The Shrine that Prays with the People


“Mary was the temple of God,
not the God of the temple;
hence only he who was at work in the temple
is to be adored.”
St. Ambrose[1]

The present Shrine is the third Church that was built in the original land donated to the Redemptorists in 1932.

The first church was a small wooden chapel built in 1932. When the first Redemptorists settled at Baclaran, their main intention for the Baclaran land is to be a mission station for the Tagalog mission. Thus, the plan to build a big shrine for Our Mother of Perpetual Help never crossed their minds.

The second church was built in 1949, a year after the explosion of the novena when the shrine could no longer accommodate the crowds that had increasingly attended the Novenas. Devotion came first before any structures and building. Redemptorists did not have the mentality: “If you build, they will come!”

Just a few months after the second church was built, however, it became obvious that the second church could not still accommodate the growing number of devotees. Thus, beginning in 1950, Redemptorist began the preparations and planning for a third church. Actual construction began in 1953 and finished in 1958. The second Church remained inside while the present shrine was being built and was only removed when the present Church was completed.

Although there were admittedly some prominent donors, Fr. Lew O’leary, Rector of the shrine at that time, stressed that about 75% of the cost of the construction came from small donors. This was done either through weekly collections or through the loose change dropped into the miniature models of the proposed shrine strategically placed near the cashier in the shops and stores of Manila, The caption said: “Ten Cents to Help Build a Shrine.”

This is a big reason why it took six years to build the shrine. Most of the money that came from small donations often ran out requiring construction to stop. Truly it is a church by the people, built mainly not by big and rich benefactors, but by the ordinary people. No wonder they continue to identify so strongly with it.[2]

The architecture of the shrine is modern Romanesque. The architect of Baclaran shrine was the well-known architect, Cesar Concio, Sr. (father-in-law of Charo Santos, Filipino actress and producer), who is credited with a light design for a big space and good natural acoustics. Hechanova describes Concio’s design as “both simple and solemn, large yet intimately prayerful in atmosphere, a ‘populist’ church in the best sense of the word.”[3]

The shrine, finished in 1958, stands at 17.2 m (56.5 ft.) high on the nave and 12.5 m (41 ft.) high on the main aisle. The edifice has a length of 106.7 m (350 ft.), width of 36 m (118 ft.) and a total floor area of 5,069 m2 (54,564 ft2).

Redemptorists ensured that the design and construction of the present shrine would contribute and give justice to the wonderful devotion and the amazing grace that God has wrought in Baclaran through Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The design of the shrine needs to fit with the spirituality of the icon and the devotion. The aesthetic of the shrine was to provide an ambience of prayer and contemplation. The design ought to be a shrine which prays with the people. This is expressed by Natasha Buxton in a thanksgiving letter to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in January 10, 2015,

I finally got the chance to visit Mama Mary in Baclaran, and I knelt down in front of her asking for a miracle. I felt so at peace in her church, I couldn’t help but get all emotional. I left the church feeling content, and decided to leave my trust with her.

Let us examine how the various architectural parts of the shrine enhance and uplift devotees’ prayer and devotion.

The Icon


The main object of veneration in the shrine is the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The original icon enshrined above the main altar came from Germany. Redemptorists brought it to Ireland then to Australia and finally the Philippines in 1906. It bears the Papal arms in the back panelling.

There is no access to reach the icon at the top of the retable. So people touch the tabernacle instead. Indeed, devotees believe that once they touch the tabernacle, they already have touched the icon. In hindsight this is exactly what Our Mother of Perpetual Help wish for every devotee. Mary wishes that all devotees become closer and follow her son.



The area where the center of activity in the shrine takes place is the sanctuary. It is elevated and separated from the nave through a communion rail. The sanctuary is elevated so that the congregation can easily see the different parts of the liturgy that are celebrated efficaciously from the sanctuary.


The most important and dignified element at the sanctuary is the altar, the place where the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered. The High Altar was brought from Italy. It is an elevated big marble free standing altar which enable the priest to walk around the altar to incense it. The altar reminds the devotees that the Eucharist is still the central sacrament and celebration of the shrine.

Just like Mary Our Mother of Perpetual Help who expressed her fiat: “Let it be done according to your Word,” the shrine has always emphasized that true devotion is lived and practiced according to the Word of God. In the same spirit, the novena is at the service of the Eucharist.



The baldachin is the beautiful canopy of four columns that sits over the altar. It also provides a beautiful covering for the icon. Its columns and capitals are made of giallo oro and Bottecino marbles. The gracefully curving altar rails under the baldachin are made of white Carrara marble.



The retable (in Spanish, retablo) is the large altarpiece behind the altar. It is a beautiful symmetrical work of art. It incorporates the tabernacle and serves as a backdrop for the icon. The retable contains beautiful bronze sculptures of eight pairs of wheat stalks intertwining with each other. Their point of intersection is the tabernacle and the crucifix. Four doves representing the Holy Spirit surround the crucifix.  A bronze sculpture of vine and fruit grapes floats above it. The wheat and grapes symbolize the bread, and wine of the Eucharist. The wheat and the grapes are also emblematic of abundance of God’s grace.

Ian Lang, commented on the retable in June 9, 2017,

This was my first visit on this church and I really had a great and solemn experience. I will never forget the retablo of our great Ina ng Laging Saklolo against its magnificent ceiling architecture. Thanks to those who contributed in beautifying the sanctuary of pilgrims.[4]


1stWed2011121The very center of the retable is the tabernacle. The tabernacle is made of wood designed as a box-like vessel for the exclusive reservation of the consecrated Eucharist. It is positioned at the center of retable in such a way that people could touch both the front and back of the tabernacle. Every Wednesday after all the liturgical services in the evening, people form a line to touch the tabernacle while silently praying their faces are looking upwards towards Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the icon above and beyond their reach.



The pulpit at the left side of the sanctuary is a raised platform from which the liturgical readings are read and where preachers preach their homilies. There is a short stairs leading to it. The stairs and pulpit is crafted in wood as a beautiful work of art. The pulpit serves as the altar of the Word. It is located closer to the main congregation in the nave, to ensure the preacher can be seen and heard by all the congregation.

Fr. Maguire describes how the pulpit was built:

The pulpit was built by a Redemptorist Brother—Bro. Leo. It was designed by the architect of the church but was not built for many years after the Church was constructed. It was a complicated design and so difficult to build that a number of carpenters surrendered and admitted that they could not follow the plan. Bro. Leo brought an old carpenter from Lipa called Alf who had worked with him for many years in the Lipa Monastery and together they built the pulpit. Bro. Leo was a carpenter before becoming a Redemptorist. Alf never had a chance to receive formal education but had natural skills not taught in schools.[5]


The main body and the biggest part of the shrine is the nave. The nave extends from the main door to the place where the choir is. It is the place for the devotees and lay faithful. This is where they stand, sit, gather, pray and participate in the sacred celebrations. Nave comes from the Latin word navis, signifying a ship, the same word from which we derived the words “navy” and “naval.” The ship was the favorite symbol of the Church in primitive times. From the nave, the faithful are able to see the Priest, the Deacon, and the readers and with the aid of a good sound system, hear them without difficulty.



The most common element of the nave are the pews and their kneelers. The pews are arranged in a unidirectional manner—one behind the next, facing the sanctuary of the church. There are 108 pews in the shrine which can seat 15 to 20 adults comfort­ably. This gives an actual seating capacity of 2000. More people, however are standing inside and outside the shrine during masses and novena, estimated at more or less 8000 people.


Another important element in the nave is the confessional. It is crafted in such a way that it fits in with the architecture of the shrine as well as being an obvious sign of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There are four confessionals placed at the sides of the shrine. In 2016, a separate reconciliation room was constructed near the candle chapel. This is a special reconciliation room where those going to confession can either choose between face to face confession or confession through a latticed opening for the penitents to speak through and a step on which they could kneel.


The choir is the place set aside for those members of the congregation who are specially trained to lead the sung portion of the liturgy. The choir is located at the right side of the sanctuary closer to the nave. The shrine has a rear gallery or “choir loft” but was never actually used since it is too far from the assembly and the presider. The choir is not visible to the rest of the congregation since the choir is primarily perceived audibly— we hear them not see them. They are present at Holy Mass as worshippers, not as performers.



The ceiling of the shrine is designed primarily for acoustic and aesthetic purposes. But the design of the ceiling also tells of another important symbol. The design is patterned on two hands joined together as in the posture of prayer. This evokes the spiritual ambiance that the shrine prays with the people. As the thousands of devotees prays the novena, the shrine also prays with them just as Mary Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the icon prays with them.


The narthex is the part of the shrine consisting of the entrance or lobby area, located at the west end of the nave, opposite the church’s main altar. The narthex is where the priest, the lectors, ushers, altar boys and girls, lay communion ministers and mother butler guilds assemble before the beginning of the liturgy. It is also the place where the priest wear the liturgical vestments for the liturgy. It is also the place where the priest and lay ministers greet the people as they enter and exit the shrine.

