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)
|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
|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|
|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|
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.
(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)