One of the highlights of the visit I have had at the Fort Santiago, is the unassuming yet important landmark in modern-day Philippines in terms of religion and the faith. Enter to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Heavenly Patroness of the Philippine Islands as proclaimed by Pope Pius XI on the 16th of July 1935. Honestly, I would never have seen this shrine if I have not been slowing down in my walk-about around the Walled City of Manila. Intramuros is such a wondrous place to appreciate history, architecture, culture, and of course, religion in the Philippines.
The Philippines, being the predominantly Catholic nation and the first in Asia is deeply religious and such is courtesy of the coming of the Spanish expedition bringing friars, faithful and the relics of saints. The one that has been ensconced at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the replica of the Blessed Virgin Mary, brought from Mexico by Friar Urdaneta aboard the famous Legazpi expedition.
Make sure you navigate this shrine very well as it is inconspicuously protected around the walls of Fort Santiago. It is located on your left side as you walk about towards Fort Santiago’s famous and most photographed main entrance. It is after the stretch of boutiques, art galleries, and resto dotting the walls from the entrance gate and the ticket booth.
Going towards the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one passes through a tunnel, centuries old, built within the walled City and to which leads to the shrine. As I took photos, I noticed the tunnel serves as the only passageway towards the entrance of Fort Santiago, covered and protective from the seaside of Manila.
As was fascinated by architecture and religion while walking around the Walled City, the Shrine simply revealed a great affinity towards Mexico, the Legazpi expedition, the faith and the Filipino and Mexican faithfuls. I asked the attendant at the Shrine if the wooden marker was antiquated, his only reply: “only the altar inside the shrine is antique and authentic”. I took photos of the wooden altar with carvings of Cherubs and flowers in vines adorning the altar. The image of the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe was installed at the altar, majestically protected and lighted. On top of the altar is a vassal carving and on its peak is the crucified Jesus Christ. I immersed myself in the cold dampness of the Shrine and offered a silent prayer.
It was believed that the Reducto de San Francisco Javier was built in 1662. It was part of the seaside defense of the greater Intramuros and an earthquake in 1645 destroyed it. It was restored back to its original state in 1773. This Reducto de San Francisco Javier also serves as the storage chambers of the American Army. It was however, severely damaged during the Battle of Manila in 1945. Consequently, it was all restored in 1950 and in 1983. It is believed to have been built to protect the residence of the Governor which at that time was located at the esteemed business address called Fort Santiago.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, as the Patroness of the Philippine Islands is also the same Virgin of Guadalupe, the blessed Patroness of Mexico. Also, the Reducto de San Francisco Javier was later converted in 1980, to hold the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
- Walk towards the upper section of the Reducto to see the Shrine beautifully;
- Reflect on your way to the tunnel, immersing yourself as you pass through it. Literally, on a gloomy or sunny day, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel;
- Pray at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The shrine is very small compared to its contemporaries in the Walled City of Manila. You will have enough time to reflect, feel your spirituality and just being on your faith;
- Check the cannon fodder guarding the shrine at its top wall in the Shrine. It can be accessed at the cobble stone stairs on both sides of the Shrine.