There’s a sense of comfort and assurance one feels when reciting the Hail Mary or when asking for Our Lady’s intercession. “She guards our faith, protects relationships, saves us in stormy weather, and preserves us from evil,” said Pope Francis in a Sunday Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. “When Mary our Mother is in the home, the devil doesn’t enter. Let us make the Mother the guest of our daily life, the constant presence of our home, our safe haven.”
In the Philippines, where countless devotees fondly refer to the Blessed Virgin as Mama Mary, Marian shrines abound. My Pope visits four of the over 30 shrines named after Christ’s most beloved Mother.
Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA
His Eminence, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, initiated the construction of this shrine situated at the intersection of EDSA and Ortigas Avenue, where thousands of Filipinos from all walks of life gathered in February 1986 to denounce 21 years of Marcos rule. Built on a lot donated by the prominent Ortigas and Gokongwei clans, the shrine design and development involved a team of celebrated artists and architects—among them, National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin and architect William Coscolluela, who laid the groundwork for another national artist to build a veritable landmark.
Architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa designed the church to capture the rejoicing and liberation experienced during the EDSA Revolution. The sculptor Virginia Ty-Navarro created the bronze sculpture of our Lady of Peace. Manny Casal was responsible for the sculpture of the three men carrying a cauldron of flame, Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture Napoleon Abueva designed the 14 Stations of the Cross in bronze, and Eduardo Castrillo was behind the skylight’s beautiful stained glass.
Originally slated for inauguration on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8, 1989), the shrine was consecrated a week later after government forces thwarted a coup attempt by military reformists.
National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help, Roxas Boulevard, Parañaque
Also going by the names Baclaran Church and Redemptorist Church, this shrine—the largest dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help—was blessed by Pope John Paul II during his official visit to the country in 1981. Devotees (as many as 150,000!) flock here every Wednesday to attend a Mass and novena (hence the term “Baclaran Day”), though the church has been authorized to remain open 24/7 since its dedication in 1958, a mandate of the Holy See.
Architect Cesar Concio is credited for giving this Marian church its Modern Romanesque design, its third iteration since the Redemptorist community arrived in the Philippines and settled in Opon, Cebu in 1906. In Manila, the community established a parish in Malate in 1913 before moving to its present site in 1932.
Shrine of La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc, Ilocos Norte
A must-visit when in the northern part of the country, this Marian shrine houses the life-size image of the Blessed Mother and Child whose origin historians trace to Nagasaki, Japan. Seen floating in the sea along with the Miraculous Statue of the Black Nazarene, the La Virgen Milagrosa was discovered in 1620 by fishermen in Badoc, who brought it to town and made it their patron saint. (Meanwhile, fisher folk from Sinait, Ilocos Sur, claimed the Black Nazarene statue and made it their town’s patron saint.)
The St. John the Baptist Parish in Badoc, which enshrines the image, was elevated to minor basilica last February 5.
Nuestra Senora de Candelaria, Jaro, Iloilo
Housed in the Jaro Cathedral, the limestone image of Our Lady carrying the Baby Jesus was also first spotted floating along a body of water—in this case, the Iloilo River. Found in 1587 by fishermen, the statue was difficult to lift until they decided to bring it to Jaro. Placed in a small niche in the church’s central spire, the statue has reportedly grown through the centuries, prompting caretakers to transfer it to a much larger niche placed in the cathedral’s balcony. Pope John Paul II canonically crowned the statue during his apostolic visit to the Philippines in 1981.
This statue seems impervious to catastrophe. In January 1948, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck Panay Island, causing the destruction of many churches, including the original Jaro Cathedral. Reconstruction of the cathedral was completed in 1956, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines approved its additional name, “National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles,” in January 2012.