There are three sites in the Philippines that are sacred to most Roman Catholic Filipinos: Our Lady of Piat, Santo Nino in Cebu, and the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. There is also a fourth site, not as well known, that I heard about up in Abulug… I’ll get to that in a little bit. First, some background on the other three sites.
Piat is in the Cagayan Valley, around 50 kms. from Tuguegarao. There is a church on top of a hill, with the town below. Here’s a photo I took of the church and the representation of Our Lady of Piat:
This is a place of pilgrimage and absolute faith for the miracles that occurred there. What happened there? Essentially, in 1624, after the Cagayan Valley suffered four years of drought, the friars urged the local people to convert and pray for relief. The relief then came, and a famine was averted. The friars commissioned a statue to be made as thanks for the miracle, the present image was made in Macao, and brought to Piat. Numerous other miracles have occurred over the years, including an incident on the Abulug River in the 1730’s. A boat carrying pilgrims from Pamplona encountered weather, and the passengers were capsized and were being drawn out to sea, away from the river mouth. An image of Our Lady of Piat then appeared and the weather broke, allowing the troubled passengers to swim to safety. Finally, the site of the image is supposed to heal the sick. There have been numerous documented cases over the years where hopelessly ill people went to Piat and were cured after staying there some weeks or months. Rebecca’s mother is among those who believe that she was cured when she was very sick in her youth. Was she? Who can tell for sure. There are simply some things that are better left to faith.
The next three sites are all related to Magellan. First, there is Santo Nino, in Cebu. Santo Nino is a representation of the infant Jesus, given by Magellan to the local Rajah in Cebu when he landed in 1521. Again, numerous miracles have been attributed to Santo Nino over the years, and the little statue in the church in Cebu is regarded as sacred by most Filipinos. Here is a photo of the Basilica of Sto Nino e Cebu:
In Quiapo, there is a statue of Christ called the “Black Nazarene”. This statue was purchased by a Spanish friar in Mexico in 1606 and brought to Manila. The church burned down in the early years, but the statue survived, becoming black in appearance. Each year in Quiapo, on Three Kings, hundreds of thousands of people participate in a procession through the streets of Quiapo, hoping to touch the statue and receive blessings. Here’s the Magellan angle: Though the purchase of the statue in Mexico is well-documented, there is a belief by many that the statue was originally carried by Magellan, who intended to give it to the native people, but he was killed at the Battle of Mactan before he could finish converting the natives. Elcano supposedly still had this statue in the holds of the ship when he returned to Spain…. Now, fast forward to the fourth site I mentioned….
The statue returned to Spain by Elcano was supposedly one of a pair, neither of which were given away. The friar who bought the Black Nazarene in Mexico possibly purchased two statues, and one is sitting in a small house in Abulug. How did it get there? No-one knows for sure, except that it was purchased in Macao in 1822 by the Governor of Cagayan Province and returned to the Philippines to his local parish, in Abulug. The statue was several hundred years old at that point in time, and the Macanese traders stated that they bought it in the Philippines and that the same artist made the statue. The statues do look the same, size, shape, everything. Is the story true? It is really not verifiable, but the people in Abulug believe it to be true. Every year, during Holy Week, the statue is brought through the town to St. Thomas Aquinas church in a procession attended by people from all over the Cagayan Valley and Ilocos Norte. The statue is very, very old (at least 1822, where the records begin)… Of that, there is no question. The people of Abulug also believe that this statue was carried by Magellan and that it has returned “home”, where it belongs. In any event, there are some photos below. If you want to see the statue, ask anyone in town to take you there…There are no street names or numbers. It is housed in a little shrine building next to the caretakers house, where the change its clothes, dust it, and open it up to anyone who wishes to pray. Give the caretaker a few Pesos and you can have a look, pray, and touch its’ feet.