First Regular Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines

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Today, May 13 marks the first celebration of the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines. It was not in Baclaran, however. 74 years ago today, on May 13, 1946, just a year after World War II, the first novena was conducted at St. Clement’s Church in Ilo-ilo.

Former Redemptorist Provincial and author of the book, the Baclaran Story, Fr. Luis Hechanova recounts that in the year 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War, American troops, some from the famous Battle of Guadalcanal, found themselves stationed in Iloilo. Among them were Irish-American Catholics from Boston who were delighted to find that St. Clement’s Church in La Paz, Iloilo City, was run by Irish Redemptorists. They were disappointed, however, that the Perpetual Novena then flourishing in the popular Mission Church of the Redemptorists in Boston was not part of church services. Their disappointment, however, was one of the motivations that led the Redemptorist at Ilo-ilo to start a regular novena.[1]

On May 13, 1946, the first Perpetual Help Novena in the Philippines was held in St. Clement’s Church, Iloilo, conducted by Fr. Patrick Nulty. On October 21 that same year, there were 500 people at the Novena. In August 18, 1947, the attendance was 1000 and there was a six year old boy attending by the name of Luis Hechanova.[2]

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St. Clement’s Church in Ilo-ilo

The Redemptorist in Lipa soon followed suit and began the novena in 1946. The Redemptorists in Cebu also started the first novena on Sept. 15, 1946. In these churches, the novena were translated from English to the local languages. They were all well attended by the local people.

News of these well-attended novena in these three churches must have reached the Redemptorists in Baclaran. Despite the popularity of the novena in the provinces, many of the members of the community were hesitant to start the novena in Baclaran. They were concerned that by starting a novena in Baclaran, their main ministry of giving missions to remote parishes in the Tagalog provinces will be severely jeopardized. Only when all the community agreed that the mission would go on despite the novena that the Redemptorists finally decided to start the novena in Baclaran.

When the Redemptorists finally started the novena in Baclaran in June 1948, they were wonderfully surprised at the amazing response and rapid influx of devotees to the novena. The phenomenon went way beyond their imagination. The rest is history!

 


 

[1] Luis Hechanova, Baclaran Story, (Redemptorist Manila, 1996), 2

[2] Hechanova recalls this day in his book: “I happen to be a personal witness as a six year old. One of my childhood memories is of our mother teaching us the novena hymns on the family pi­ano, the only thing saved when our ancestral house was burned down at the close of the war. I still remember the traffic jams due to the novena on the Jaro-Iloilo road on Wednesdays. In our family, we had to keep reminding each other to avoid that road on Wednesdays, unless of course we were going to make the novena.” Baclaran Story, 2.

 

The 1st CoVid in the Shrine

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Did you know that before CoVid-19, there was another CoVid or coronavirus that hit the world and the Baclaran shrine? This happened in 2003. Perhaps, we can call this as CoVid-2002.

Covid-19  also known as SARS-CoV-2 is the second severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus pandemic to hit the world. If covid-19 is the second, then when was the first?

SARS-CoV-1 is the first severe acute respiratory syndrome which exploded on April 2003 in Asia and secondary cases elsewhere in the world. However, the outbreak began on 16 November 2002, in China’s Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong.

Compared to Covid-19, SARS-CoV-1 was a very mild pandemic. The pandemic had a short span, which lasted from November 2002 to July 2003. A total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with severe acute respiratory syndrome that was accompanied by either pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome (probable cases), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of these, 774 died. By late July 2003, no new cases were being reported, and WHO declared the global outbreak to be over.[1]

SARS-CoV-1 affected the services at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in April 2003.  Unlike Covid-19, however, services at the shrine continued; the shrine was never closed. I remember this, as I was rector of the shrine during this time. The Redemptorist community taking heed of the calls by the WHO and the Department of Health especially in crowded areas including the church, has implemented some precautionary measures in the Shrine.

The first measure to be introduced was the reception of communion by hand.  This was implemented in the last week of April.  In the first week of May, the community received a circular from the Diocese of Parañaque which further spelled out the precautionary measures which needs to be done in the churches.

