The Philippines has so much to offer to locals and tourists who venture into its shores and brass up with their history, religion and how the Filipinos lived through the years and this can best be gleaned in the many historic churches we have until today. One of these churches can be found in Pangasinan, in the humble and quaint place called Manaoag. Manaoag traces its entomological origin from the word “taoag” which has a very religious connotation and a historical account to back the rare word. Apo Baket too has a great and illustrious beginnings and a revered reference of the locals, mostly Ilocanos and Pangasinense to the Blessed Mary who appeared in the same spot where the Cathedral sit until today, way back in 1610. Apo Baket means “Venerable Madam” to address venerably and reverently to the Blessed Mary.
History revealed that in 1610, a farmer was walking home when he suddenly hears a female voice and when he look pass him, he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a tree and appears in apparition thus he vows down. He saw the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying a Rosary on her right hand and the Child Jesus on the left. This, the old man’s account was preserved through generations and centuries and Manaoag was born and the word “manaoag” coined after “taoag” which means call and so Manaoag means “She Calls”.
Inside the Cathedral of the Blessed Lady of Manaoag is a 17th century ivory image of the Virgin Mary who is graciously installed in the central altar of the Cathedral. It was first brought to the Philippines by Augustinian friars from Spain via Acapulco, in Mexico. This happened between 1590-1613 when they administered the locale by virtue of a Spanish decree. The ivory image was brought to the Philippines by Friar Juan de San Jacinto. The only image of the venerable Lady of Manaoag outside the Philippines is found in a Polish church in Chicago, the St. Hedwig Cathedral. By far, this venerable image is the oldest in the entire Province of Pangasinan and the Shrine is just 200 kilometers away from Manila.
The canonical coronation of the image of Our Lady of Manaoag was witnessed by devotees in 21 April 1926 and was authorized by Pope Pius XI. Today, the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag is linked by religious affinity to the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome through plenary indulgence issued by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 June 2011. Here, when you do the following, you are receiving religious blessings from Rome though you are in Manaoag. These are the conditions to be met prior to the granting of plenary indulgence to the visitors:
- Going to confessions before or after your pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag;
- Receiving the Eucharist during the Pilgrimage;
- Praying for the intentions of the Pope; done detached from sin.
After these, you will receive indulgence from Rome when you are in Manaoag and to this date, the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag holds this rare distinction.
Apo Baket impressed me much of her preserved beauty, religious history and how Filipinos revolved around the miraculous and venerable Lady of Manaoag for intercession of their problems and they are stoked. I am one of those who observed this when I visited the Shrine and was humbled by the immense grace, faith and devotion of my fellowmen. Apo Baket guides them as she guided me too. I felt at peace, fulfilled and content.