Rose Window


At the entrance of the shrine above the main door, devotees are greeted by a beautiful Rose Window. It is a large circular window above the central entrance to the church. The segments of stained glass that radiate out from its center are likened to the unfolding petals of a full-blown rose. Rose Windows in shrines are dedicated to Mary as the Mother of Jesus. At the center of the Rose Window is a star which recalls Mary as Star of the Sea, our guide in the midst of darkness.

Front Porch or Patio


The front porch of the shrine is a natural place for people to gather after or before the mass. It is popular place for devotees where they can sit, talk, and relax. It is also used as a meeting place by the devotees. Sometimes the patio becomes the venue for outdoor special events like concerts, plays, programs and other cultural celebrations.

Color of the Shrine


Yellow cream is the overriding color of the shrine which comes close to the golden background of the Icon. Gold in the icon evokes the life of joy and peace in eternity with God which we are all destined to be at the end of time.

Candle Chapel


The shrine has a separate chapel for lighting candles.  It is the second most popular place next to the shrine where people light candles and pray silently and solemnly. Many stay still lengthily transfixed at the candles praying for God’s light and trying to contemplate their lives in God’s light when they have come out of the darkness of their lives.

Jan Castillo commenting on the Facebook page of the shrine December 3, 2015, said, “An awesome place to pray, relax and chill. Must visit!!! Bring the whole family.”[6] Alvin Guerrero also commenting on the Facebook page of the shrine in August 12, 2016 said, “Quiet and really clean, you can pray solemnly.”[7] Jomar Gabayeron also commented, “A very solemn and sacred church. Has a big space in my heart, plays a big role in my life.” Joe Conda, commenting in May 1, 2017, said: “For me Baclaran church is one of my favourite place to go … in this place I can release all my worries in life, I can talk to God and give thanks for all the blessings that he gave me every day.” Pat Elvas, commented on July 30, 2015, “A great haven for peace, reflection and time for God, Jesus and His Mother. Our Mother of Perpetual Help, will always be a mother to us.”

Bell Tower


The original plan of the present shrine included a bell tower. This was cancelled, however, due to the church’s proximity to the airport. After 60 years, this plan was realized. In 2015, a Carillon belfry was built near the Western entrance of the Shrine on Roxas Blvd. On September 8 of the same year, Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle blessed the newly-built belfry. There are 24 bells in this tower, all imported from Austria. There are also four mosaic panels of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on each side of the belfry. The carillon bells are automatically programmed to ring 15 minutes before every Mass or Novena service. It also hosts the Sinirangan coffee shop at its base.

Wall Art at the Shrine’s Park


At the back of the candle chapel there is a large mosaic celebrating the 150th jubilee of the icon. It portrays the journey of the icon from Crete to Baclaran interspersed with scenes of devotees at the shrine and in the mission in the barrios.

At the south wall of the shrine’s compound is a mural of mixed art—mosaic, sculpture, paintings, depicting the history of the Filipino people interspersed with motifs and themes from Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the care for creation. The wall art is suitably augmented by a beautiful landscape of flowers and greens. It is one of the largest mosaic mural of all churches in the Philippines with a height of eight feet and a length of seven hundred feet.  The whole project began in mid-2015 and finished in 2017. The wall art was blessed in December 2017.

There are plans to build a mural on the north wall of the shrine’s compound in the future. The mural will also be a mixed art of mosaic, sculpture, painting depicting the different parts of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help intersperse with the life of Mary in the Bible.

These wall art and landscape provide an added space for devotees to relax, pray and contemplate on the icon. Carmelotez, commenting on the park outside of the shrine on May 22, 2017:  “It’s really nice to stay for relaxing… Its ambiance relieves my weariness, for me this is the best place to relax.”[8]

Truly the shrine’s architecture and ambiance inside and outside enhances the encounter between the devotees and God and Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Indeed, the shrine serves as an icon herself, a window to the eternal and the sacred.

Joey Echano

(This article is an excerpt from the book Mary of Baclaran: Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Mission Today by Joey Echano, soon to be published)

[1] St. Ambrose, De Spiritu Sancto III, 11:80.

[2] Hechanova, Baclaran Story

[3] Luis Hechanova, Baclaran Story


[5] John Maguire, To Give Missions Wherever They are Needed.




Baptism at the Plane


The community in the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Baclaran, often say, “You can never predict what will happen tomorrow.” They are usually talking about the number of people who will attend the Shrine, or the type of people or what people will be requesting of the priest. This case however is unique even for Baclaran.

We read in the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community on February 11, 1952:

Around midnight last night, a call came from the Pan American Airways office at Nicholl’s Field asking for a priest to be on hand when a KLM Plane would arrive.

What was happening? I am sure the Community expected a crash landing or something worse to be about to take place. Who would go? What did he need to take with him? Eventually the Minister was chosen to go (probably because he was a driver and it was close to midnight with not much transport available).

The Chronicles continue:

The plane arrives and Fr. Minister went over and found that a baby had been born on the plane and the family were requesting Baptism. The family was on it’s way to Australia from Lebanon. The Dutch crew of the plane were all Catholics and very cooperative.

I wonder if the same thing happened today. What would be the reaction of the family? The crew? The Airline? The priest? A Lebanese Family could still be requesting an early Baptism. However, I doubt if there is any Airline who would consider a Baptism as a priority, or put themselves out to arrange one while the plane was at a temporary landing place. The crew would probably be ready to help with the delivery of the baby but a Dutch crew today would be most unlikely to think of Baptism. The Churches in Holland are all empty. As for the priest, I can’t imagine any priest today rushing to the airport at midnight. He would probably ask many questions first, like “Is the baby in danger of death?” “Why can’t they wait till they get to Australia?” “Are the parents married in the church?”

The times, they are a changin’.

John Maguire, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

Devotion all over the Nation

Know that the tenderness of Mary never lets you down. And holding onto her mantle and with the power that cones from Jesus’ love on the cross, let us move forward and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord.                                                            

– Pope Francis, homily during the Mass in Tacloban, Jan. 17, 2015


In a letter to Fr. O’Leary dated February 7, 1958, the late Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco of Jaro joyfully told Fr. Lew O’ Leary, the rector of the shrine, how he endorsed his petition to make the Baclaran Shrine as a National Shrine for the following reasons.

Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour has become national in the Philippines, as in many parishes the novena to the Perpetual Succour is held. That in Baclaran every Wednesday about 70,000 come to the Novena of Perpetual Succour. This number is unique in the world. That the new church is the longest in the Philippines. That the Redemptorist Fathers are the best promoters and propagandists of devotion to Our Lady.

After his short speech, the Bishops present approved Fr. O’Leary’s petition unanimously for the honor and glory of the Blessed Virgin.  On March 5th, 1958, the good news that the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help had been made the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was announced at all Masses and Novenas. This official declaration gave confirmation about the sacredness of the shrine and the many graces that the thousands of devotees have received through the prayers of OMPH. This further attracted existing and new devotees to flock to the shrine.

The declaration of Baclaran as a National Shrine is a recognition that the love affair between the Filipino people and Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran has now become a national affair. This love affair is no longer confined within the shrine but is widespread all throughout the nation. The novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is recited in every parish every Wednesday throughout the country. Even very popular shrines such as Our Lady Manaoag, the Quiapo Church of the Nazareno, and the Sto Nino in Cebu have perpetual novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help. Seminaries all over the country also hold perpetual novena. Filipino workers and migrants brought the icon and prayed the novena in almost every country of the globe.


The icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help will no longer just be in the shrine. The icon will grace many humble nipa huts in the countryside, shanties in the slums and mansions in posh villages of the cities. It will be displayed in public vehicles, buses or jeepneys, in schools, in halls, seminaries and even in malls. Numerous hospitals, schools and universities, cooperatives, and organizations will be dedicated and named after Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Fr. Amado Picardal recounts how as a political prisoner during Martial Law years in the 1970s, he saw the image of the Mother of Perpetual Help tattooed on a prisoner’s back that someone jokingly asked him to take off his shirt so that the prisoners can hold a novena.  The spread of the devotion all over the land was not


just the work of the Redemptorists but of the people and the local church. The devotees have become co-missionaries in making known OMPH all over the nation.

Many parishes throughout the country will be named after OMPH. In fact, there are fifty-four parishes in the Philippines dedicated to the Mother of Perpetual Help.  Below is the list of parishes under the Dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help (59). OMPH – Our Mother of Perpetual Help, OLPH – Our Lady of Perpetual Help, ILS – Ina ng Laging Saklolo, NSPS – Nuestra Senora Perpetu Sucorso)


Diocese Parish/Shrine Address
Baguio 1. OLPH (f1961) Abatan, Bugias, Benguet
Bangued 2. OLPH  (f1952) Luba, Abra
Bayombong 3. OMPH   Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya
Cabanatuan 4. OMPH  (F1968) Mabini Homesite

Cabanatuan City

Caceres 5. OLPH (f1958) Balatan , CamSur
Calapan 6. OMPH (f1991)  Bgy Managpi, Calapan, Oriental Mindoro
Cubao 7. OLPH `13th Ave Cubao, QC.

