This story comes all the way from the time when the Spaniards were still ruling the country. In 1626, Governor Juan Niño de Tabora travelled from Acapulco Mexico to the Philippines on a Galleon. On that trip, the governor brought along the brown image of our blessed virgin mother. For months the Galleon braved the rough stormy and dangerous seas which eventually found its way to the Philippines in one piece. Because of this the Governor called for a big celebration as he credited the image as the big reason for their safe voyage to the Philippines. The procession started in the Jesuit Church in Intramuros to the Manila Cathedral which was the first house of the image of the Blessed Virgin. It was because of that voyage that the Blessed Virgin was called Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buenviaje.
During the Japanese occupation the image was evacuated and brought to the mountains of Angono and afterwards returned to where it is now after the war. Every year devotees commemorate this transfer as they join the "Alay Lakad" from Quiapo Church to the Antipolo church every 30th of April. I still remember that time when I was a gangly 15 year old together with my family, we joined the walk from the Edsa-Ortigas intersection where we gathered at 10pm, we reached the Church of Antipolo at 5 am in the morning.
The Beautiful stained glass window
Today, thousands of devotees flock the Church which is also one of a few National Shrines in the country. The Church is more popularly known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage of Antipolo. Most of the people who go to the Shrine are OFWs and others who are praying for a peaceful voyage specially abroad. My sister who is bound to go to work in the United States in the next few weeks has been bugging me to go to this Cathedral, now I know why.
Mama, Elaiza and the kids
Since it is a Cathedral, the Diocese of Antipolo which extends until Montalban Rizal is headed by Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes. This diocese is actually an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Manila. It is composed of 29 parishes with 45 diocesan and 8 religious priests administering to it. I am just lucky that while spending my saturday morning celebrating the 9am mass, the Priest gave a history of the very historic place. I am lucky indeed to know that the image I held in my hand is a historic artifact that goes back 4 centuries ago. Truly a blessed saturday and I hope that my sister will have a safe voyage to the US and back here.