THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
Pilgrims and local folks who attended mass at the cathedral of Antipolo City last Sunday were among the first to hear a piece of joyful news.
In his homily, Antipolo Bishop Francisco de Leon announced that the Holy See has approved the diocese’s petition to have the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage declared an “international shrine.”
With the approval of this petition, the International Shrine becomes the first of its kind in the Philippines and joins three other shrines in Asia in that exclusive list. Two of those international shrines are in South Korea: the Seoul Catholic Pilgrimage Route and the Haemi International Sanctuary. The other one is the St. Thomas Church in Malayattoor, India.
As of the latest count, there are about 12 international shrines declared by the Vatican throughout the world. It is an honor to have one of them here in the Philippines at the city of Antipolo, also known as the Pilgrimage Capital of the country.
The Antipolo International Shrine was first declared a National Shrine by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 1954. Antipolo later became a diocese and the church was designated a cathedral in 1983.
We were informed that the Catholic Church bestows the title of “shrine” to a church or sacred place in recognition of its “special cultural, historical and religious significance.” Based on those criteria, the International Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage truly deserves the honor.
After all, the International Shrine has witnessed a lot of history and has been a showcase of our countrymen’s deep religiosity.
To this day, thousands flock daily to the International Shrine to pray. The pilgrims come from different parts of the country. Often, they come to have their newly-purchased vehicles blessed. The belief is that the blessing of a vehicle at the shrine brings with it added protection from physical harm.
Others come to pray for safe trips. Many of them are Filipinos leaving for job posting overseas. A good number are families embarking on a trip together to spend quality time together.
Others come to say “thank you” for blessings already given and for prayers already answered.
Speaking of history, one of the International Shrine’s best-known pilgrims was the national hero itself – Dr. Jose Rizal. Local lore has it that then-seven-year-old “Pepe” was brought by his father to the church of Antipolo on a pilgrimage from their hometown of Calamba, Laguna.
The pilgrimage was reportedly a fulfillment of a solemn promise made by one of Philippine history’s most famous mothers – Doña Teodora Alonso. It appears Dr. Rizal’s mother had serious difficulty giving birth to him. She prayed to the patroness of Antipolo for the safe delivery of the future national hero. She made a vow to have her son go on that pilgrimage to express her gratitude.
There is, perhaps, no other Marian image more deserving to be the object of Catholic pilgrimage than Antipolo’s Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
After all, the image is recognized by many as the most-travelled Marian image.
History has it that the image was crafted by woodcarvers of Mexico – just like the image of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo. The image of Antipolo’s patroness was brought to the country in one of the galleons that plied the Manila-Mexico route in the mid-1600s.
The 365-plus-year-old image had crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean on board different Spanish galleons about six times on perilous journeys. Those galleons which carried her landed safely on shore at the end of every voyage.
We are beginning a new “voyage” this coming Friday.
On the first of July, we will join our newly-elected national and local leaders for the start of a fresh term.
This is going to be a rough and perilous “journey.” We begin our term with uncertainties compounded by the rising number of Covid-19 infections in some parts of the country, the astronomical rise in the prices of fuel products, a looming “food crisis” and armed conflict at the global stage that has adversely affected world economies.
These challenges make us feel like the navigators onboard tiny, puny galleons trying to make their way through the Pacific’s tempestuous seas in the 1600s.
In times like this, we hold on to our faith that we have been given the wisdom to deal with the perils of our earthly voyage.
We will also count on the motherly guidance and protection of the Lady of Antipolo who has led many pilgrims safely to their destinations.
We will bring the ship safely to shore, with God’s protection.
(For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 cor. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City, Rizal.)