8. OLPH Project 8, QC

Gumaca 9. OMPH Somagonsong, Mulanay, Quezon
Iba 10.  OLPH Mission, Acoje Mines, Sta Cruz, Zambales
Ilagan 11.  OLPH Calamagui, Ilagan,  Isabela
Imus 12.  OMPH, DBB-A, Dasmarinas,

13.  ILS, Sungay, Tagaytay

14.  OMPH, Perpetual Village VII, Bacoor

Laoag 15.  OMPH 2008  Pancian, Pagudpud,
Lingayen-Dagupan 16.  OLPH Canan Norte, Malasiqui, Pangasinan
Lipa 17. OMPH, Agoncillo, Batangas

18.  OLPH Aplaya, Bauan, Batangas

Lucena 19.  OMPH Taguan,  Candelaria

20.  OMPH Bukak, Tayabas

Malolos 21.  MPH, San Pedro, Hagonoy,  Bulacan
Manila 22.  ILS, Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila

23.  NSPS/OLPH f1951 Calamba cor Instruccion, Sampaloc, Manila

Novaliches 24.  ILS Phase 7, Bagong Silang,  Caloocan CIty
Pasig 25.  OMPH (QP) Sampaguita, Perpetual Village 10, Bagong Tanyag, Taguig City
San Fernando, La Union 26.  OLPH f1956 Pagdalagan, San Fernando, LU
San Fernando, Pampanga 27.  MMPH ,  Gutad, Florida Blanca, Pampanga
San Jose, NE 28. OMPH, Talugtog, Nueva Ecija
San Pablo 29. OMPH Laguna Bel Air Subd, Sta. Rosa
Tuguegarao 30. OLPH, Namuac, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan


Diocese Address
Cebu 1. OMPH Parish, Babag 1, Lapulapu City
2. MPH Shrine-Parish(CSsR) , Elizabeth Pond, Cebu City
Dumaguete 3. OMPH Shrine-Parish(CSsR), Dumaguete
4. OMPH Parish, Balugo, Dumaguete
5. OMPH Parish, Manalongon, Sta Catalina, Negros Oriental
San Carlos 6. MPH Parish, Brgy Minapasuk, Calatrava, Negros Occidental (San Carlos)
Jaro 7. OLPH Shrine-Parish (CSsR), La Paz, Iloilo City
8. OLPH Parish, Sto. Tomas, Passi, Iloilo
Palo 9. OMPH Parish (CSsR) Real St., Tacloban City


Butuan 1. OMPH Parish, Brgy Holy Redeemer, Butuan
Cagayan de Oro 2. MPH Parish, Baliwagan, Misamis Oriental
Cotabato 3. OLPH Parish, Sarmiento, Parang, Shariff Kabunsuan18.

4. OMPH Parish, Guiwan, Cotabato City

Digos 5. OMPH Parish Guihing, Hagonoy, Davao Sur
Dipolog 6. OMPH Parish, Godod, Zamboanga del Norte,
7. OMPH Parish, Manukan, Zamboanga del Norte
8. OMPH Parish, Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte
Ipil 9. OMPH Parish, Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay
Iligan 10. OLPH Parish, Linamon, Lanao del Norte
Kidapawan 11. MPH Parish, Arakan, North Cotabato
12. OLPH Parish, New Rizal, Mlang, North Cotabato
(13. OMPH Shrine, Binoligan, Amas, Kidapawan
Marbel 14. OLPH Parish, Milbuk, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat

(OLPH Seminary, Sultan Kudarat)

Ozamis 15. OMPH Parish, Katipunan, Misamis Occidental
Surigao 16. OLPH Parish, Socorro, Surigao Norte
Tagum 17. OLPH Parish, Maco, Compostela Valley
Davao 18. OMPH Parish (CSsR), Bajada Davao City
Military Ordinariate 19. OMPH Chapel, Naval Forces, Eastern Mindanao Command, Panacan, Davao City

Cultural Heritage

Baclaran as a national shrine has been visited by all kinds of people–movie stars, politicians, prostitutes, rich and poor, famous and infamous, old and young. The shrine truly belongs to the Filipino people of every class and kind.

It has become not just a sacred or spiritual center but also a cultural capital. The Baclaran phenomenon had gone beyond the religious experience; it has permeated the social, economic, and cultural fabric of the country. The icon of OMPH is not just a religious icon but has become a collective representation of Philippine society.

A cultural expression of Baclaran as a national cultural heritage are the films that was made about the devotion in Baclaran as early as its inception. The earliest recorded film was Awa ng Birhen sa Baclaran (Mercy of the Virgin of Baclaran), in 1952. It stars Ramon D’Salva, Eddie del Mar, Arsenia Francisco. The second earliest recorded movie on the phenomenon is Mother Dearest in 1960.  The movie is composed of seven stories contained in letters received by the Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine at Baclaran. The titles of the seven stories are: ‘The Innocent’, ‘The Tramp’, ‘The Pickpocket’, ‘The Hostess’, ‘The Sinner’, ‘The Rebel’, and ‘The Novice’. It was written by Ben Arguelles  and screenplay by Ben Feleo. The movie stars: Van De Leon, Lilibeth Vera-Perez, and Nenita Jana.


In the 1979 in the dramatic film Ina Ka ng Anak Mo (You are the Mother of your child), starring Nora Aunor, the church appears in the opening scene. The church also appears in the 1995 film Alfredo Lim: Batas ng Maynila (Alfredo Lim: Law of Manila) starring Eddie Garcia. The church’s candle chapel made an appearance in the 2015 film You’re Still The One starring Maja Salvador, Dennis Trillo, Ellen Adarna and Richard Yap.

The Baclaran shrine is also a favorite venue of TV stations for quick interviews and features during significant national events whether civic or religious events. The church was also featured in the American Reality Competition Program The Amazing Race Season 25 in 2014.

In 2015, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines began the process of including Baclaran shrine in the heritage listing. This was made into a proposal and was approved during a hearing in 2015 which I attended in the City Hall of Paranaque. Baclaran is now officially a national heritage. It is a testament to the Filipino’s profound love for Mary.


This recognition, however, comes with a responsibility. As a national heritage, the façade and architecture of the shrine and the original convent can no longer be changed. As a heritage listing, the shrine needs to provide more facilities for pilgrims and tourists, like spaces for seating, drinking and eating. It also needs to organize tours and provide information materials for tourist and pilgrims. A museum showing the rich and significant events of the past and some valuable symbols and artefacts of the shrine will be an important emblem of Baclaran as a national heritage.

Joey Echano

(This article is an excerpt from the book Mary of Baclaran: Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Mission Today by Joey Echano, soon to be published)

A Shrine of Hope

Mary is the prototype of the hope of grace
for humankind as a whole.[1]


Many times as I walk around the shrine after the services at night, I could see devotees deep in prayer and silence. What catches most intensely my attention is the number of people who are crying, pouring their hearts out to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. For many devotees, the shrine has become a channel for pouring out their sorrows and woes, an outlet for catharsis, if you will. They see the shrine as a very important channel where they could pour out their sufferings and agonies and turn to the Lord and Mary which in many cases is their only hope.  Rik Ali Mandi describes this in a thanksgiving letter written on September 23, 2014:

Here in this shrine, I felt peace in my heart. Here in this shrine, I learned to pour out my frustrations and pains in life. Here in this shrine, I left behind all the things that gave me sadness, burdens and woes.  Thus, I give thanks wholeheartedly to you Our Mother of Perpetual Help for the times that you listened to my petitions and afflictions in life, and for giving light to the questions of my life. You taught me the right solutions to the problems I bring to you, guided me towards the right decisions and most of all made me feel that you love me and lead me to the right path in life. Now, as I continue my journey in life, I have complete trust that you will always guide me through my loneliness towards the twilight of my life … I give thanks to you Our Mother of Perpetual Help, many, many thanks.

Through the years, our country has gone through a lot of crisis. Despite the continuous crisis, devotees flock to Baclaran. There is no abatement in attendance, the devotion has not waned one bit.  Someone in the community commented that the more our country is plunged into crisis the more people flock to Baclaran. Indeed, despite the series of crises, Filipinos in their distinctive creativity and resilience in dealing with crisis, can still afford to smile and celebrate.  Filipinos’ resilience is deeply rooted in their faith and devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. This is what Nica Realuyo expressed in her thanksgiving letter on February 4, 2015,

6 years ago after graduating in education degree in our province, I mustered enough courage to go to Manila in order to fulfil my dream to become a flight attendant … I tried several times to apply and several times I failed the pre-screening. I could no longer count from my fingers how many times I was disappointed and thought of giving up and forget all about my dream. In those moments, which I could not accept, I had feelings of resentment for God. I had so many questions. Until one day, I thought of going to Baclaran to pray for many things about my life including my dream. After many years of waiting and several disappointments and rejections, I was accepted by an airline from Middle East … What I have gone through is a witness to the truth that through our persistence and prayer our dreams will be realized … God is good! God bless us all!