“Added to the precautionary measures from the Department of Health (DOH), the Diocese strongly recommended and advised the following for temporary implementation:

  • Refrain from, or better still stop the folk religious practice of wiping hankerchiefs on and/or kissing images and statues.
  • Besamanos or the kissing of hands, especially of priests, should be abandoned.  Other forms of showing respect may be used.  Joining hands at the Our Father is also to be discontinued.
  • Face to face confession should be avoided.  The use of the confessional may even be riskier for both priest and penitents.  Confession is to be done not in a confined space but in an open one, side by side with the penitent and at some comfortable distance.
  • We will avail of communion in the hand only.  The value of this shift in practice cannot be overemphasized.  We recommend that ushers station themselves by the communion line to remind communicants and to see to the proper reception of the Eucharist in this manner.”

Taking heed of this circular, the community temporarily suspended confession inside the confessional boxes on April 30, 2003 – which was difficult being a Wednesday.  The community instead celebrated the third rite of common celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation spread in between several masses and novenas throughout the day.  For the daily confessions, the face-to-face box at the corner of the church was opened, without turning the air condition on and a table was placed between the penitent and the confessor.   Prayers for divine intervention on SARS was inserted in the novena prayers during Wednesdays and in the intercessions during Sundays.

As expected there were varied reactions to the measures.  Some people did not take the measures seriously as they went their usual practice.  Others continued to wipe and kiss the images of saints in the church.  Even during the communion at hand there were some who insisted on receiving communion through the mouth.  Some complained that their monthly devotion was interrupted because they were not able to go to individual confession.  They would not accept any explanation even as they were told that these are just temporary measures owing to the extra-ordinary situation.

On the other hand, there were also those who understood the necessity of precautionary measures.  Some were appreciative of the response the church has made to this situation.  Others went beyond SARS by emphasizing the need for cleanliness, personal hygiene, healthy living and caring for the environment with or without SARS.

Perhaps, we don’t have to wait for another CoVid in the future. After Covid-19 is all over we should learn all the hard lessons. We cannot go back to the old normal. Radical changes is needed for both our individual lifestyles and the bigger socio-politico-economic system in the world.

 


 

[1] “Frequently Asked Questions About SARS,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.gov accessed 5 May 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/sars/about/faq.html

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus: 2nd Patroness of the Shrine

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Today, Catholics around the world honor the life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She is popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus”, or simply “The Little Flower.” Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics and for others because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life. Together with Saint Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Since her death, millions have been inspired by her ‘little way’ of loving God and neighbor.

Pope Pius XI, in 1927, declared St. Therese of Lisieux the Patroness of the missions. Despite never leaving the cloister, she was given this title alongside her co-patron the great St. Francis Xavier who traveled to many lands and converted much of Asia. Saint Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 – 100 years after her death at the age of 24.

Did you know that the Baclaran Church was originally dedicated to St Teresa of the Child Jesus. But as divine providence intervened, Mary Our Mother of Perpetual Help, would become the patron of the shrine.

How did St. Thérèse get relegated from primary patroness to secondary patroness of the shrine?

The original intention to dedicate Baclaran church to St. Thérése was engraved in the corner stone of the Monastery on Sept. 13th, 1931 at the beginning of its construction:

At the request of Most Rev. Fr. General Murray and with the approval of His Grace, the Monastery and Church are to be dedicated to St Teresa of the Child Jesus, the patroness of the missions. The secondary Patrons shall be the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Mother of Perpetual Succor, St Joseph, St. Alphonsus, St. Clement and St. Gerard.

After the first Baclaran church was built, the Redemptorist asked for donations from the people in building and adorning the small wooden chapel. The Ynchausti family came, along with friends and benefactors, with the intention of donating a beautiful high altar to the congregation. They had one condition, however, that the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH) ought to occupy the high altar. This would conflict with the intention of the pioneer Redemptorists, particularly Fr. Dennis Grogan, the main builder of the church, to have the chapel in honor of St. Thérèse.

