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).

finding-the-icon

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

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When Manila Bay was in Front of the Baclaran Church

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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.

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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.