PARAÑAQUE City, March 5, 2014—Like sardines in a tin can, thousands of Catholic pilgrims from different cities of Metro Manila and nearby provinces filled the National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baclaran to the brim on Wednesday to mark the start of the 40-day Lenten season.
Motorists, commuters, and pedestrians had the worst traffic jam of their lives as they “snailed” their way through the sea of vehicles on Roxas boulevard.
Besides being a pilgrimage site, Baclaran, like Divisoria and Carriedo to its north, is also a shopping hub popular among the masses with its vast array of inexpensive wares like ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes and household items.
“Ash Wednesday” in the Redemptorist Church is doubly special because it coincides with the weekly “Baclaran Day”.
Each Baclaran faithful waited in line for his turn for a priest or an assisting nun to impose ashes on his forehead and be reminded that “he comes from ash and unto ash he shall return”.
Baclaran Day is what devotees call this special day designated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help held every Wednesday.
Grateful petitioners whose wishes have been granted by Our Lady attest to her many miracles.
Oft-retold stories of Marian intercession include those of sick people being healed, of the jobless finding work, of newly graduates passing board exams, of the childless being blessed with child.
Housewife Lucy Aguillo from Borongan, Eastern Samar thanked the Ina ng Laging Saklolo for giving her male twins after years of having only two daughters.
“Gustung-gusto ko talagang magkaroon ng anak na lalake kaya namanata ako dito sa Baclaran… Dalawa pa nga ang ibinigay sa akin,” [“I really wanted to have a son that’s why I began praying here at Baclaran… Who would have thought I’d be blessed with twins?”] said Aguillo.
Devotion to Our Lady consists of a novena, a set of prayers which petitioners are enjoined to recite for nine consecutive Wednesdays at the Shrine.
The Redemptorist Shrine rivals the Church of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila and the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo City, Rizal in the number of devotees it regularly draws.
The Shrine which was established by the Redemptorist Fathers from Ireland in 1932 houses the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help with its back paneling bearing a Papal seal.
The first Baclaran novena was conducted by Rev. Leo English on June 23, 1948 with only 70 participants and has spread among Filipinos since.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Latin: Nostra Mater de Perpetuo Succursu) is a Catholic title which Pope Pius IX gave to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Karol Cardinal Wojtyla of the Kraków Archdiocese in Poland, the future Pope John Paul II, once said Mass inside the Shrine.
The Blessed Pope also prayed before Our Lady during his first pastoral visit to the Philippines in 1981.
The icon, a German replica of the original in Rome, is painted in the Byzantine style and depicts the Mother holding the infant Jesus. (Raymond A. Sebastián)