Thus, a drama unfolded: Who would get the high altar, St. Thérèse or OMPH? Fr. Grogan unfolds this drama on an entry in the Chronicles dated Feb 1, 1932:

I am preparing the House and Church for the arrival of the Fathers and Brothers from Australia. The new high altar given by Sra. De Ynchausti arrived. It was designed and made by Mr. Maximo Vicente under the guidance of the donor. It became the high altar very providentially. Sta. Teresita being the Patroness should naturally have been there and for the first Mass celebrated in the church she was actually installed but when the donor offered her altar, she expressed the wish that it should be the high altar. I proposed her wish to Father Provincial (Byrne) with a good recommendation and he decided it should be so. The delay in communicating brought us near to the Opening Day and hearing nothing from Australia we gave orders that the plans should be changed and the altar made smaller to suit the aisle, but at that very moment, while the designer was in the house, the mail arrived from Australia and all was changed. Our Lady of Perpetual Succor (Help) was given the High Altar and Sta. Teresita on her right side, with St. Gerard on the left.

As history unfolds, the Redemptorists transferred St. Thérèse’s statue to the grounds in front of the convent. This seems a more fitting place as more people have been able to touch her. This also serves as a providential reminder that the saint once had a brief reign in the shrine, before it was finally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.

 

Remembering Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR

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The main upper hall of the Baclaran Shrine where the church volunteers usually gather for meals, meetings, and fellowship is called Romano Hall.  It is named after Fr. Rudy Romano, a Redemptorist Priest from Samar who was forcibly abducted by armed men on July 11, 1985 in Cebu City.  Fr. Rudy has remained missing up to this day.  Tomorrow, July 11, 2019, marks the 34th year of his disappearance.

Another tribute for Fr. Rudy and his fellow desaparecidos in the shrine is a monument called Bantayog ng Desaparecido (Memorial for the Disappeared). It is located at a corner of the shrine lawn fronting Roxas Boulevard. The Bantayog is a remembrance of all the missing persons under the brutal regime of Marcos. It lists the names of Fr. Rudy and hundreds of other missing people etched in granite panels. Unveiled in September 2004, the memorial is the refurbished “Flame of Courage Monument,” designed and created by sculptor Lito Mondejar. It features a mother carrying a torch, which symbolizes the courage of those left behind and continuing the struggle for justice. For families and friends of the disappeared, the Bantayog stands as a common ground for remembrance. The families come here every year in November 1 because they have no tomb to visit on All Souls’ Day.

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Fr. Rudy remains missing to this day, presumed to be dead. But for all of us who continue to struggle for a just and peaceful society, his spirit remains alive and strong. Fr. Rudy remains alive and present in our tireless effort and sacrifice for the defense of the poor and human rights.

Let us not allow Fr. Rudy to become missing again. Especially in these dark times–the horrible violation of  human rights and rampant killings in the name of drug war, let us not cow in fear and become indifferent to the terrible reality that has befallen our country.  May the sacrifice of Fr. Rudy, the thousands of desaparecidos and those who were killed for justice and peace, continue to inspire and strengthen our commitment towards the building of a society that truly reflects the values of God’s kingdom–love, peace and harmony for all.

The First Intervention of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines

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First Redemptorist Community at Opon, 1907

On June 30, 1906, the first Redemptorist community in the Philippines arrived in Opon (now presently Lapu-lapu City), in the island of Cebu. Those appointed to the Foundation were Fr Leo (at the time Rector of Ballarat, Australia) as Superior, Creagh, O’Sullivan, O’Callaghan, Casin, and Bros. Casimir and Eunan (shown in the picture above).

The settling down in the parish did not go as smooth as the Redemptorists had hoped for. The first community found the parish Priest, Fr. Roa and his 12 houseboys still in possession of the convento. The Bishop of Cebu, Thomas Hendrik, did not make matters clear to Fr. Roa, so that when the Parish Priest finally left, some local lay leaders objected that the parish was being taken over by foreigners and had driven out the Parish Priest.

Indeed, the negative experiences from the Spanish friars were still fresh in the memory of the natives that the local people gave the pioneer Redemptorist from Ireland and Australia a very cold treatment.  Someone even organized a boycott against them and soon even the services in the church were boycotted. The convento had been a meeting place for the President of the Municipio (a classmate of Fr. Roa) and his cronies. The parish was a good one and the annual Fiesta was big business. The Municipio had a stake in this. Because of all of these, the pioneer Redemptorists were too disheartened to initiate anything in the parish.

