By Christina Hermoso
The annual pilgrimage season to one of the country’s most popular Marian shrines peaks this month as busloads of devotees and tourists troop to the shrine of the venerated Our Lady of Manaoag, the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Manaoag, Pangasinan.
Holy masses and novenas are held daily by the hour at the shrine from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. On Saturdays, hourly masses are celebrated from 5 a.m. to 12 noon and at 4:30 p.m. On Sundays, masses are held by the hour from 5 a.m. to 12 noon and at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The Church said pilgrims to the shrine may gain a plenary indulgence or the remission of temporal punishment due to sin after it was declared a minor basilica by Pope Francis on October 11, 2014.
The shrine has also been granted a special bond of spiritual affinity with the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, Italy, bestowing blessings and graces to its visitors as if they have actually visited the papal basilica in Rome.
Thousands of visitors are expected to arrive in Manaoag this May, which is considered as the peak of the pilgrimage season which lasts until the end of the month.
Traditionally, the highest number of attendance is recorded during the Holy Week and on the Feast of Our Lady of Manaoag, which is observed on the third Wednesday after Easter Sunday.
Popularly known as a miraculous religious shrine, visitors usually bring bottles with them to get water from Our Lady’s well near the church, which is believed to have healing powers.
Many line up for hours behind the altar to touch the image’s mantle or light candles to pray for petitions, thank the Holy Mother for her intercession, or simply, to venerate the Mother of God.
Manaoag in the dialect means “to call.” According to stories, a farmer during the late 1500s once heard the call of a woman who requested that a sanctuary be built right on the spot where she appeared.
Soon, people started going to the apparition site, believing that the woman was the Blessed Mother. Centuries later in 1913, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary was built on the exact place where the Virgin Mary appeared.