Our Lady of Manaoag is a miraculous church with a 400 year long history of renowned miracles and pious events. According to the legend of its origin centuries ago, a farmer was walking through a field when he heard a woman's voice. He looked around and saw the Virgin Mary with a rosary in her right hand and the child Jesus in her left, standing in a cloud veiling a treetop. The man fell to his knees before the apparition, who told him where she wanted her church to be located. He told people of his vision and soon a church was built on the spot where the lady appeared. A town quickly flourished around it, and was called “Manaoag”.
"Our Lady of Manaoag" actually refers specifically to an ivory statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, brought from Spain via Acapulco in the early 17th century to the Philippines by Padre Juan de San Jacinto. Now located in the shrine in the church, the image is one of the most venerated Marian images in the country, and is thought by believers to possess healing powers as patroness of the sick, the helpless and the needy.
In the early days of Spanish colonization, animist mountain tribes attacked the village of Manaoag and set the buildings on fire with flaming arrows. Although the entire town was burned to the ground, the church was miraculously preserved. In 1898 revolutionaries burned the church down, but the image narrowly missed destruction, because it had been abandoned in a storage room behind the church. Similarly, during WWII the Japanese bombed and utterly destroyed the town, but the church remained intact (for the most part anyway: the plaza and façade were moderately damaged). A bomb fell right through the roof and landed on the sanctuary, but miraculously didn't explode. Six million Filipinos died in thel war, but the church was spared!
Pope Benedict XVI granted the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag “a special bond of spiritual affinity through which the visitors of the Marian Shrine are assured of the same blessings of the Lord and the entitlement to a plenary indulgence equal to that received when visiting a papal basilica in Rome.”
People come from all over the country on pilgrimages to Manaoag. Religion in this country is alive. Churches are crowded and relics are adored. People will stand in line for a couple hours just to get a chance to touch the gown of the bejeweled statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Manaoag.
In the back of the church is another building called the Candle Gallery. You can choose to purchase from a wide variety of candles from one of the church run candle stands. Katya had been stung earlier in the morning by a jellyfish and was also feeling a bit run down from a cold, so she lighted a candle and recited the recommended prayer for good health, which was posted on the wall. On the van ride back up to Baguio, she suffered a severe bout of nausea and retching, which was followed by the worst migraine headache in her life, along with fevers and chills that lasted through the night. Although feeling quite worn out the next morning, her cold was gone! (Well, maybe not completely, but much better). If your belief is strong, you will experience miracles!