August 22, 2009 – Saturday
The Church of Our Lady of Manaoag, near the town of Villasis in the province of Pangasinan, is reputed to be one of the most visited Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines. Since its formal inauguration as a stone church in 1720 it has been a place of miracles and pilgrimage and today thousands visit to leave lighted candles as pleads for the restoration of their health, for safe journeys etc. to the ivory statue of Our Lady in her robe sitting on a silver throne high on the altar. And it is remarkable she and the church have survived earthquakes and the ravages of the revolution, although at one point Our Lady was moved to Dagupan church for fear she would be destroyed. It wasn’t until 1909 that it was considered safe to return her to her shrine. Many parts of the church still bear the scars of these traumatic events, but the murals and the shrine itself make a visit well worthwhile.
It is said that the ivory image was first brought to the Philippines from Spain by Padre Juan de San Jacinto and that the Blessed Mother Mary herself selected where the church would be constructed.
The main purpose of our own visit on this occasion was to have our newly acquired 4X4 blessed. This is a service for which the Church of Our Lady of Manaog is particularly famous. Having collected the vehicle only that morning from the Toyota dealer in Mandaluyong, in Metro Manila, Gina’s family had recommended that we have it blessed. And if you have witnessed the standard of driving in the Philippines you will appreciate how important it is to have additional divine protection for both car and passengers. When Justin was baptised last year we even saw tricycle drivers have their vehicles blessed by a priest.
We arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Manaoag at 3.45pm and were immediately beckoned through into a cordoned off area beside the church. Brother-in-law Resty decided to have his minibus blessed at the same time, so we parked our vehicles side by side (only one other vehicle besides ours) ready for the 4.00pm blessing. This gave us time to make the required donation to the church and purchase a rosary ornament to hang on the rear-view-mirror and a small figure of the Virgin Mary for the top of the dashboard. The latter has since needed additional adhesive attention as she had a habit of keeling over whenever the car was left in the sun.
We were requested to open all the car doors, lift the bonnet and place our rosary on the outside of the windscreen. When 4.00pm arrived the priest appeared equipped with Holy Water which he duly sprinkled into the car, onto the engine and over our rosary. He also asked me in very fluent English where I came from. And then it was over. Unfortunately Resty’s engine objected to the Holy Water and we had to bump start his minibus to get it going again!
So that was our first car blessing.
The picture here is one we purchased from one of those photographer who keep badgering you. We bargained him down to 50% of his initial asking price for four photos. As we hadn’t planned in advance, we didn’t have our cameras with us but thought we should have some record of the special occasion. We want to revisit the church soon with our own cameras.