Sunday, June 6, 2010

*200. A Virgin's Tale: OUR LADY OF PAMPANGA

O, INDU! The original image of Virgen de los Remedios of Baliti, patroness of Pampanga. Ca. mid 1950s.

Perched high up in a home altar in my Ingkung’s room was a framed colored picture of a beautiful Lady that’s been there ever since I could remember. She had a most beautiful face, framed by a halo of golden stars and topped with a gem-encrusted crown. Resplendent in her blue and white satin robes and with a rosary in her hands, she watched over the room together with other plaster cast figures of the Sacred Heart, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and Our Lady of Lourdes. I knew that this particular representation of the Virgin was special, because every so often, we would bring down the picture, put it out the window and lighted candles on its side as a procession went by. I would also see similar pictures of this Lady hanging in other people’s homes around town.

It was only later that I would learn that the Lady in the picture was none other than the “Patroness of Pampanga”—Nstra. Sñra de los Remedios, our “Indu ning Kapaldanan”. It turned out that we not only had her framed picture, but also a big escayola version of the same Virgin, with molded clothes, a plaster crown and a tin halo.

Virgen de los Remedios was the central character in the turbulent post-War events unfolding in Pampanga, when the province was being called “Little Russia”. Many Kapampangans were being turned on to Communism, giving rise to social unrest that threatened to tear the province apart. Then Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero conceived of a crusade to bring back Kapampangans to the Catholic fold, and thus was born on 15 April 1952, the Cruzada y Buena Voluntad (Crusade of Charity and Goodwill), under the patronage of Our Lady of Remedies.

The original image was borrowed from a chapel in Baliti and was sent on an uninterrupted pilgrimage to all Pampanga towns (siba-balen) and parishes. Indeed, after a year, our Lady proved to be a true remedy for the turmoil in the province, converting and pacifying people, while bringing back devotion to the Faith.

The next year, when it was time for the image to be brought out again for its scheduled visits, the people of Baliti refused to loan their image. Fr. Generoso Pallasigui, then Baliti parish priest, was quite worried that “blood will flow” if Bishop Guerrero insisted on taking the image away. It was ironical that the image that was meant to bring Kapampangan together, was now causing divisiveness between the cruzada organizers and the “possessive” people of Baliti. (Years later, it was gathered that the people were misinformed about the news they heard about their Virgen de los Remedios—that it was going to be sent for coronation in Rome and then stay there permanently!).

Bishop Guerrero instead, had a replica made—and this new Virgen de los Remedios was the image that was canonically crowned on 8 September 1956 in San Fernando—a full 4 years after the inaugural crusade started in Masantol. Today, there are two other duplicate images that visit the northern and southern towns of Pampanga; the canonically crowned image is kept in the San Fernando Chancery and is brought out once a year for its coronation anniversary. The “Virgen de los Remedios of Baliti” reposes in its own chapel in Baliti, and the place is being propagated as a shrine by the residents who, for many years, had to endure the stigma of being branded as “selfish” community, long after the controversial rebuff.

In the meanwhile, the pilgrim Virgin continues its visits to every nook and cranny of Pampanga towns, moving and touching Kapampangans by the thousands. I, myself, have seen the dramatic effects of the visit in my town most recently. From June to the 2nd week of July, Mabalacat played host to the revered patroness of Pampanga. Townfolks turned out en masse and lined the bunting-decorated streets for the arrival of the Our Lady in Quitanguil. Santos, representing the barangay patron saints, stood on their flower-bedecked carrozas and joined the Mabalaqueños in the warm welcome, complete with band music.

Barangays tried to outdo each other in according the best welcome for the Virgen. In a show of solidarity, people worked together to spruce up their visitas and chapels, hang blue and white buntings, set up welcome arches and streamers to honor our Lady. For days, barangay chapels hummed with the sound of novena prayers, with devotees coming non-stop to join in the festivities.