Shrine as Icon of Hope

Many devotees see the shrine as a symbol of faith and hope.  As the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Third Asian Congress on Pilgrimages and Shrines declares, “In an era overwhelmed by divisions, acts of violence and natural calamities, pilgrimages and shrines are places of hope which comes from the encounter with God.”[2] In the midst of the many crises and evils that seem to prevail in our times, the shrine has always proclaimed to the devotees to not surrender to apathy and despair. The Redemptorist in their preaching tried to give an account of the hope that they lived and experienced:  “Always be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15). In the maiden issue of the shrine’s newsletter, The Icon, in October 2003, I wrote about the mission of the shrine,

In the midst of hopelessness, we yearn to be signs of hope; in the midst of gnawing pessimism we want to bring the good news of Jesus; in the midst of a culture that breeds indifference and individualism, we strive to promote dialogue and solidarity especially with the marginalized and most abandoned.  We believe that our devotion to our Mother of Perpetual Help should lead us to a radical renewal of ourselves so we can truly become genuine agents of transformation in church and society.


In the midst of the suffering and crisis, people come to this church to be inspired and renewed to face their daily struggles. The devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help gives hope to thousands of devotees to not just surrender to the predicament they find themselves in their current situation. As the devotees pour out their sorrows in the shrine, Mary Our Mother of Perpetual Help gives them the hope and strength to continue their struggles and aspirations in the midst of life’s trials and difficulties. Arnel Villena writes in a thanksgiving letter on July 6, 2015,

During those times when I was extremely down, I felt that you always gave me hope and reason to be positive about life. The added strength and new kidney that you attached to my body is a most beautiful sign of your guidance upon me. I will always take care of this. The very good job I have now, is the source of our daily needs, and also a big blessing from you. In addition, you let me experience other miracles. Mother, thank you. I will not forget this.

The Poor as Bearers of Hope

Poverty and hope goes hand and hand in the shrine. Mary under the title of Ina ng Laging Saklolo (Our Mother of Perpetual Help) appeals to many devotees because many of them are helpless and pushed to the limit, in Tagalog—“kapit sa patalim!” (gripping the knife’s edge). When the system is rigged and stacked against their favor, the plea of many devotees is, help me, saklolo! When nothing works for them—the system, the government, politicians, and even the church, they look inward and seek God and Mary’s intervention. Genesis Toledo Lustre demonstrates this plea for help as she writes,

I’ve been to Baclaran church many times especially when I am losing hope in life, I prayed while crying, I couldn’t help myself from crying whenever I come to this church. However, I think I need someone to talk to who is from the Church who can give me advice or someone who will just listen to my story and my questions. I really need guidance, especially now that I am pregnant. Please ..


Most devotees are poor just barely getting by, surviving on a day to day existence, as we say in Tagalog, isang kahig, isang tuka, (one scratch, one peck) which means hand-to-mouth existence.  Many who flock to the shrine are hungry, thirsty, alienated, depressed, excluded, abandoned and deprived in multiple ways and variety of experiences. The despair that many devotees suffer, is articulated by Cha in her thanksgiving letter on April 29, 2015,

[E]very time I pray to you and to Jesus to help me understand the things that would prevent me from doing the evil thing that I always thought—taking my own life because of the many financial problems—you always let me see how lucky I am because I have a family that I need to love and care for.  My heart breaks when I see the innocent faces of my little children—what will happen to them if I am gone, if I surrender. I pray that you would once again open your heart to me. For the last time, I ask you that you would hear my plea to drive away my financial problem. I pray that you would give me another opportunity to rise up and begin anew … as a mother.

Most of the devotees who flock to Our Mother of Perpetual Help realize how destitute they are whether spiritual or material.  Ironically, it is this poverty that opens their hearts to reach out to God and to Mary and not lose hope. The devotees in their poverty find hope despite the hopelessness they experienced in life.  Indeed, one cannot truly experience God’s perpetual help through Our Mother of Perpetual Help unless one becomes poor. They embody Jesus’ first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5: 2).

Finding Hope in Fellow Devotees

The sick, unemployed, frustrated, lost, loveless, and suffering—destitute as they are, spiritually or materially, they open their hearts to reach out to God and to fellow men and women in despair. They find hope from fellow hopeless devotee.  When one hear the thousands sing and pray the novena in unison one cannot help but experience courage and hope which provide the strength to go on amidst the struggles in life.

This experience of praying the novena as giving hope to thousand of devotees is affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope).  In the encyclical Benedict XVI asks:  “How can Christians learn, articulate and exercise this hope in Christ?” To this Benedict responds: “A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer.” When no one listens to me anymore, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God.” Prayer can never be merely individual or self-preoccupied; genuine prayer is that which turns us toward others, in solidarity with our neighbor and communion in the Church as Benedict further adds:

Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.[3]

Defiant Hope

Many devotees have suffered from many forms captivity that have subjugated them for so long. Thus, the plea of the thousands of devotees to Inay ng Laging Saklolo is not just a cry for their needs but is also a cry for liberation. In whatever state of captivity they find themselves, their devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help give them hope and strength not to surrender and continue to struggle.


Strengthened by hope, devotees not only pray for what they want, but aim to be set free towards the life they honestly hope to attain.  In this spirit, hope becomes an active disposition–never surrendering to apathy and indifference.  Their hope, directed by Our Mother of Perpetual Help towards the Good News of Jesus Christ, is the refusal to accept the status quo. It is challenging present systems and the wider societal structures in actively bringing about new attitudes and alternative order according to Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom.

The Dutch theologian Edward Schillebeeckx states that the most radical form of Christian hope is born in negativity, “amid the experiences of negativity, darkness, and injustice in which human beings cry out in protest: ‘This cannot go on!’”[4]  Hope entails challenging the prevailing values, attitudes, structures and systems that for so long a time preserved captivity and dependence.  As Anthony Kelly declares, “hope refuses to see the ultimate meaning of life as simply more of the same.”[5] That is why hope is always bold, daring and defiant. Kelly adds, “Genuine hope has no use for idols.”[6]  Experiencing hope amidst their despair and hopelessness through their devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, devotees learned to proclaim the gospel as a counter text to the idols of the world.

Thus, the experience of pouring out of one’s sorrows for many devotees is not just cathartic but also empowering. Fr. Victorino Cueto asserts that through their devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the shrine, devotees are afforded “the empowered experience … to put a language into his/her predicament. S/He is able to speak and give voice to his/her experience. A devotee is provided the space to articulate his/her joys and pain, hopes and suffering, desires and dreams.”[7]  In a thanksgiving letter written on August 27, 2014, Michelle Mulingbayan shares this kind of experience in the shrine:

I started coming to you last February 2014 because of a big problem that I was going through during those times with the father of my child. It has been my practise that whenever I experience that kind of feeling, I go to mass or visit a nearby church in order to pour out my sorrows, ask for help and guidance in order to lighten the pain I am experiencing … Almost every night I could not stop crying because of so the unbearable pain. For nine Wednesdays, I did not surrender, and in those times, I gradually felt peace in my heart and mind.  Every time I pray the novena, I feel the warmth of your acceptance and helping hand in order that I might overcome this trial in my life.

A Whole New World: Hope Beyond this World

The hope that the devotees deeply experienced in the shrine is not just optimism or a mirage. As St. Paul said, “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5: 5).

Looking through the icon, the devotees are led to see an “it-could-be-otherwise” world. Our Mother of Perpetual Help invites the devotees to see behind and beyond their world—with all its sufferings, hardships, hopelessness, injustice, violence, enslavements – in anticipation of a possible world full of possibilities. The icons are an agency of hope, a hope which defies even the most destructive force in our world today that in the midst of the violence, chaos, madness, misery of our lives here on earth, there is a “beyond-this-world” that is totally opposite our world today (magnificat) already growing but will reached its fullest potential through the most creative and dynamic power and grace of God in the end.

As the document, The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God proclaims, “The shrine …  is a sign of that greater hope that points to the final and definitive destination, where each individual will be fully human, respected and fulfilled according to the righteousness of God.”[8]  Amid life’s difficulties, the shrine, an edifice of stone, points to the homeland glimpsed from afar but not yet attained, anticipation of which, in faith and hope, sustains Christ’s disciples on their pilgrim way.[9] The shrine is set as a prophecy of God’s tomorrow in the today of the present world.[10] Every time the community of the faithful gathers together in the shrine, it does so to remind itself of that other shrine, the future city, the dwelling of God, which we wish to begin building already in this world and which we cannot help but desire, filled with hope, conscious of our limitations, striving to prepare as best we can the coming of the Kingdom. [11]

In this spirit, the prayer that the people pray—novena and personal prayers—becomes not just supplication but aspiration. Their prayer serves as a narrative and metaphor, expressions of aspirations of the longed for reality, the desire for new world.  Through their devotion, devotees are invited in hope to see beyond the present age. Our Mother of Perpetual Help invites the devotee to be a “hoper,” who is impatient with evil and death in this present age.

God will make all things new. He is known now in his promises. Hope is what gives us confidence in the possibility that those things which are now so destructive of human well-being will be overcome. Hope speaks to a world vividly aware of the “not yet” dimensions of human and social existence, and of the fact that hope at its human level is of the stuff of meaningful existence. It is hope that changes us, hope that changes the world.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help – Mother of Hope

In the shrine, the poor found Mary when they needed to find a voice, an outlet, an ally.  When they experience Our Mother of Perpetual Help as kakampi (ally), they no longer feel alone. Our Mother of Perpetual Help becomes a symbol of hope and solace to thousands of desperate devotees who come day and night to the shrine. Our Mother of Perpetual Help becomes a mother of hope.


