The much-venerated Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage), enshrined at her national shrine and cathedral in Antipolo City, has a rich history and wide-spread devotion in and out of the country, spanning for more than 390 years now. The image was brought to the Philippines by Don Juan Niño de Tabora from Acapulco, Mexico in 1626. Before his death in 1632, he entrusted his heavenly treasure to the Jesuits, who brought it to Antipolo and ministered in the parish until the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1768. The secular priests took over the administration of Antipolo for some time, and in 1863, it was entrusted to the Augustinian Recollects, who served there until 1898, or 120 years ago.
The first task of the Recollect Fathers in Antipolo was focused on the completion of the restoration of the church which had been battered and torn apart by the earthquakes of 1863. The repair works were directed by the notable architect, Fray (Fr.) Jose Salesa del Pilar, OAR. After much diligent work and valuable sacrifices, the friars were able to see their labors crowned when the half-destroyed church became a worthy dwelling for the Virgin Mary. To the Recollects must also be attributed the beautiful silver altar of the Virgin which accumulated works of art and magnificent wealth; the Camarín (Dressing Room, or a niche for an image) of the Virgin; the paintings that adorn the ceiling and walls, and the artistic decoration of the altars; the installation of the organ, and the clock on the tower; the construction of the sacristy, and the solid iron fence surrounding the courtyard of the church. The works done in the convent should also not be forgotten, the bold arches of the facade, and the large roof terrace that overlooks the town. Furthermore, the Fathers took great interest in building schools, opening new roads, one of which has a large stone bridge, and introducing the best of urbanization in streets and buildings, providing the pilgrims a pleasant stay in Antipolo.
It may be said that the devotion to the Virgin of Antipolo reached the peak of its greatness and popularity during this time. People from all walks of life go up to Antipolo in pilgrimage during the flowery month of May. They come in caravans and waves flocking from all over to venerate the Virgin in her mountain shrine. The feast that has been celebrated on the first Tuesday of May for half a century already, was followed by three sets of continuous novena. During the novena days, Sung Masses were held from 4:00 to 8:00 in the morning, aside from the novena and ordinary Masses. Novenas were held twice a day, one in Spanish and the other in Tagalog, followed by letania cantada, gozos and Salve (sung litany, praises, and Hail Holy Queen). The Virgin was brought out in procession four times, on the first day of the feast before the High Mass, and at the end of each set of novena.
In recognition of his victory over the Lanao Moros in Marawi in 1895, the Ayuntamiento (City Council) of Manila gifted Governor-general Ramon Blanco y Erenas (1893-1896) with an Espada de Honor (Sword of Honor). On December 19, 1896, Governor-general Blanco entrusted the sword to the Prior Provincial of the Recollects, Fr. Andres Ferrero, OAR, to be offered at the foot of the Virgin of Antipolo. However, because of the tumult at that time, the said request was not carried out. It would be difficult to narrate all the sacrifices and hardships of the zealous Recollect Fathers, who carried out their mission of the spiritual administration of Antipolo and the custody of the precious treasure kept in the celebrated shrine. The friars who administered the church of Antipolo were the following:
- 1863: Fr. Francisco Villas de San Lorenzo
- 1865: P. Fr. Gregorio Omeñaca de la Virgen de los Milagros
- 1865-1867: P. Fr. Pablo Bienzobas de San Antonio de Padua
- 1867: P. Fr. Pedro Albericio de la Reina de los Angeles
- 1868: P. Fr. Pedro Soto de San Juan Bautista
- February 1872 – August 1876: P. Fr. Santos Paredes de San Pedro Apostol
- August 1876-1883: P. Lector Fr. Patricio Marcellan de San Jose
- March 1883-1896: P. Fr. Esteban Martinez de San Antonio de Padua
- July-November 1894: P. Fr. Pascual Lagunas de la Virgen del Castillo
- July-October 1897: P. Fr. Manuel Jimenez del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, substitute
- 1897-June 1898: P. Fr. Cipriano Benedicto de los Dolores
The names of Fr. Cipriano Benedicto, the last Recollect parish priest of Antipolo, and Fr. Hilario Vega de la Asuncion, his companion, should be noted because they chose to fall into the hands of the revolutionaries in 1898, instead of abandoning the Virgin. At the start of the pilgrimage season in May that year, Katipuneros slipped into Antipolo unnoticed by the parish priest. The group had apparently chosen the high point of the festivities, the third day of the said month, to avenge the murder of one of their leaders by the Guardia Civil. But the attack was criticized in Antipolo itself as a desecration of the feast of the Virgin, and some influential personalities were able to persuade the rebels to abandon the said plan. The feast went on undisturbed, and it was only at the end of the pilgrimage season on June 17, 1898 did the rebels capture the priests of Antipolo. Before the religious were brought to Cavite for imprisonment, the pastor of Antipolo ensured that the belongings of the Virgin did not fall into revolutionary hands. He entrusted them to the care of the Virgin’s Camarera (Caretaker), Vicenta Leyra, a relative of Jose Rizal, who had good connections with the leaders of the revolution, and warned the rebels that if they dared to lay a finger on the treasures of the Virgin, she would inform Emilio Aguinaldo.
After the Recollects, the care of Antipolo was given to the Secular priests. In 1904, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin as Patroness of the Philippines visited and stayed at the Manila Cathedral from November 27 to December 11. During this time, the offering of the Espada de Honor of Governor-general Blanco was finally fulfilled. The Vicar Provincial of the Recollects carried the silver tray where the precious jewel was deposited. Together with the other brothers in habit, they knelt at the foot of the altar steps to offer the sword to the Virgin. The Archbishop accepted the precious jewel in the name of the Virgin, and said a heartfelt allocution in Spanish. The offering apparently served also as a fitting conclusion to the splendid history of service of the Recollects to the Virgin of Antipolo.
At present, the Augustinian Recollects continue to serve the Virgin of Antipolo through the parish they administer, dedicated to the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. It is located at the entry of the North Harbor in Del Pan, Tondo, Manila, and was erected by the late Rufino Cardinal Santos on March 16, 1971.
Ad Iesum per Mariam!
del Carmen, Francisco Sadaba. Catalogo de los Religiosos Agustinos Recoletos de la Provincia de San
Nicolas Tolentino de Filipinas. Madrid: Imprenta del Asilo de Huérfanos del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus, 1906.
delos Reyes, Michael P. Morena Graciosa: the Devotion to the Virgin of Antipolo through the
Centuries. Quezon City: Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc., 2016.
Photos from La Estrella de Antipolo, 1904.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
MICHAEL P. DELOS REYES hails from Cainta, Rizal and obtained his M.A. in Theological Studies from the Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University in March 2004. The Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc. has published four of his works – Prusisyon: Paghahanda at Pagdiriwang (2006), which won as Best Book in Theology and Liturgy in the 2007 Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards (CSCBA); Holy Week and Easter Processions: A Liturgico-pastoral Guide (2015); Salve Regina: On Crowning Images of the Virgin Mary (2015), 2016 CSCBA Liturgy Category Finalist; and Morena Graciosa: The Devotion to the Virgin of Antipolo through the Centuries (2016), 2017 CSCBA Best Book in Liturgy. He is presently an administrator in Xavier School in San Juan City, and is happily married with four children.