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Purely Personal
Biglang Awa of Boac marks golden jubilee

By Josephine Darang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:41:00 05/04/2008

Filed Under: Churches (organisations), Religions

MANILA, Philippines - May 10, 2008 marks another milestone in the Diocese of Boac with the celebration of the 30th year anniversary of its canonical erection and the golden anniversary of the canonical coronation of Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang-Awa (1958-2008).

Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who is from Mogpog, Marinduque, will officiate in the Concelebrated Mass on May 10 at 9 a.m. and the re-enactment of the canonical coronation at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. To welcome Cardinal Vidal is Boac Bishop Rey Evangelista. Hermana mayor is Lani Lardizabal.

Novena Masses will start on May 1 at 4 p.m. and end on May 9. A Marian Congress will be held on May 5 with Msgr. Leandro N. Castro and Fr. Yulito Q. Ignacio, both experts in Mariology, as speakers.

A musical concert, ?Harana Kay Maria,? on May 7 is expected to add color and solemnity to the whole celebration. Performers are the clergy of the Diocese of Boac, and various choir groups from the three vicariates of the diocese.

The blessing and canonical establishment of the Diocesan Shrine of Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang-Awa will be held on May 9. A band shall go around the town of Boac at exactly 5:30 in the morning of May 10 followed by the fiesta Mass at 9 a.m. The venerated image shall then be brought in a solemn procession to the the newly blessed Diocesan Shrine beside the Cathedral.

History of the devotion

The people?s devotion to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, officially named in Marinduque as Ang Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang-Awa, began during the Spanish times when the Jesuit missionaries brought the three-foot image to Boac. The Jesuits assumed the spiritual administration of the island in 1621 from then Archbishop of Manila Miguel Garcia Serrano.

According to ?narracion historica?: ?Since time immemorial, each night after the Angelus, the people gathered for prayers and novena to our Blessed Mother. The number increased in times of public calamities such as drought, epidemic, earthquake, famine and distress, requesting her motherly care and help. ?

?The devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary intensified greatly when people experienced ?her sudden and immediate help or prompt succour?. These lines echo Murillo Velarde?s testimony in his ? Historia de Philipina? (sic), 41-42.

According to the prevailing religious tradition, in the middle of the 17th century, a big expedition of Moros landed on the shores of Barangay Laylay near the mouth of the Boac river. It was the greatest number that had ever raided the island. The town and barrio people fled in panic and took refuge inside the fortress church of Boac (now Immaculate Conception Cathedral). The old men, women, and children fervently prayed the Rosary and novena to the patroness of the town, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

In the meantime, all able-bodied men defended the outer walls of the church fortress against the bitter attacks of the Moros.

During the siege, many Christians were killed. On the third day, they ran short of food and the capture of the fortress seemed imminent. The Christians then stormed the throne of the Blessed Mother of God with fervent prayers, entreating her to deliver them from their enemies. Their prayers were heard.

Suddenly, there came a very strong storm. The rain fell in torrents with lighting and terrifying thunder. At the very height of the storm, all were amazed to see standing on the top of the wall (where the shrine is now located) a beautiful Lady with her arms outstretched as if in the act of driving away the enemy. Terror seized the Moros and they fled in confusion to their vintas. Thus were the Christians saved from the cruel death through the prompt action of the Queen of Heaven herself.

No wonder that the image had ever since been honored and called by the glorious title of the ?Biglang Awa.? In order to commemorate the miracle, a stone niche was built on the wall at the very spot where Our Lady appeared. The old image brought by the Jesuits in Boac was placed there.

When she was governor, Carmencita Ongsiako Reyes built a more than life-size image of the Virgin in cement and placed in the middle of the river in Balanacan port where it welcomes travellers entering the island.

Our Lady?s Foundation

The officers and members of Our Lady of Biglang Awa Foundation headed by Albina Hidalgo-Padua are busy fundraising to pay for expenses to be incurred during the celebration. Through placing ads in the souvenir program, devotees of the Virgin of Biglang Awa can help. Fr. Rene Sapungan is chair of the ad hoc committee; while Fr. Pepito Perilla is chair of the subcommittee on finance. Please make checks payable to Roman Catholic Bishop / Diocese of Boac, if you want to donate or place ads. Text Patria Jacinto at 0917-8436245.

The sad thing, according to Tita Pat, is the lack of young people to take over as members of the foundation which has for many years been supporting seminarians and poor children go to school. Everybody is growing old, she said.

Bonsai exhibit

Ongoing at the Araneta Coliseum Gateway until May 11 is the 5th national exhibit of the Phil. Bonsai Society which is now on its 35th year. Bobby Gopiao, president, and Yumie Gupit, secretary, have worked hard to invite Taiwanese masters who will demonstrate new techniques in bonsai making.

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