The life of Mary is hope personified. Mary lived hope because she represented the poor of Yahweh and proclaimed the victory of the Lord against worldly power and domination. Lumen Gentium concludes by calling Mary a sign of hope and comfort for God’s pilgrim people. Mary is the prototype of the hope of grace for humankind as a whole.[12]  Mary embodies the ‘elect Israel’ of whom Paul speaks – glorified, justified, called, predestined. Maria Rina Geronimo describes how Our Mother of Perpetual Help is mother of hope,

The last time that I wrote you, my mind was entirely confused, losing hope and crying. Thank you very much Mama Mary for leading me here in your home during those times when I was truly down … During those moments when my self-esteem was so low, you did not abandon me. Thank you very much Mama Mary because you opened your home to a sinner like me. I am not a prayerful person but because of the things that happened to me, I learned to go to mass and pray. I know Mama Mary that this is one of the ways that you can open my mind and heart and once again become close to you … Take care of me Mama Mary and grant me strength and peace of mind so I can serve the sick. Thank you very much for everything Mama Mary for your help and mercy.

Mary as mother of hope, however, draws devotees ultimately not to herself but to her son Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict calls Mary as star of hope who leads us to the true light–Jesus Christ.

Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).[13]

The life of Jesus is the hope of the poor, desperate, helpless and abandoned. We can only experience true hope through the fullness of life that Jesus gave us, as St. Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.



[1] Lumen Gentium, #59.

[2] Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Third Asian Congress on Pilgrimages and Shrines (Nagasaki, Japan, October 15-17, 2007)

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, #34.

[4] Hilkert, “Edward Schillebeeckx,”.

[5] Anthony Kelly, Eschatology and Hope (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006), 5.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Victorino Cueto, DEBO(MI)SYON: Celebrating the Spirit in / of Baclaran. Accessed at

[8] The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God

[9] The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God,

[10] The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God,

[11] The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God,

[12] Lumen Gentium, #59.

[13] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, #49.

(This article is an excerpt from the book Mary of Baclaran: Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Mission Today by Joey Echano, soon to be published)

A Shrine of Miracles


I don’t believe in miracles, I rely on them to get through each day!
– Karl Rahner[1]


Many times, Baclaran has been called a shrine of miracles. Many flock to Baclaran because they believe it as a sacred place imbued with special spiritual powers where miracles happen. Kevin Angelo James Francisco wrote on February 14, 2018, “The place where miracles happen! I love you Blessed Mother!”[2] Edwin De Veyra, also wrote on October 11, 2017, “There will be a big miracle in our lives if we go to Baclaran church.”[3] Nelen R. T. Herrera testifies that Baclaran is a shrine of miracles in a thanksgiving letter in November 4, 2017, ·

There were many miraculous answers to my petitions to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Healings, business deals, strength guidance and love. And, twice, I witnessed, people presumably possessed by evil spirits, who became very uneasy and their illnesses seem to surface. Maybe, the power of the place caused them to be uneasy. Baclaran Church magnifies God’s presence and love for us through various and countless answered prayers. Loving Mother, pray for us![4]

Many hope and believe that a miracle can also happen to them when they come to Baclaran shrine: Whether to be healed or to travel abroad or get a job or pass the board exams or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. Jessa Llano writes on Mar 19, 2017 thanking Our Mother of Perpetual Help for a miracle she received,

There is so much joy and happiness inside my heart the day I received a miracle from God. All my fears are gone and eventually fade away. I believe in the miracles of God. And I am more than thankful to you, for always helping me and showing me the right path. As a student, I will never ever forget all the graces I received. Thank you for interceding for me to your divine son Jesus. I will not stop praising you forever till the rest of my life … I love you Mama Mary.

The identification of the shrine as a shrine of miracles began shortly after the introduction of the novena in 1948. The first report of a “miracle” mentioned by the Redemptorist community in their chronicles was in June 20, 1949: “Many favors were granted to her devotees during the Novena. The most striking being, the sudden cure of a case of tetanus and the conversion of another to the true faith.”

There is no official formal declaration from the official Church that the shrine is a shrine of miracles. Not that the shrine need any official declaration nor the devotees demand one. The promise of miracles combined with the conviction that they can easily bring to God whatever needs they have through Mary’s intercession, attract many devotees. Indeed, devotees flock to shrine because they believe that their petitions will reach God through Mary’s intercession. As the American Mariologist Fr. Johann G. Roten states, “There is no sense in prayer, meditation and devotion, if the faithful individual does not have some assurance or moral certitude that his or her act of religion does, in fact, reach the intended addressee.”[5]


There has been no report, however, of any extraordinary phenomena or miraculous happenings in Baclaran like apparitions, host with blood, Mary crying in tears of blood, and other supernatural events. There is also no legend or myth that has become part of the oral tradition of the shrine. The only time that the Baclaran phenomenon was associated with an external supernatural activity was during the time of the reported phenomenon of the showers of petals in Lipa in 1948.[6] When the novena exploded in Baclaran in 1948, it was also the time when the reported showers of petals occurred in Lipa.  Fr. Louie Hechanova narrates that during the time, “With the news of the shower of roses in the Carmel of Lipa all over the papers then, ‘a journalist happened to get curious and asked a sacristan in Baclaran what he was looking for.’ ‘Rose petals,’ the sacristan answered. ‘Next day, the daily bulletin reported that petals had fallen in Baclaran!’ This promoted the idea that miracles also occur in Baclaran and consequently, attracted more people to flock to Baclaran.

This reminds me of a widely acclaimed Filipino film, Himala (Miracle) which stars Nora Aunor, Filipina superstar during the 70s and 80s. The movie tells the story of Cupang, a poor and sleepy town in Northern Philippines which suddenly came to life after a reported apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a poor girl named Elsa (Nora Aunor). This drew large numbers of pilgrims to the once barren town boosted by the successful faith healing of Elsa. Soon business people, politicians, media and other people with interest took advantage of the phenomenon. Aghast at all these developments, Elsa near the end of the film, steps on the stage and talks into a microphone in front of thousands of devotees and pilgrims who have eagerly awaited her address. She proclaims: “Walang himala, ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao, nasa puso nating lahat. Tayo ang gumagawa ng himala, tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga diyos!” (There are no miracles. It is all inside us… We make miracles ourselves… We pronounce the curse… We create the gods!).

American Professor of Hispanic Studies Frank Graziano defines a miracle in popular devotion as

one that exceeds not the laws of nature but rather the real possibilities of a devotee, which are frequently very limited by people’s low educational level, by poor medical and sanitary conditions because of structural poverty … and by a lack of savings to respond to unforeseen situations.[7]

Indeed, most miracles in Baclaran are the small miracles and internal transformation that happened to the devotees; nothing of the external extraordinary kind. Like the thanksgiving letter of Gabrielle Mindy Uy dated November 3, 2014, where she gave thanks to OMPH for granting an almost impossible favour that she had prayed for a long time.

Thank you very much because you answered what I have been praying for a long time. It seemed almost impossible, but the person I love most came back to me. You answered my prayer and you continue to fulfil what I have asked for. Thank you very much Mama Mary, and may you continue to help those who ask for your help.


In hindsight, there is no need in Baclaran for one visionary or select few recipients of some extraordinary phenomenon.  There is no need for an apparition to keep people coming to Baclaran. The transformation of Baclaran into a booming town and the transformation of the devotees are themselves the biggest miracles. The thousands of devotees are themselves the witnesses to the graces and presence of God through Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Like Mylene S. Obed who wrote a thanksgiving letter to Our Mother of Perpetual Help:

Our Mother of Perpetual Help hears even the most silent prayers of our hearts… After months of continuous novenas and devotion, I was blessed with a child, who is now a young lady, and we now go together to Baclaran to show our gratitude to this answered prayer.[8]

Marvin Maderas also wrote, “Thru your miraculous intervention we are united once again as a family. Thank you so much Mama Mary for your blessings (my italics).”[9]

Thanksgiving Letters: Testimonies of Miracles?

A major reason why the shrine is called a shrine of miracles is because of the letters of thanksgiving. Many of the testimonials about the miracles in Baclaran are narrated by the devotees through letters of thanksgiving. Jas Aquino, for example, narrates the miracle he received through a thanksgiving letter in September 3, 2015,

Last time I found myself writing here when I was in the most deep and lonely situation. I find comfort in writing and talking to you. I have undergone a difficult time financially and with your help and through your intercession a miraculous help came to me in my darkest hour.  I was approved for my loan at the office. I was able to pay some of my debts and lessen them. I was able to pay for my youngest brother’s tuition and bought him a uniform, because I haven’t paid it for a long time and I just asked for extension to pay … Because of our situation there are times when we don’t have food on the table over the past few months, now we can eat and my kids as well. Thank you for always hearing our prayers. Through your intercession Mother of Perpetual help our prayers is being answered.

