Filipinos venerate 243-year-old image of the Virgin Mary

Miracles attributed to image spurred devotion to Our Lady of Salvation as well as some historical bickering
Filipinos venerate 243-year-old image of the Virgin Mary

Every year for the past 243 years, people in the village of Joroan in the province of Albay pay homage to the image of the Nuestra Senora de Salvacion or the Our Lady of Salvation. (Photo by Rhaydz Barcia)

Annually Filipinos in the province of Albay give ritual thanks to a statue of the Virgin Mary known as Our Lady of Salvation that has been venerated for 243 years.

Devotees say that the image, also known as Our Lady of Light, is a source of strength and inspiration.

Every last Saturday in August, Catholics flock to the town of Tiwi, in the south-eastern part of the main island of Luzon, to pay homage.

The statue of Our Lady of Salvation is then carried in a nine-kilometer procession from the seashore to a hilltop shrine.

Historical accounts show that the Marian devotion started in the 1770s because of miracles attributed to the image, which in colonial Spanish times was best known as the Nuestra Senora de Salvacion.

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When marauding Muslim Moro pirates attacked the coastal town, people would seek refuge in the hilly village of Joroan, where the image of the Virgin Mary was located, and pray in the chapel there for protection


Miracle stories

There is an account of woman with a child who 'appeared' to a rancher and solicited two cows for the people of Joroan, who it turned out were building a church for the Virgin Mary.

And it is said that when pirates tried to burn people's houses in Joroan, their torches would not ignite.

Another story is that of a widow named Hermanang Tiray who was captured by pirates and taken to a faraway land.

But after praying to the Virgin it was said that a deer led her home.

A pilgrim reported that a candle he was given miraculously appeared at the shrine.

And the paralysis of a man commissioned to repair the church was said to have been healed by divine intervention.

It is also said that a group of devotees, who survived their boat capsizing in a gale, found after swimming to the shore that their clothes were dry.

After the church was destroyed by a typhoon, the image of the Virgin Mary still stood, but was reported to have turned from looking towards the sea to facing the village.

An account written by the village's first parish priest, Father Lamberto Fulay, stated that in 1770, a certain Don Silverio Arcilla assigned a tenant named Mariano Dacuba to one of his estates.

Dacuba cut down a tree when clearing a piece of land in Joroan, however, its leaves did not wilt as days passed.

A friar in the town of Buhi called in a sculptor named Bagacumba who carved three images from the trunk: the Nuestra Senora de Salvacion; an image of San Antonio de Padua; and an image of the Nuestra Senora de Soledad (Our Lady of Sorrows).

On Aug. 25, 1776, the image of Our Lady of Salvation was lent to the people Joroan on the condition that they build a chapel in the center of the village.

In 1853, Buhi agreed to give up its rights to the image if the people of Joroan made an offering of 50 pesos and an additional 25 pesos for the bell.

When a strong typhoon struck in 1805, the image was temporarily moved to the town of Tiwi, leading to conflict over it not being returned.

An assembly was held in 1918 to resolve the issue and the image was finally taken back to Joroan on Sept. 15, 1919.

In 1975, Bishop Teotimo Pacis of Legazpi, the capital of the province, declared the statue to be the "heavenly patroness of Albay."

In 1976, the diocese celebrated the bicentennial jubilee of its patroness with the building of a new shrine and the crowning of the image.

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