Our Lady of Manaoag Church
Our Lady Of Manaog Church is also known as the Shrine of the Nuestra Senora de Manaoag. Located in Manaoag, Pangasinan, the church was established by Captain Gaspar de Gamboa in 1720 and was donated to the Dominicans in 1722.
Perhaps the most visited religious desitnation north of Manila, "manaoag" is coined from the word "taoag" (tawag) or "to call" when centuries ago, a farmer on his way to his farm one daybreak heard the virgin mary calling him from the top of the tamarind tree (where the church is right now) instructing him to initiate the construction of the church. These days, thousands of devotees visit the town of Manaoag each day in response to the Virgin Mary's "tawag" or "call".
The image of Mary itself is said to have been brought to the Philippine Islands by way of Acapulco, Mexico by Padre Juan de San Jacinto around 400 years ago. Folk history even declares that it was the Virgin herself that designated where the church to house her image was to be built.
In the 17th century, locals had resisted Catholicism brought about by the Dominica. Even tribes from mountains close by refused to adopt Catholicism as a new religion. Hence, the friars introduced the Our Lady as a “powerful protectress.” Tales, from the vanishing church to the apparition of the Blessed Virgin atop a hill, had spread and made the conversion of the people to Catholicism much easier.
However, faith in the Nuestra Senora de Manaoag in years had to make way to highly-commercial activities such as the Galicayo Festival in December led by the local government each year.
The church is Spanish-Romanesque sprinkled with a little touch of German and Italian Renaissance architectural composition. A big octagonal dome surmounts at the point where the nave and the transepts converge forming a cruciform contour.At the center of convergence of the church is the image of Our Lady of Manaoag where it appears floating in the middle of a wooden altar. Our Lady of Manaoag is flanked left to right by two well known saints. To the left, it is Saint Dominique of Guzman and to the right, she appears to be guarded by Saint Francis of Asissi. Behind the altar is a mini-chapel where visitors go to touch the image’s mantle.
The Main Features of the facade of the church, on each pilaster at the lower section are topped by the statues of St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Margaret of Hungary, St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Dominic of Guzman. The doors of the main entrance are decorated with an engraved Dominican insignia. Set between the church and the convent, the bell tower measures approximately 32 feet in height whose summit is cappped by a white cross.
Several improvements were done on this church until it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1832. the church was reconstructed, improved and was damaged again during the World War II.
The Church's three-level facade has superimposed piers on the first and second levels with the third level designed as a small temple. It houses the image of Nuestra Señora de Manaog or Apo Baket.
This shrine which shelters the image of Our Lady of the Rosary has stood for centuries, enduring degradation brought about by time. The parish though, has maintained the structure by restoring it once in a while. For its Diamond Anniversary, the church underwent repainting.
Wall of Miracles
The giant wall paintings of the church depict the more famous miracles attributed to the Lady of Manoag. One reveals the story of a sick child from Binmaley who died on the way to the Lady's shrine. His dead body was nevertheless brought to the shrine before the feet of Our Lady and there it was brought back to life to the joy of his parents.
One other well known miracle is what happened to a man from Dagupan whose throat was infected from a fishbone he swallowed. He was cured when water that was used to wash her hands was poured into the dying man's lips.
Aside from curative intercessions, the Lady is known for protecting crops. It is said that she saved Pangasinan and other northern provinces from the locust of 1698. Folks have retold of the days during which they tried to protect the rice fields from swarms of locusts that come darkening the sky. They finally sought for the Lady's help. A procession was made to the fields. When they laid her image down in the midst of the devastation, the locusts began to exterminate each other in an incomprehensible way. This ferocity went on for five days until not a single locust could be found.
The Lady's rain miracles which are known to happen even at present first transpired in the drought of 1706. The stories during that year's dry season describe dried seedlings parched under a cloudless sky. For months, the people of Manaoag hopefully waited for rain. But it did not come. They called on their last recourse, the Lady of Manaoag. During the first day of the novena and procession, right after she was brought back to the church, from the outskirt of the town, clouds gathered about the sky and dimmed the stars. A downpour soon fell and continued for days.
The Virgin has assured the people of Manaoag of her protection on several occasions. During the early times when mountain tribes used to burn Christian villages, Manaoag was not spared. It was set on fire. The church with its thatched roof was the last refuge of the people. But the leader of the pillagers, climbed over the fence and shot lighted arrows to all parts of the church. Not a single flame, however, set it on fire. This miraculous event was repeated during the World War II. In spite of several bombs that found their way into the church, not one of them exploded thus keeping the shrine intact.
People are fond of relating one incident that happened in 1697. It was Easter Sunday when a fire of unknown origin razed the town and reached the church. The Father Vicar went inside and snatched the Lady from the sacristy. Addressing her, he made this remark: Blessed Lady, if you do not spare the church from fire, I will hurl myself into the flames with you so that the two of us may be consumed with it. The flames in the sacristy suddenly died out. But when the Vicar tried to put the Lady's image back to its place, he could not budge it. It took then four men to carry her back to her throne.
Several plans to make a new site for her church never materialized. Somehow, in many varying ways, the Lady has expressed her refusal. The most remarkable story was that of the church which was built near the banks of the Baloquing river. According to the story, when the morning of the transfer came, some parishioners who were sent by the Vicar to make the place ready were stupefied with what they saw: nothing. Nothing was left of the structure except four pillars starkly standing amidst clear ground. No trace of the other parts. The parishioners reported what they saw and the Vicar decided to go there himself. Humbled by the truth of what the people told him, the Vicar knelt, asked forgiveness and vowed never to attempt to transfer the site of her shrine again.
Hundreds flock everyday, lining up for hours just to get slight contact with the famed “miraculous robes”. Her mantle is visible and can be touched only through a small partition, small enough for hands to fit.
Devotees visit the Manaoag shrine throughout the year, but most often during April and May. People from all walks of life and almost all parts of the country flock to the shrine either to thank the Virgin for favors received through her intercession or to petition her once more for more favors or graces, or simply to honor her.
The Feast of the Lady of the Most Holy Rosary popularly known as Señora de Manaoag, is celebrated on the third Wednesday after Easter Sunday.
Manaog is located 195 kilometers of Manila.
- Layug, Benjamin L. "A tourist guide to notable Philippine Churches." Quezon City: New Day Publication,2007.
- Virtual Tourist. (Accessed on April 16, 2008).
- Northern Images. (accessed on April 16, 2008).
- Official Website. (Accessed on April 23, 2008).
- http://2000hailmarys.org/ourladyofmanaoag.asp (Accessed on Nov. 11, 2010)
- http://relijournal.com/christianity/the-miraculous-our-lady-of-manaoag/ (Accessed on Nov. 11, 2010)