Added to these woes was the fact that the new Community fresh from the cool air of Ireland found themselves crowded into two rooms and sleeping on the floor.  Their reactions to all this differed. Fr. Leo blamed Fr. Boylan for everything. Fr. Boylan was the Irish Provincial who arrived first in the Philippines to prepare for the establishment of the Foundation. He  joined the incumbent Parish Priest, Fr Roa, in residence in Opon on March 17, 1906. Despite all the pressures, Boylan took them well, putting on frequent celebrations for the community and appealing to holy hope.

Not all people, however, were inimical to the Redemptorists. The wife of the President of the Municipio defied the boycott from the beginning. Three sisters from a nearby barrio smuggled in food supplies, and another convinced her husband, who piloted a launch, to bring in supplies from Cebu. Also some of the priests were very supportive from the day of their arrival, especially the parish Priest of Mandawe Fr. Emiliano Mercado and Fr. Gregorio Reynes who was assigned as curate and language teacher. Filipino Hospitality won out in the end and after six months we read in the chronicles, the people are very friendly towards us.

But the most significant change was about to happen on July 24, 1906.  Fr. Patrick Leo, the superior of the community, erected the icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH) in the tribune looking into the Church. We read in the Chronicles of the time: “It is remarkable that on this day the people became notably more friendly towards us.”

Redemptorist historian Fr. Michael Bailey describes this providential event as perhaps the very first intervention of OMPH in the mission of the Redemptorists in the Philippines.[1]

We could just imagine the reaction of the people the first time they saw the picture of OMPH. It was not one of the usual Marian images that the locals were used to. Although they have painted images of the Virgin with Child, this seemed strange for them, as it did not portray the innocence of the Child Jesus like the one cradled by their own Virgen dela Regla.[2] They could have given the strange icon a cold treatment, in the same way that they treated the missionaries who brought them, but they gladly welcomed and embraced the icon in their parish.

With the people’s much needed approval through the maternal intervention of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Opon, the Redemptorists now had the peace of mind to promote devotion to OMPH. The first novena to OMPH in Opon was celebrated on March 17, 1907. The Redemptorists also brought the icon when they began to give missions to the barrios. This is in keeping with the Redemptorist tradition of bringing the icon wherever Redemptorists gave missions. In one of these missions, Bailey recounts the very significant event of the barrio mission that Redemptorists conducted in Compostela, Cebu in 1907 which showed Mary’s already special place in the early mission of the Redemptorists in the Philippines:

The most significant thing about this “missionette” was that the picture of OMPH was placed over the altar, and presided, as it were, over the work. So began the patronage of the Redemptorist apostolate in the Philippines by OMPH that was to bear much fruit in missions and retreats, and later, in the devotion of the Perpetual Novena.[3]

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[1] Michael Baily, C.Ss.R., Small Net in a Big Sea, The Redemptorists in the Philippines, 1905-1929 (Cebu: San Carlos Publications), 19.

[2] Trizer Dale Mansueto, “Make her Known,” How the Devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help Flourished in the Philippines, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon and the Philippines: Multidisciplinary Perspectives to a Perpetual Help Spirituality (Manila: Institute for Spirituality in Asia, 2017), 36.

[3] Baily, Small Net in a Big Sea, 20.

Panagpo: The Journey of the Icon from Crete to Baclaran

The longest mural in a church in the Philippines is found in the Baclaran shrine. The mural is titled Panagpo. It is about the journey of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help from the island of Crete to Baclaran, Philippines. This mural was created in celebration of the 150th Jubilee of the Icon in 2016. This is located at the back of Candle Chapel at Baclaran shrine.

Remembering the Arrival of the Redemptorist in the Philippines

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The month of June is a special month for the Shrine.  On this month we celebrate the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on the 27th of June. A nine days novena and mass precede the fiesta. Both the 9 days and the feast are well attended. Many complete the 9 days novena and masses out of panata (promise). During the 9 days novena, the shrine comes alive with daily activities. Often there are concert in honor of OMPH, Karakol which is a religious dance procession held at the eve of the feast day, bazaar or flea market which features products from poor mission areas of the Redemptorist missionaries, games and beautiful decorations inside the shrine and in the whole shrine compound. All these exude a fiesta atmosphere during the month of June.

