Mama Mary. That is how she is fondly called by many Filipinos who have a special devotion to her. Frankly, I don’t know how the name came about or who started it. I did not hear anyone calling her Mama Mary 25 years ago. She was called The Blessed Virgin, The Blessed Mother (with or without “The”), Mother Mary, Our Lady and Santa Maria with their equivalents in Filipino languages and dialects, Birhen Maria among them.
As it is used now, the Mama in Mama Mary would translate as Inay or Nanay (Mother), which is more intimate than the titular and honorific Ina (ng Awa, or Mother of Mercy, for example). Ah, but the Bicolanos would protest because Ina, as they refer to the Virgin of Peñafrancia, is not merely a title but a claim, a declaration that she is their mother.
I spent some quiet time figuring out the semantic loads of the maternal titles used to describe Mary. I then sort of realized that Mama Mary is a Filipino coinage. Or is it? Anthropologists, sociologists and even the language police might know the answer.
Now most Filipino Christian Catholics (sorry, I’m not comfortable with the word “Roman” before “Catholic”) call her Mama Mary in whatever language or dialect they are speaking. They can’t sound more intimate than that. The convict in prison, the penitent, the supplicant, the prostitute, the sinner, the saintly, doting mothers, macho fathers, irrepressible sons and daughters—you hear them whisper, cry out or affectionately utter the name Mama Mary. How personal, like the way the neighborhood tambay (bum) would say “bahala na si Lord” in referring to the compassionate God next door. So, si Lord at si Mama Mary. How Pinoy.
If I am waxing Marian it is because the book “Magnificat: Mama Mary’s Pilgrim Sites” (167 pages, published by Anvil) will be launched on Saturday, June 30, 3 p.m., at Powerbooks in Greenbelt 4, Makati. The book (price: P295) contains 24 essays by devotees on their experiences in Marian pilgrim sites in the Philippines (eight in this book) and in other countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, India, Mexico, Poland, Potugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States). Also included are short write-ups on other international Marian pilgrim sites. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle gave the book an imprimatur.
The book editor, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, collected the stories. Brainard is a writer and editor (19 books and counting) known in both Philippine and Fil-Am communities.
The essays are varied. Many are personal. Celeste (pseudonym of a contributor), writes about her unwed daughter who was pregnant and how mother and daughter embarked on a spiritual journey to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. A surprise ending waits.
Linda Nietes-Little, seller and promoter of Filipiniana books in America, writes about her pilgrimage to Fatima with her convert-husband and ailing sister Violeta “who brought me back to Mama Mary.”
Penelope V. Flores, a professor at San Francisco State University, writes about her visit to the Maryam Monastery in Lake Tana, Tigray, Ethiopia. Using a local twig brush, she began painting “as if Mama Mary told me, ‘Lose yourself. Paint my Lake Tana emanation and your canvases will show feelings.’”
“At Maria Lanakila, Our Prayers were Heard and Answered” by Millicent Dypiangco is about her yearning to have a child and how her prayers to Our Lady of Maria Lanakila in Maui, Hawaii, were answered with the birth of her daughter Miranda.
Jaime C. Laya writes about the Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Sta. Ana Church. My own story is about Our Lady of Caysasay in the heritage town of Taal, Batangas.
Each essay begins with a photograph of the Marian image in the pilgrim site and basic information. The book also contains prayers for devotees. “Magnificat” can serve as a pilgrim’s guide book and show a path for those in search, on a journey or simply trying to find their way home. The simple stories may hold answers to questions. The book is by no means exhaustive but it may lead readers and writers to other unexplored and little-known Marian sites laden with inspiring stories.
There’s a Marian site in Indonesia that I visited some years ago. It is the Shrine of Our Lady of Sendang Sono, a “little Lourdes” tucked in a lush, forested place outside Yogyakarta. I wish I had written about it. Maybe next time.
The other “Magnificat” contributors are: Lucy Adao McGinley, Angelita Caluag Cruz, Maria Ciocon, Millicent Dypiangco, Ma. Milagros T. Dumdum, Almira Astudillo Gilles, Ma. Teresita Herrera-Tan, Fe Aida Lacsamana-Reyes, Guia Lim, Ma. Teresa Z. Lopez, Aimee Gaboya Ortega Lucero, Lynley Salome R. Ocampo, Ma. Cristina Padilla-Sendin, Marsha C. Paras, Rev. Dr. Sebastian Periannan, Brian Ascalon Roley, Julia H. Wolski, and Linda Yamamoto. Dr. Paulino Lim Jr. wrote the Introduction.
In her blurb, writer-editor Erlinda E. Panlilio says: “Running as a leitmotif in all the essays in this book is the writers’ palpable love for Mama Mary. Each writer has undergone a change in his or her life or outlook following a visit to a Marian site. Some may have experienced a ‘miracle,’ or felt consoled and renewed, others a deepening spirituality, or an epiphany, an insight into the divine. Although we know that Jesus is the only Way to the Father, it is our belief in the power of Mary’s intercession to her Son, borne out of the Bible’s Cana story, that makes us all turn to Her, whom Her divine Son will never refuse.”
Magnificat, as Mary’s prayer-song (Luke 1: 46-55) is known, is a fitting title for this little book of praise and gratitude. Ave Maria!
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