MAUNDY Thursday. What’s on your list of seven Churches to visit? Or maybe you have nine or thirteen. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the sincerity of the prayer that counts most.
I keep saying this: I find holy places, especially old churches, attractive. I don’t why. I must have served in one in my past life. I believe the reason I took up architecture in college was to design unique places of worship. In fact, my first design in freshman design class was a dome church made of glass.
One of the Philippine churches I have been wanting to visit was the Manaoag Church. I will admit it’s more than just to see it. Friends have told their stories how their appeals were granted when they offered prayers and intentions to the Virgin. I will admit that this was my primary reason.
Fate was on my side. The recent visit to Baguio offered the chance to pass by Pangasinan on the way back to Manila. One mid-afternoon in February, I was praying inside the Manaoag Church.
Expect a large crowd I was told, but I guess I was the lucky one because I can count with my fingers the people I encountered as I made my way up the sloping, paved terrain towards the church entrance.
Manaoag Church is also known as Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag. It was elevated to a minor basilica on February 17, 2015. It’s also referred to as a shrine, a pilgrimage site where devotees go to pray to the Virgin of Manaoag. Visiting the place is also like visiting the Papal Basilica de Santa Maria Maggiore and receiving the same blessings and entitlement to a plenary indulgence received when visiting the papal Basilica in Rome. This was due to the “Special Bond of Spiritual Affinity in Perpetuity” granted by the pope in 2011.
The image of The Virgin Mary inside the church was said to be spared from destruction when the 1701-built church was burned during the Philippine Revolution. Perhaps this was one of the miracles. In 1926, through the Canonical Coronation, the Catholic Church officially recognized that Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag had granted favors to her devotees.
After saying my prayers inside, I went to the back of the church where the stairs leading up to a room right behind the altar is. A small window allows devotees to touch The Virgin Mary’s cape.
Heading back down, a path lead to the Candle Gallery. It’s a pavilion with the image of Our Lady of Manaoag standing in a pond referred to as the Virgin’s Wishing Well.
Prayers and intentions said, I made way back to Manila wishing that The Virgin Mary heard my plea.
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