For Redemptorists, the month of June is also a special month for another reason. It marks the arrival of the Redemptorist in the Philippines, 113 years ago.

On June 30, 1906, seven Redemptorists arrived at Opon on the island of Mactan in the Philippines to begin a new mission. They joined Fr. Andrew Boylan, C.Ss.R. who had already taken up residence in Opon earlier in the year. The arrival of these seven Redemptorist confreres marked the beginning of more than 100 years of the Redemptorist mission and presence in the country where without doubt the Congregation was to play a significant role in both the religious and social life of the people.

This commemoration of the beginnings of the Redemptorist in the Philippines is an opportunity to give thanks first of all to the Lord for leading and guiding the Redemptorists especially in the trying times of missionary growth.  It is also an opportunity to give thanks to the Filipino people especially the poor and ordinary people in the missions who because of their hospitality, courage and ingenuity in embracing the faith and the good news have made Redemptorists realize that they too were evangelized. This is also an opportunity to give thanks to the pioneering Redemptorists, from Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and our own Filipino confreres, most of them have passed away, for their great dedication and sacrifices in learning the language, understanding the culture and living with the people just for the sake of preaching the good news especially to the poor and most abandoned people of the many remote barrios of the country.  It is also an opportunity to give thanks to the many lay partners in the mission areas and in the church who have shared their special gifts and talents in the preaching of the good news and the building of basic Christian communities.  Finally, this is also a special opportunity to give thanks to our Mother of Perpetual Help who has guided the Redemptorists in the missions especially in the spreading of her Son’s abundant redemption to all.

113 years ago, the Redemptorists came to the Philippines in response to the need of the church out of the shortage of priests.  Our country is not much better off than 113 years ago.  The country is still mired in deep poverty and disunity.  There is pervasive indifference and hopelessness amongst our people.   Sadly, the church has been wanting in giving hope and impetus for change.  The same sense of urgency and opportunity beckons upon us all. Thus this commemoration is also a challenge to be open, bold and break new ground to where the Lord is inviting Redemptorist in the Philippines now and in the years ahead.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help pray for the Redemptorists that that they may continue to proclaim the fullness of redemption in Jesus your son.

 

Memorable Palm Sunday

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. It is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, which commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, days before he was crucified. During Palm Sunday Mass, parishioners carry palms in a ritual procession into the church. Many parishes have integrated various creative elements and contextualizations into this procession. Baclaran shrine is no exception. One memorable, albeit hilarious, incident of this kind of “creative contextualization” happened during the Palm Sunday celebrations in the shrine in 1974. This is narrated to us by the late Fr. John Maguire, CSsR. 

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On a Palm Sunday in 1974, April 7th a large crowd witnessed an event that left them spellbound and with a real feeling of what Palm Sunday was all about.

The actors in the event were a zealous and creative priest, a man who made his living selling “fireworks” and a white horse. The priest was Fr. Vincent Warren who was then the Prefect of the Baclaran Church. He was a man of great ideas and lots of creativity. He had planned for many weeks for the Holy Week ceremonies and had decided that he should try to imitate the real events of the first Palm Sunday.

It was not easy to find a colt, (a young horse) or a young donkey but someone told him that there was a big white horse in Tondo which had featured in many movies, was unbelievably tame, and could be depended on to remain calm in any type of situation.

The man selling “fireworks” was just an ordinary vendor of “fireworks” who, for a reasonable fee, would guarantee to produce the right effect at the right time.

And so on the 7th April 1974, Palm Sunday, they all came together for the big event. The horse arrived early and showed all the qualities for which it was renowned. It was completely unfazed by the crowds of people and even let little children touch it. It was slightly surprised when the tall six-foot priest appeared in a huge red Cope (liturgical cape) wearing a crown like a king, however, it remembered its breeding and pretended not to notice.

The priest tried to mount the horse and for a while the horse resisted but eventually it agreed and at last Fr.Warren was seated in glory on the white horse in cape and crown ready to head for Jerusalem (or at least the church door). Everybody was thrilled and full of excitement.