Ever since the novena began in the shrine, the Redemptorists have encouraged the devotees to write letters of petitions or thanksgiving to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Devotees can drop these letters to several boxes marked separately for letters of petition and letters of thanksgiving. They are located in conspicuous places in the shrine. Today, devotees can also send their letters of petitions and thanksgiving through the official website of the shrine. This is highly advantageous for OFWs who cannot physically go to the shrine to drop their letters. Indeed, most of the letters received online comes from OFWs.  Ayla Joy, an OFW writing on July 12, 2016, expresses her joy of being able to send letter to Our Mother of Perpetual Help from abroad,

I really wanted to send letter to our Blessed Virgin even though I am far away because I know she is the reason for the many blessings that I have received in my life today. All that I asked from her was fulfilled.  All these blessings I owe to her son Jesus and to the Blessed Virgin. Thank you very much that there is this kind of way for OFW’s, despite that they are far away, they can be able to write their thanksgiving and petitions to our Blessed Virgin.

Every Tuesday of every week throughout the year, the Baclaran Redemptorist community come together to count the number of petition letters and read the letters of thanksgiving received during the past week. Reading through the letters of thanksgiving every week, I can just admire the deep and genuine faith of the devotees. It gives profound inspiration to my own devotion and faith. After reading all the thanksgiving letters, the community chooses the best ones.

All letters are read except for the letters of petitions. The letters of petitions are not read simply because of the sheer number of petition letters received. Reading all the letters of petitions would take almost the whole week.

The selected letters are read by the commentator during the novena and masses at the shrine the following day, Wednesday.  The commentator also announces the total number of letters of petitions and thanksgiving received. The preacher sometimes uses the selected letter as a launching pad for his homily.


The letters of petitions that the shrine have received throughout these years ever since the beginning of the novena can attest to the various needs that the devotees bring to Our Mother of Perpetual Help along with their trust and confidence in her loving care. On the other hand, the letters of thanksgiving that the shrine have received from the devotees can attest to the many favors that the devotees have received. The letters of thanksgiving attest to the conviction that the shrine is a shrine of miracles.

On any given year, the letters of petitions outnumber the letters of thanksgiving by a huge margin. Of the total letters received every year, 85% to 90% are letters of petitions while 10% to 15% are letters of thanksgiving. In 2016, for example, 136,819 letters of petitions were received which represents 87.83% of the total letters received while only 18,954 letters of thanksgiving were received which represents 12.17% of the total letters received. This does not accurately reflect, however, the actual number of petitions and thanksgiving of the devotees. For one, not all devotees write letters of petitions and thanksgiving to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

From the thanksgiving letters we read every Wednesday, one important albeit hard insight that devotees learn is that in prayer they receive may not be the answer which they desire, but the answer which God in his wisdom and love knows to be best. Not all petitions from the devotees were answered by God in the exact way and time that the devotees hoped for.  Cecilia and Gerald Salandanan learned this hard truth but their confidence in Our Mother of Perpetual Help never wavered. They share with us their experience through a thanksgiving letter written in September 3, 2014,

After 9 Wednesdays, I did not pray the novena again and I did not return to you as well. Not because I lost hope that you would not answer my petition at that time, but I had complete trust that you will not let me down. Thank you very much for you taught me to be strong and not let my impatience crush my faith. Even if my prayers were not answered immediately, my trust never waned, for all things happen for a reason and all things have an end.  Thank you very much for my husband is finally home after 5 months of sickness, hardship, anger, tears and loneliness. Even though it has been painful and difficult, I believe that all things happen according to the will of God. Impossible things become possible. All is miracle, dear Mother. And I will not be surprised because I know that God the Father and almighty God will make all things to mend our lives through your prayers. 

Even though their prayers were not answered in the way they expected it, Our Mother of Perpetual Help empowers and strengthens them as they continue to hope that God will respond to their prayers in the way that God knows what is best for them.  As the devotees pray in the novena, “Make us aware that God never ceases to love us; that He answers all our prayers in the way that is best for us.” Krystelline Jimenez testifies to this conviction in her thanksgiving letter February 3, 2016,

I have prayed the Novena every Wednesday morning for a couple of years now. Some of my petitions were answered with a “no”, some were “not yet” but most were “YES”. But more than the petitions, the Novena gives me a sense of security, a sense of peace, where nothing could ever go wrong. I thank the Lord and Mama Mary for taking care of me and my family despite my shortcomings. Thank you for my whole life, including the No and Not yets.

There are some devotees where many of their petitions were not even answered. Despite this, they continue to come to the shrine. For them, the warm presence and loving gaze of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is enough as it gives them inner peace and strength. This is the experience of Ritchie Limpin who wrote in July 08, 2014,

For a person who has many concerns like me—a single mom who brings up my children alone, it is only to Our Mother of Perpetual Help that I hold on to. I must admit, there are times that I started to ask myself, what do I get out of coming here besides the profound peace I feel whenever I come to this place? Are there any prayers that she has already heard and come true? Despite all of these, I continue to visit her even though sometimes there is nothing that I can think of anymore to pray for. I just remain sitting or kneeling there and praying the novena.

For the petitions answered, however, they are not just graces coming from God but supplemented by human efforts and cooperation. As the Filipino saying goes, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (Mercy is God’s, action is with people) implies that prayer must be complemented by action and action must be supplemented by prayer. This is the experience of Mr. and Mrs. Rogelio and Jessie Sugcang. For 13 years they were devotee of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. They had a son who was a drug addict. He was living with them. He had two children. Whenever he gets high on drugs, he becomes out of control; he threatens them, he wanted to kill them. For almost four years they prayed to OMPH. For them only a miracle could save their son. Because of their unwavering faith and devotion, the couple’s prayers were answered. His son found a job in the ship overseas. Now their son is successful in his career and living a life guided by Our Mother of Perpetual Help.[10]

Through the various favors identified by devotees in their thanksgiving letters throughout the years, the Redemptorists have come up with classes of favors received by the devotees. There are 17 classes of favors, these are: Spiritual Favours, Conversion, Peace in the Home, Reconciliation, Partner in Life, Health & Recovery from Sickness, Delivered from All Dangers, Gift of a Child and Safe Delivery, Financial Help, Education & Success in Studies Board Exam, Travel Abroad, Local Employment, Overseas Employment, Social Justice & Peace in Society, Legal Favours, and Temporal Favours. The favors that were not clearly identified by the devotees in their thanksgiving letters were classified as unspecified and/or all the blessings.

The table below shows how many favors were received by the devotees per category in 2016.

Favors Answered from the Thanksgiving Letters Received, 2016

  TOTAL Rank Percentage

Mga Kahilingan


Mga Pasasalamat

Spiritual Favours

Pang- Espiritual na mga Biyaya

910 3 4.80
Conversion / Pagbabalik-loob 116 16  .61
Peace in the Home

Kapayapaan sa Tahanan

328 8 1.73
Reconciliation /Pagkakasundo 123 14  .65
Partner in life/ Katuwang sa Buhay 163 13  .86
Health and Recovery from Sickness

Kalusugan at Paggaling

1,262 2 6.65
Delivered from All Dangers

Kaligtasan sa mga Sakuna

120 15  .63
Gift of a Child and Safe Delivery

Pagkakaroon ng Anak

246 11 1.29
Financial Help /Tulong Pinansyal 376 7 1.98
Education and Success in Studies


300 10 1.58
Board Exam/ Pagpasa sa Eksamen 499 5 2.63
Travel Abroad

Pagbyahe sa Ibang Bansa

208 12 1.09
Local Employment / Lokal na Trabaho 589 4 3.10
Overseas Employment

Trabaho sa ibang Bansa

311 9 1.66
Social Justice and Peace in Society

Katarungan at Kapayapaan Panlipunan

19 17  .10
Legal Favours/ Pang-legal na Biyaya 9 18  .04
Temporal Favours

Pang Material na Biyaya

447 6 2.35
Unspecified/ All the Blessings

Lahat ng mga Biyaya



1 72.18

From the table above, we can see that the highest number of favor received was unspecified favors.  13,681 devotees have received it which makes for 72.18% of all favors received. Health favors and recovery from sickness came in second where 1,262 devotees received it which make for 6.65% of all favors received. 910 devotees received spiritual favors which represents 4.80% of all favors received. 589 devotees received local employment which represents 2.63% of the total favors received.



[1] Karl Rahner’s answer when he was once asked whether he believed in miracles. Accessed at




[5] Johann G. Roten, S. M., Marian Devotion for the New Millennium, Marian Studies, L1 (2000), 65.

[6] The apparition is known in the Philippines for the rose petals which allegedly fell within the vicinity of the monastery; some of these bear religious images, and are held be some to be miraculous. Initially declared “non-supernatural” after a thorough investigation by six Filipino bishops headed by Cardinal Rufino Santos on 11 April 1951, the case was reopened in 1991 with extensive research and investigation. In a reversal of fortune, on 12 September 2015, the Archbishop of Lipa Ramón Argüelles, against explicit direction from the Holy See and the Bishops Conference of the Philippines, formally approved the apparitions, declaring them “supernatural in character and worthy of belief.” On 11 December 2015, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith ruled out that the Marian apparition are definitively non-supernatural based on the coerced negative verdict of six Filipino bishops in 1951 and the alleged confirmation of the same verdict by Pope Pius XII in the 1960s.[1][3] The Archbishop of Lipa received the official copy on May 31 of final verdict. On 1 June 2016, Archbishop Arguelles released a public statement retracting his episcopal judgment on the controversial matter, reverting to the decision issued by the Vatican.

