombs fell and exploded.
The Lady and the Shrine Today
The end of the war ushered peace and prosperity. The church was repaired and the scars of war were patched up. The pilgrims returned in even greater numbers, presumably eager to see their Blessed Mother again and to offer prayers of thanksgiving for having been spared. For those who suffered misfortunes, they came to seek consolation from the “Calling Virgin.”
Immediately after the liberation, a school was opened beside the church to cater to the youth who have been shut off from school during the war. In no time the school population was exerting pressure on the Convent. They crowed into the halls and corridors. It soon became apparent that a new residence for the priests was needed.
In 1952, work started on the new convent and the belfry. In 2 years, both structures were finished and in 1954, the Marian Year, they were inaugurated. Since then, many more changes and improvements have been introduced in line with the principles and concepts laid down by Vatican II. In 1960 during the period of experimentation of Liturgical Renewal, an elevated wood platform was built on the head nave. The Altar for the Mass was then brought closer to the people. The Blessed Sacrament was placed on a ledge built into the left forward column of the dome.
In May 1973, the church again suffered minor misfortune. Times were hard and there was great demand for antiques. This motivated the person or persons who one night robbed the Blessed Lady of her golden crown and her pendant Cross. The crown which was never been recovered was ages-old and the pendant Cross used to be pectoral cross of the bishop-saint of Vietnam, the Blessed Geronimo Hermosilla. The crown was since been replaced through generous donations of the faithful.
Today the Sanctuary-Church is under the administration and care of Filipino Dominicans. It was turned over to them in 1972, with Rev. Fr. Crispin Marqueses, O.P. as the First Prior. He, however did not stay long in his post due to ill health. A year after, he was replaced by Rev. Fr. Reynaldo Adalid, O.P., Rev Fr. Domingo Nacion succeeded him. Fr Patricio Apa, O.P. and Rev. Fr. Orlando Aceron, O.P., became the Prior one after the other. The change and development in the administration augurs well for the progress and upliftment of the Shrine. Last July 13, 1989, Rev. Fr. George O. Moreno, O.P., was elected Prior of the Convent.
To keep pace with the varied needs of the apostolate in Manaoag, a simple but multi-functional parish hall was built during the tenure of Fr. Salazar, O.P. as parish priest. Among other things, the two story structure can double as a makeshift accommodation for a limited number of pilgrims who may have to stay overnight if they are from distant towns. Under Fr. Arthur Festin, O.P., the incumbent Parish Priest, the parish hall will undergo some modifications so that it can be the venue for the Parish Free Clinic Program which will go full blast on September 28, 1991. Far from being solely a pilgrimage center, Manaoag is also a full pledged parish whose outlying barangays have pastoral needs of their own. To cope with the growing number of the local faithful, the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary recently embarked on a program which aims to put up concrete chapels which can also serve as multi-purpose halls in the far flung barangays.
Lenten services are well attended in Manaoag, so through the generous contributions of devotees a new way of the cross has been laid out to replace the timeworn wooden crosses imbedded in the old perimeter fence. Today, artistic stations of the cross dot the sloping grounds at the back of the church compound at the center of which is found an open-air altar dominated by a statue of the resurrected Christ. There is now a gate at the side of the church compound to give access to the site cleared for the via crusis. It is offered as a free parking area primarily for long-bodied tourist busses, now a common sight in Manaoag, which are difficult to maneuver in the usually congested front yard of the church. Drinking facilities and several picnic tables can be used by pilgrims who usually bring along their meals on day long trips to and from Manaoag.
Pilgrims continue to arrive in droves in bad tims or in good times. As devotees com in unheard of numbers in Manaoag, the undeniable poverty of the average Filipino today, along with other human frailties inevitable generate some hard realities. .Gentle persuasion is hardly an effective measure in preventing the immediate church premises from becoming into a virtual market place. Parking areas inside the church compound are entirely free of charge yet once in a while impostors get away with exorbitant fees. These things become all the more lamentable as pilgrims themselves voice out their complaints. It is sadly ironic that as the devotion to Our Lady of Manaoag becomes more widespread, some people have taken advantage of it to further their own shallow interests. The faithful should be aware that a variety of rackets and gimmicks capitalize on the name of Our Lady of Manaoag. Even generous devotees abroad have sometimes fallen prey to no less than knowledgeable and well off personages who falsely claim to represent the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag. To help prevent people being misled, the Dominican caretakers of the Shrine have recently put up an official entity called the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag (Apo Baket) Foundation.
Adjacent to the way of the cross, tucked in the quiet eastern corner of the church grounds, is a classic, brick-arched building whose monastic tone is accentuated by the green and shady branches of full grown acacia trees. The long and heady search for the permanent novitiate house for the Philippine Dominican Province finally came to a fruitful end. The very same loving arms of Our Lady that have always bestowed favors to her devotees welcomed the Dominican novices to their new home in Manaoag right under her maternal care. Fr. Edmund Nantes, O.P., the present Master of Novices, coordinated the generous efforts and resources of countless devotees who greatly helped in the construction of the building. In gratitude to the Blessed Mother and reflective of the novices’ sense of religious commitment, the new formation house was inaugurated in 1990 on the day of the Marian feast from which it derives its name: The Dominican Novitiate of the Annunciation.
The church building itself is an old infrastructure that constantly needs repair and improvements in order to match the phenomenal increase of the devotees who flock to Manaoag. Plans are afoot to renovate the entire wooden section behind the throne of Our
Lady where pilgrims line up to get close to or even touch her image, but for the meantime railings have recently been installed to facilitate the flow of eager devotees. A roofed and spacious facility where devotees can light their candle offerings is presently being constructed in time for the 1991 October Marian festivities. Manaoag is also looking to a department of Tourism proposal to undertake major improvements of the church premises. It is with relief and profound gratitude to the Virgin’s protection that the Manaoag Shrine and the town itself were spared of any major damage during the destructive earthquake of July 1990 otherwise these infrastructural projects would have given way to extensive repair and reconstruction.
The increasing multitude of devotees, the growth of the local parish and establishment of the Dominican novitiate demand far more than just infrastructural improvements. Fr. Arthur Pestin, O.P., has slated regular monthly school classes in fifteen public schools all over the municipality in addition to at least five barangay Masses every weekend. In response to the clamor of pilgrims, the present community of seven Dominican priests, with Fr. George Moreno, O.P. as Prior, has come up with a Mass schedule that spans practically the whole morning from five o’clock up to eleven not to mention occasional wedding and funeral Masses in the afternoon. On weekends there is an additional Mass at twelve noon and another one at four thirty. For the greater convenience of the devotees, most of the blessing of religious articles is now routinely done within the church every Mass. In sum, the Dominican apostolate in Manaoag is now composed of the Shrine, the Parish, the Dominican Novitiate, campus ministry In Holy Rosary Academy and in the public schools of the town, spiritual direction for the Dominican family in Northern Luzon plus some assistance to the faculty of philosophy in the seminary in Dagupan.
The destructive earthquake of 1990 and the recent volcanic eruption brought about untold sufferings especially to Filipinos in Central and Northern Luzon yet few failed to notice that at the very heart of this region is the Shrine of the “Loving Lady who calls.” This year 1991, will be remembered as the year of Mt. Pinatubo with the destructive lahar that continues to wreck havoc in several provinces. In the face of these crises and in the midst of a badly shaken population, the “call” of the Lady to carry on in love, faith and hope remains unshaken.
Welcome to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag!
(An updated version of the write-up “Manaoag . . . the call with a message printed in the 1976 Golden Jubilee Book of Our Lady of Manaoag).