The “fireworks” vendor remembered that he was supposed to let off the fireworks at the appropriate time. This was surely the appropriate time. He got a Kuwitis (sky rocket) and lit it. Unfortunately, he was situated about two meters behind the horse. Swoo-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh boom!!!!!

The horse rose on his back legs and started to urinate. The priest “gracefully” slid down the horses back over his tail and was caught by a few kind people standing by. Everybody laughed until their ribs hurt.

Sometime later the priest and the horse were seen heading for the church door side by side. Everyone said that it was the most memorable Palm Sunday since the first.

John Maguire, CSsR

Finding the Icon

This is the second part of the story when the Redemptorist missionaries returned to Baclaran in April 1945 after they were incarcerated by the Japanese in Los Baños, Laguna during World War II. This story is published to commemorate today’s “Araw ng Kagitingan” (National Heroes Day).

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When the Baclaran Community were interned during the Japanese occupation, most of the equipment belonging to the Church had been saved. One thing, however, was still missing, the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It had been left with a family living near La Salle, and when the Japanese raided their house, a number of things had been stolen and the rest, including the house, were burned. Where was the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help? Was it destroyed in the fire? Had the Japanese taken it?

We read in the Chronicles on April 30th 1945:

“A few days before April 30th, 1945 Bro. Athenasius, the Superior of La Salle came to see us. He said that he had been informed that some looted property had been recovered by the U.S. Army and was stored in the old Bilibid Prison. They asked him to come and identify any La Salle property that might be there. While there he noticed a icon which he thought he had seen in our Church and came to tell us. Fr Cosgrave , Rector of Baclaran, sent Fr. Gyger and Bro. Blacid to look at the picture. We (Bro. Placid is the writer) went with Fr. Scheuth a Major in the Engineering corps, who was one of our great helpers, just after we returned to Baclaran. We went in his jeep and on arrival at Bilibid, saw the Major in charge. He looked up his list and said there was no record of such a picture. Fr. Scheuth asked if we might go inside. He would not give his permission and accused us of doubting his word.

Fr Scheuth whispered that there were other ways of getting inside. We went around to a side gate where a Sargent appeared, We told him our story and he unlocked the gate and let us in.

Bro Placid wandered into a bodega and soon reappeared saying the icon was in there. The Sargent immediately handed it over. We asked if we had to sign any receipt but he told us to say nothing about it, as we had been told officially that the icon was not there. We put it in the back of the jeep and brought it home. Fr Scheuth asked us to have a special ceremony to celebrate the homecoming. In those days there was hardly anyone living in Baclaran, but a day was set and Fr. Scheuth was invited to say Mass in the chapel. With this modest celebration Our Lady was reestablished in the Chapel.”

The Chapel has since become the Shrine and the Icon is still above the High Altar.

John Maguire, CSsR

Last House Standing

Today, “Araw ng Kagitingan” (National Heroes Day) we commemorate the heroism of our Filipino fighters who brought freedom and democracy in the Philippines during World War II. In commemoration of this day, we publish a story of the Redemptorist missionaries who returned to Baclaran in April 1945 after they were incarcerated by the Japanese in Los Baños, Laguna.

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It was 1945, and the Japanese had withdrawn from the Philippines and were about to accept that they had lost the war. The Redemptorists had been released from internment in Los Baños in February and had slowly worked their way back to Baclaran.

On their return to Baclaran, they noticed that one house was standing alone in the midst of many blocks of wreckage in what is now the City of Pasay. What was so special about this house?

This is recorded in the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community, 30th April, 1945:

We returned to Baclaran to day and our first meal was in the Sacristy of the Church. Much of the equipment belonging to the Church had been saved. The benches, the altars and their attachments except for a few small pieces. All of these had been placed in the house of a woman named Mrs. Chrisologo, who had agreed to have them put there even though this meant that she could no longer rent this section of the house.  This would have been a considerable financial loss to her at a time when life was very hard for anyone without a source of income. This house remained intact while those around were mostly destroyed.

Why was this the only house standing in the midst of the wreckage? Was the owner a friend of the Japanese? Surely not, for if this was so, the Americans would have certainly destroyed the house when they drove the Japanese out from Manila.

The final sentence of the chronicles’ paragraph says it all.

John Maguire, CSsR