[7] Frank Graziano, Miraculous Images and Votive Offerings in Mexico (Oxford University Press, 2016), 86.

[8] Jun 6, 2015

[9] Oct 14, 2014,

[10] Mr. and Mrs. Rogelio and Jessie Sugcang,

(This article is an excerpt from the book Mary of Baclaran: Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Mission Today by Joey Echano, soon to be published)

How to write a Letter to Our Mother of Perpetual Help


Ever since the novena began in 1948, devotees have been writing letters of petitions or thanksgiving to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. On average, the shrine receives about 2,000 letters of petition and 500 letters of thanksgiving every week. All thanksgiving letters are read by the Redemptorist community every Tuesday. The letters of petitions, however, are not read because of the sheer number of petition letters received. Reading all the letters of petitions may take almost the whole week.

All letters are placed under the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help behind the altar of the shrine.

The selected letters of thanksgiving for the week are read by the commentator during the novena and masses at the shrine the following day, Wednesday.

The thousands of letters of petitions that the shrine have received throughout these years attest to the various needs that the devotees bring to Our Mother of Perpetual Help along with their trust and confidence in her loving care. On the other hand, the thousands of letters of thanksgiving that the shrine have received attest to the many favors that the devotees have received from God through the prayers of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Indeed, the shrine is a shrine of miracles.

Are you ready to write your letter? Here’s 10 guidelines on writing a letter to Our Mother of Perpetual Help

  1. Pray and meditate on what your want to ask or thank God for through Our Mother of Perpetual Help. You can pause for a few moments of silence in front of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
  2. You can write in English, Tagalog or any of the major Philippine dialects (Cebuano, Ilonggo, Bikol, Ilokano)
  3. Begin the letter by addressing the letter to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
  4. For letters of petition, write all the petitions you want to bring to God through Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
  5. For letters of thanksgiving, mention all  the blessings you have received through the prayers of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. You can also narrate how you received the blessings and what were the challenges and obstacles you encountered before receiving the blessings. Write how grateful you are to Our Mother of Perpetual Help and all the people who helped you realize your petitions.
  6. Write in your own personal style and way, like you are writing to your own mother.
  7. Sign your letter except when you are writing it online.
  8. There’s no limit to the number of letters you can send to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
  9. You can write your letter on any kind of paper and any color of paper and ink. You can type, print or write it in longhand as long as it’s legible so we can read your beautiful letter.
  10. There are 3 ways to deliver your letter

a. By mail

You can address your letter to

Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Letter of Petition/Thanksgiving (please indicate)
National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Redemptorist Road,
Baclaran, Parañaque City 1700

b. In person

When you come to the shrine, you can drop your letter of petition on the box with the name of petition letter or you can drop your letter of thanksgiving on the box with the name of thanksgiving letter in the shrine. These boxes are located in prominent places inside the shrine.

c. Online

You can write and submit your letter online. Just go to for letters of petition and for letters of thanksgiving.

Joey Echano, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

Baclaran as Summer Getaway


On April 7th 1939 of the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community we read:

“Today was a terribly hot day, this afternoon the Archbishop came to enjoy the cool breeze from the bay.”

Can you believe that Baclaran was once a refuge from the heat of Manila?  When the Redemptorists first gave up Malate Parish and began their new Mission house in Baclaran, the Columbans, who took over Malate often walked around the bay to visit the Redemptorists and swim in the clear waters of Baclaran.

In the 60s and early 70s Redemptorists from Iloilo who were teaching in the Juvenate in Iloilo often spent part of their summer break in Baclaran and sat each afternoon on the top verandah of the convento enjoying the cool breeze and watching the sun set. Bro. Charles O’ Brien who lived for many years in Baclaran could be seen at two o’clock in the afternoon in his shorts having a siesta on the rocks just across the Boulevard from the Monastery. He would then dive into the crystal clear water for a swim before returning to the Convento, for merienda and the afternoon’s work.

In 1968 when a strong typhoon swept through Manila it took hours to clear the shells from the second story verandah of the Convento. The shells were picked up from the beach by the breeze of the typhoon and dumped on the second floor. Large “bankas” used to come across from Bataan on calm Wednesdays to bring the people to the Novena and wait on the other side of the Boulevard, just opposite the front gate, to take the people home again.

If you are a teenager or under twenty five years of age you may find these things hard to believe, but all these things happened, during the life of your parents and grandparents. Now it may be difficult to live without an air conditioner in Baclaran. You may think of the reclamation area as a place for fast food or the Mall of Asia as a necessity of life, but once they were under the sea and Baclaran was a place to go to find the cool breezes and buy cheap seafood.

John Maguire, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)



Father Leo James English, C.Ss.R. is credited with leading the inauguration of the novena in Baclaran in June 23, 1948. He is more known, however, as the compiler and editor of two of the first most widely used bilingual dictionaries in the Philippines namely, the English–Tagalog Dictionary (1965) and the Tagalog–English Dictionary (1986).

Fr. English was an Australian Redemptorist who was born in Melbourne on the 8th, July 1907. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10th, March 1935 and was assigned to the Philippines in 1936 arriving on December 5th. He had been assigned to Lipa City and went there almost immediately. He soon had a working knowledge of the language and joined the Missions in the Lipa Archdiocese. He remained in Lipa until the Japanese occupation, when all the Australian priests and Religious were called to Manila and eventually found themselves in the concentration camp in Los Banos. While interned by the Japanese occupation forces at Los Baňos, Father English started compiling an English-Tagalog dictionary largely in response to a need which he had long felt for a thorough work of this nature.

After the war and a short break in Australia he returned to the Philippines and was stationed in Baclaran until 1950 when he was appointed Superior of the Redemptorist community in Lipa City. During this time he continued to work on the Missions but the dictionary, that he had dreamed of, was never far from his mind. So he continued his work on the dictionary. In the final stages, he secured the assistance of Dr. Jose Villa Panganiban, Director of the Institute of National Language, and Dr. Rufino Alejandro, then Assistant Director of the Institute, as well as many other Filipino friends. It was completed in 1965. When it was published in 1965 he then began the formidable task of producing a  Tagalog -English Dictionary.

The English–Tagalog Dictionary (1965) was published by the Australian Government, and given to the Filipino people as a gift of friendship. In his preface the honorable Paul Hasluck, M.P. Minister of State for External Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia said:  Australians value very highly their friendly and sympathetic relations with the Philippines.

Fr. English’s dictionary was primarily a fruit of his missionary endeavors in the Philippines. Right at the beginning of his missionary assignment in the Philippines he committed to learning Tagalog. He understood fully well that to become a good missionary, learning the local language is a must. While on mission, he would gather every new Tagalog words. He also shared the words he collected to help his fellow Redemptorist missionaries in learning the language. After many years of going out in the mission and at the same time gathering new Tagalog words, he was able to gather several thousand Tagalog words to put into a dictionary. His efforts was supplemented by a scholarly method. Just like a linguistic anthropologist, he spent time working with language. His work was recognized by the Australian government that it agreed to partly finance it.

Near the end of 1973, he was transferred to Baclaran and from then on spent most of his time working on the second Dictionary. We have to remember that he had no access to a computer in those days and everything had to be typed, corrected and then re-typed. His main assistant was Teresita Castillo who faithfully typed all the manuscripts many times as they were corrected for typographical errors, inaccuracies in translation and accentuation. The second Dictionary was published in 1986.

The dual dictionaries of Fr. English pioneered the launching of many bilingual dictionaries and thesauruses in the Philippines. Fr. English’s dictionaries had been influential in the development and propagation of the Filipino language in the Philippines and abroad.

Until the day he died, he still worked each day looking for ways to improve his knowledge of Tagalog and improving the dictionaries if ever there should be a new revised edition. He died on the 19th, October, 1997 in Baclaran. He was 90 years of age and had spent 60 years in the Philippines. He did many other things during his long life but he will always be remembered as the Priest who wrote the Dictionary.

John Maguire, C.Ss.R.

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

Fr. Pete Robb – Missionary to the Mountains


How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of  those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52: 7)

Fr. Peter Robb, CSsR was a Redemptorist missionary who went to the mountains to preach about God but discovered instead that God was there even before he arrived.

He was ordained a Redemptorist priest on 7th September 1947 in Australia. He came to the Philippines in the second half of 1950. 

He was a man of great stature and story.  And the last to pass of his generation of Australian and New Zealander Redemptorists in the Philippines.  He played many roles in the congregation, but his mission to the mountain people was remarkable in apostolic boldness.  He himself would always say, “The most enriching period of my life was the 15 years I spent in the mountains with tribal Filipinos.”


How did it all started? He did not look for the tribal people.  The tribal people found him. Or shall we say, it was divine providence.

