Jesuit theologian and mariologist Fr. Catalino Arevalo says it in a few words: “To understand Filipino Catholics, one must understand their love for Mary.”
And this love is often demonstrated in a showy display of affection not observed in other countries where some of the Marian devotions originated. Filipinos have in fact their own homegrown devotions dedicated to Mary, with homespun titles of their making.
Why this special love? Whence sprang this unabashed attachment to Mary? Consider “Mama Mary,” an address that is quite new—not quite two decades old, it seems—but now so popular and often heard. It is distinctly Filipino. It suggests intimacy and undying affection, and also the evolution of Mary’s titles and the way she is addressed. And that devotion to her has not diminished.
“Mama Mary” will not replace her other names in Spanish, English and Filipino, “Nuestra Señora,” “Our Lady,” “Ina” and “Iloy,” among them. In our Catholic school days, we called her “Blessed Mother” or “Mother Mary.” But “Mama Mary”—it can’t get more contemporary Pinoy than that.
Launched last week was the coffee table book “Pueblo Amante de Maria: The Filipinos’ Love for Mary,” which features 18 Marian shrines in the Philippines. The book does not merely provide a visitor’s guide to these places or a historical backgrounder for the dilettante. It serves up theological reflections so that readers and devotees will understand more deeply the cultural nuances and spiritual significance of the Marian devotion Filipino Catholics are known for.
Here are the featured Marian shrines, and excerpts from some of the writers’ pieces:
• Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Diocese of Cubao)—“Our cathedral in Cubao is just one of the many churches placed under her patronage with this title… In the midst of the trials and tribulations of our world, the mystery of the Immaculate Conception is a source of light, of home and consolation.” By Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco
• Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Diocese of Antipolo)—“We can go and ask [our Lady] not only for safe travel to another place or country but also for help in our journey through life.” By Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes
• Our Lady of La Naval de Manila (Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City)—“Although there are no naval battles to be fought at the moment, there are other needs which the people ask Our Lady to intercede for.” By Fr. Virgilio Ojoy, OP
• Our Lady of Manaoag (Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan) by Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Fr. Isidro Abano, OP
• Virgen Milagrosa de Pueblo de Orani (Diocese of Balanga) by Bishop Ruperto C. Santos
• Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran, Parañaque) by Peachy E. Yamsuan
• Our Lady of Peñafrancia (Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres) by Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP
• Our Lady of Fatima (Diocese of Malolos) by Bishop Jose F. Oliveros
• Our Lady of Piat (Cagayan)—“‘Yena Tam Ngamin,’ Mother to us all, is how the Blessed Mother is endearingly referred to in the Ybanag language.” By Roberto Cannu Caballero and Archbishop Sergio l. Utleg
• Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria of Jaro (Iloilo)—“‘Ang Iloy’ (The Mother) is how Ilonggos speak of her—in the third person… In Iloilo, the words ‘Macadto sa Iloy’ (I’m going to the Mother) mean only one thing: a visit to the Jaro Cathedral.” By Jesselynn G. de la Cruz
• Our Lady of Caysasay of Taal (Batangas)—“The history of the Virgin of Caysasay is the stuff many Marian stories in the Philippines are made of, as fascinating, if not as culture-laden, as that of Mexico’s famous Our Lady of Guadalupe.” By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
• Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Ermita, Manila) by Fr. Serafin F. Peralta, CM
• Our Lady of Guadalupe (Makati) by Msgr. Salvador R. Jose
• Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Cavite and Zamboanga City) by Jesselynn de la Cruz
• Nuestra Señora de Guia (Ermita, Manila) by Jesselynn de la Cruz
• Our Lady of Lourdes (Quezon City) by Fr. Chito B. Bartolo, OFMCap
• Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados (Sta. Ana, Manila) by Jesselynn de la Cruz
• Our Lady of Light (Cainta, Rizal) by Michael P. delos Reyes and Jesselyn de la Cruz
In his foreword, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle explains the book’s title thus: “We are a people, a nation in love with the Blessed Virgin Mary because she loves us… I know this because I have experienced it in my family, my hometown, in my life and in my ministry.
“We love Mary because she is the Spirit-filled Mother given to us by Jesus before he breathed his last. A new family was born at the foot of Jesus’ cross… Mary and Jesus’ disciples are at the core of that spiritual family of God.”
Writes Father Arevalo: “Bayang sumisinta kay Maria,” “pueblo amante de Maria”—in the original Spanish of Mr. Emeterio Barcelon’s and Fr. Norberto Carceller’s hymn for the International Eucharistic Congress in Manila (1937)—speak of Filipinos as “a people in love with Mary.”
“It was pointed out that in so many countries in the world today … a key dimension of this ‘Philippine Catholic presence’ is the devotion to our Blessed Mother….”
The book includes other theological essays by Bishop Teodoro Bacani, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin and Dr. Josefina M. Manabat and Father Arevalo. It also lists some 800 parishes that bear Marian titles and provides the addresses of the shrines.
Published by Vilma Roy Duavit and Louie O. Reyes of Reyes Publishing, the book’s chief editor was Peachy Yamsuan. The photographs are by Noli Yamsuan and book design by Pie G. David, with Joey A. San Juan as production supervisor. Father Arevalo was editorial consultant.
The book is available at The Catholic Book Center at Pius XII Center on UN Avenue, and other Catholic bookshops.
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