On an overcast 17 July afternoon, when it was time to send off the image to its next destination--Hensonville in Angeles—hundreds of Mabalaqueños celebrated a festive Mass in the parish church, specially decorated for the grand mañanita. Then, the town residents, pastoral council members, Damas de Caridad and the Caballeros de Cristo formed a long convoy to accompany the image and the Santo Cristo del Perdon all the way to the city, singing and intoning prayers while continuing the tradition of lamak—an act of charity done through the sharing of donated goods, with the sick, the needy and the destitute.

In an age of skepticism, one only has to look at the attendant effects of our Lady’s visit on Kapampangans---you can see a deepening of faith, a return to prayer, a heightened sense of awareness of our social ills, and a strengthening of the will to make a difference -- to conclude that modern day miracles still happen. Our Indu ning Capaldanan has done it again.


aaron said...

e uari, sto cristo del perdon ya ita?

alex r. castro said...

It is "Perdon", not "Person". Sorry for the typo error. TY for pointing that out.

Anonymous said...

Ing pung mumuna nang cannonical coronation n ning virgen delos remedios meganap yapu iti keng balen floridablanca pampanga at epu san fernando.

alex r. castro said...

I am afraid you are wrong. Ing mumunang canonical Coronation midaus San Fernando capitol grounds inyang 1956.

Pota you are referring to the 1st Year Commemmoration of the Canonical Coronation--which was held at St. Joseph Parish in Floridablanca the next year--in 1957. In 1984, Floridablanca was again the site of the 18th commemoration of the coronation.

Please refer to the souvenir program,. "Qng Tula Ra". and the book "O Indu: The Complete Story of the Virgen de los Remedios" by Edna Gueco.

Anonymous said...

Ok but I remember during the dalo balen ning virgen 50th anniversary our parish priest cited in his homily fr elmer dizon that the 1st cannonical coronation of the virgen was held in floridablnaca pampanga even our town historian the late mr jose a salvador told me that it was in our parish he even show me many pictures that he was taken personaly during the coronation

alex r. castro said...

Oral history is a tricky thing. So are undated pictures. One must rely on documented sources and eyewitness account. The one in Sta. Rita, which happened in 1957--is a RE-ENACTMENT of the 1st canonical crowning. It is NOT there that the Virgin was FIRST crowned. It made sense that the venue should be in the capital town of San Fernando, as your church grounds would have been too small to accommodate the over 80,000 that attended the event.

The 1956 souvenir program 'Qng Tula Ra', which documents the historic 1st Canonical Crowning is full of pictures from that event, including the program.

For further readings, please check past programs that list the towns (by year) that hosted the COMMEMORATIVE canonical crownings (re-enactment of the crowning). Copies are available at the Center for Kapampangan Studies. A definitive reference would be the book of Edna Gueco previously mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Ok pu maybe I should have more documented research. Pero nung keng grouds pu it can accomodate 80 thous people ksi malwalas yapu ing patio mi kanita ala pang building unlike today sinakup n ne ngan ning eskwela ing patio ing pisamban p iyang makisabi ban neng agamit ing patio meging yang squater ing pisamban keng sarili ng bandi hope makagawa ko pung storya regarding floridablanca n its parish ksi everyday pu iam looking on this site manibat anyang ikit ke anyway tnks for the information godbless n more power

alex r. castro said...

As a footnote, the annual re-enactment of the coronation now just takes place alternately in Angeles and San Fernando, which has the capacity to accomodate the overflow crowds that go to pay homage to the Virgin of Remedies.

Anonymous said...

The People of Baliti aren't selfish nung pakalawen tamu. They were aware of the consequences na ning "pamag-maymut"(ada reng aliwa) da keng original. Cultura na ne ning Baliti townspeople ita. Ing lugud da keng birhen, alang makatawad ninu man :)

Aldrin said...

My late grandmother, Paula Pacheco was a Damas de Caridad. She will bring me to the Virgin's coronation year after year and yes, in her altar she kept a photograph of Virgen de los Remedios. She passed away May 17 of this year. She was murdered at the of 83. She would have turned 84 on the 29th of June. In honor of Virgen de los Remedios and my grandmother's devotion to our patroness, I promise to bring home an image of the Virgin. Hopefully, before our 'babang luksa' next year. I hope you can also help me find a good artist for this panata of mine. Dacal pung salamat.