In 1973, he had a severe attack of typhoid fever and was hospitalised in San Juan de Dios Hospital, near Baclaran, Manila. A Philippine bishop and a good friend paid him a visit and asked him if he could minister to a community of 150 families who had resettled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains. These families were formerly squatters around the Manila Cathedral for many years. And the pope was coming, Pope Paul VI and he must not see this, this mess around the cathedral. So they remove them by force, army trucks and dumped them in the foothills of Sierra Madre in Moltalban, Rizal.

So after his recovery, Peter Robb went to these families in three villages.  He spent three months there, preaching a bit and encouraging them. One bright morning, 5 men in g-string appeared.  He chatted with them in broken Tagalog on their part and also on him. “Where do you come from?” He asked. They gave a nod of the head with a movement of the eyebrows towards the mountains. Then one of them gave the Gospel invitation: “Come and see”. That’s how his mission in the mountain began.

Two days later, Peter Robb was with the 5 Dumagat trekking the mountains.  It did take him almost four hours, climbing steep tropical mountains and down to the rivers. They told him: “Halik tuhod ‘yong bundok”, which means: “You kiss your knee while you climb.” It was a good novitiate for the years to come. On arriving at a community of about 15 lean-tos for homes, the kids all fled to the surrounding forest.  “Kapre”, they shouted, referring to a giant of lore who perched atop a tree at night smoking a cigar and preying upon hapless passers-by.

He spent two days with them, ate their diet of carbohydrate roots from the mountains and the tender tips of different plants (Mga talbos). He fished with the men on the rivers, catching prawns and eels. After the simple evening meal, they gathered around the fire. They all bedded down together; men on one side, women on the other, and children all over the place. The dogs were also with them. There was no light of any kind except for the fire. The night was dark. The log caught fire. He could see it in the eyes of all intently looking at the fire. “The fire of the Holy Spirit was in our midst,” he would say. Conversation was very quiet and sporadic. This became the pattern of his life for 12 years.


He described his mission in the mountain in three stages:

From 1974 – 1978, the first four years he called this his education; living with the Dumagat, old time missionary, preaching at them.  Gradually, he realised the paternalism of this approach. He said: “It was condescending. I had everything to give and they had nothing. It was creating situations of dependence. No true personal relationships were established. I was a slow learner.”

Yet he felt something was missing.  During a five month holiday in Australia in 1979, he reflected on what it might be.  “The tribals listened to me but it was one way traffic,” he concludes. “He was the good, white Father with all kind of goodies.  It was a demeaning attitude. He had everything and they had nothing.”

On his return to the Philippines, Fr. Robb asked his superior for permission to live indefinitely with the tribals.  “No exceptions,” he says. This is the second stage of his mountain mission—from 1979-1981—which he called the stage of immersion, sharing and being ONE with them.


For 18 months he lived with the tribals, shared life and hardships, asked for no exceptions, worked with them, ate their simple diet of root-crops, slept together around the fire at night, made himself dependent on them, tried to show that they were equals, and to some extent captured their values, attitudes and rhythm of life. Any talk of ‘belief’ was useless. It didn’t register. But when any hint of “experience” of his ‘Makedypat’ (or God) came up, He could share with them his experience of his ‘Makedypat’. He supposes He was a sort of “commodity” to be shared. That was evangelisation.

The third stage from 1981-1989, he called the stage of service as equal partners.  Tribals became subjects not objects of evangelisation. He recognised some important features of the tribal outlook on life and their way of life, learnt from experience and reflection. He suspects that many of his reflections here would apply to Australian Aborigines within the framework of their “Dreaming”. He speaks as one less wise!

He learned many things from the tribal Filipino but one of the most enduring things that he assimilated from them was their sort of mystical rhythm of life.  Peter Robb describes this rhythm: “To some extent, the tribals have assimilated the deepest core of life and things. Living with this interior harmony and rhythm of nature is a kind of secret prayer… Is not this interior harmony a secret prayer, a prefabricated liturgy hidden in the visible universe? Silently, it awaits the person of reflection and prayer to capture, disengage and make it known in all its splendours.”

In his own unique way, Peter Robb lived this contemplative rhythm of life.  He was an apostle of the ministry of presence. He gives full attention to the other.  This is perhaps the reason why his memory is amazing. He gives personal attention to people.  And this is why he demands the same attention from others especially when he tells his stories.  Unfortunately, perhaps we are of lesser mortals than him in this regard.

A tragic experience happened when two of his women leaders both social workers in the mission were killed by the military and declared communist guerrillas afterwards, their bodies dumped into watermelon patch, completely naked, no IDs of any kind. They exhumed the bodies from the shallow grave–mutilated by bullet wounds and badly decomposed. It was shattering, absolutely shattering for him.

He was an angry man after that and it seemed to increase. He had become a victim of the atrocity. It would be foolish to return to the mountains, he said. The problem was solved by joining the Trappists on the island of Guimaras, near Iloilo, 500 kilometres south of Manila. For over three weeks, the monks took him into their community of prayer and work, rising at 2.15am each day. The hurt was healed, but he can’t obliterate such a memory.

But not all experience in the mountain was tragic.  One funny experience was one Maundy Thursday, he decided to have a washing of the feet, going to great pains to explain again and again the significance of the ceremony. Some kind of expectancy was aroused. Four men and four women were seated on a bench in the outdoor meeting place. An old tin basin of sorts was provided and he proceeded to wash and kiss each foot. When he finished, the basin was half full of very muddy water. He might have known that the only time they washed their feet was when they waded through streams.

It was not fire and brimstone sermons that impressed in the memory of the tribal people when he left. He saved the lives of many, including diarrhea-stricken children threatened with dehydration. (He told their parents to give them boiled water to replace lost fluids).  He obtained medicine for lepers and drove the gravely ill to Tanay or Manila. He raised 10,000 pesos to buy a village water buffalo and worked hard to organize a rattan cooperative to boost tribal incomes (it failed on government red tape and the opposition of middlemen who controlled the trade).  And of course, the meaningful masses, baptisms, marriages and other sacraments that he presided over.


Fr. Robb cared for people body and soul—sometimes at his own risk.  He vigorously championed local needs and rights, drawing the ire of powerful interests.  The national waterworks agency wanted him to convince people to drop their opposition to a massive dam project in eastern Luzon called Kaliwa-Kanan (“left-right”).  Concerned about communist rebels passing through, the military invited the missionary for questioning and kept him under surveillance.

By 1988, as much as he might have wanted to fight for his beloved tribals, the onset of painful arthritis in his knees forced him to leave the mountains.

But He brought back more.  He came to evangelize the tribals but he left being more evangelized by them.  His experience of God in the Makijapat of the tribals, strengthened and deepened his belief in our God.  He sought to bring faith to the tribals and discovered himself. This sort of spiritual transfiguration experience in the mountains did not leave him, he would talk about it over and over again.  It stayed with him until death.

Fr. Pete died in Melbourne on December 9,  2011.

Joey Echano

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

When Manila Bay was in Front of the Baclaran Church


Before World War II, the waters of Manila Bay used to come up to the refectory of the Redemptorist convent in Baclaran during high tide.  After the war it used to lap the shore along Roxas Boulevard. Now the sea is more than a kilometer away from the Church.

The name Baclaran originated from the word “baclad,” which means fishtrap. Baclad is made of rattan used to segregate fingerlings from the bigger fishes during the time when the Baclaran River and the Manila Bay were still used to breed fish. In the early years of the last century, this village was popularly known as “the place of the fishtraps”, thus, people started calling it the “bacladan”, which later became to be known, “Baclaran.” When the Redemptorists settled at Baclaran, the sea was just right at the fence of the compound which today is Roxas Boulevard. In those days, one could still see many fishing boats anchored near the seashore.  After the mass, the Fathers would usually take a dip into the clean water of Manila Bay.[1]

The Redemptorists first came to Manila in 1906. They proceeded, however, to the island of Opon near Cebu where they first settled and began their mission in the Visayas islands. In 1913, they returned to Manila and was entrusted the care of the parish of Malate. In 1931, they transferred to Baclaran. The parish of Malate was turned over to the Columban fathers.


Fr. John Maguire, CSsR recalls how, in olden days, the Redemptorist and the Columbans used to walk along the shore of Manila Bay to visit each other’s convent in Baclaran and Malate. The Parish of Malate was centered around the present Malate Church which was then fronting the beach. When the Redemptorists transferred to Baclaran they were also fronting the beach. Often on cool afternoons they would take a walk to Malate along the beach, have a swim, visit the Columban Fathers who had taken over in Malate, join them for merienda and then walk home. On other days the Columbans would do the same, in reverse order of course. The result was that the two communities became close to each other and until recently were still inviting each other to celebrations in their respective areas.

The enjoyable walk along the beach, however, has now become a health hazard. The beach is a road full of crazy drivers. The sidewalk is the kingdom of street children, beggars, pickpockets, snatchers and the whole thing is wrapped in a blanket of smog and pollution. The beach is more than a kilometer away.

So much for the good old days. They call it progress.




[1] Fr. Sam Boland, CSsR, Redemptorists in Luzon, 19.