A Marian devotee going into the church ofErmita on M.H. del Pilar near Plaza Ferguson [Plaza Nuesta Sra. de Guia] will see on the main altar a small, morena statue of our lady, dressed in the replendent robes of a queen
Thie revered image made of molave and narra was for many years the central figure of rich and colorful ceremonies among the residents of what was formerly known as themost aristocratic residential district of Manila. But since WWII, with hotel, dress shops and supermarkets sprouting over all of Ermita,her devotess dwindled to a very small staunch few.
This shrine where this littel statue of a queesn stands today is, historically speaking, the foremost among the Marian shrines in the Philippines. This venerable image of Nuestra Sra. de Guia in Ermita Church was here before any other image of the Blessed Mother ever set foot on Philippine shores and it was in Ermita even before Legaspi ever discovered the fishing village now called Manila.
With the designaton of the year 1954 as Marian year, Nuestra Sra. de Guia took on added importance. The reason was obvious: the Marian year was the centenary of the Immaculate conception, though many seem not to realize this – the first statue of the Immaculate Conception ever set eyes upon by Filipinos.
This image was found on the shores of Manila on May 19, 1571 by a Spanish navy private, who was part of the Legaspi expedition. Its origin – no one seems to know. But its close resemblance to the Sto. Nino of Cebuhas made everyoe believe that it must have been brought to the Philippines in 1521 by Magellan’s native chiefs as a gift to one fo the many rajahs of Manila.
The lucky yet anonymous soldier found the image of the Virgin Mary “on top pf a pandan bush surrounded by natives who adored it in a pagan fashion. As soon as his commander’s attention was called to the discovery, there was a great celebration and rejoicing. From that day on, says anales de la Catedral de Manila, the Virgen de Guia “began to shed the rays of her charity in ever so many miracles which she wrought in behalf of the people at large and specially in behalf of the Navigators. For this reason she was given the title of Guia [Guide] and was declared the Patroness of the Galleons of Castille.
In a royal Decree dated August 9, 1758 the King of Spain declared Nuestra Sra. de Guia as the “Sworn Patroness” of the city by reason of the continual favors that she has lavished on it.
The firt church where the well-loved patroness was enshrined was of “bamboo and nipa with posts of molave and palambrava” Later when the Chinese pirates stopped assaulting the shores of Manila and gave the Spanish colonist time to construct somethingmore permanent, a church of stone was built. The church was demolished several times because of earthquakes and other catastrophes, the last of which was in 1945 when it was bombed out. In this latest catastrophe, the famous statue was saved by the Ermita parish priest, Fr. Blas de Guernica and Justo N. Lopez who secretly “buried” the statue in one of the niches of the crypt at the back of the main altar few weeks before the liberation.
On thedays ofthe liberation of the district of Ermita, in February 1945, while the Japanese snipers were still shooting from every side, V. Rev. Fr. Rogelio Bedonia with a chaplain and four soldiers of the American Army went to the ruins of what had been the church of Ermita, dug up the sacred image of our Lady from the debris of the crypt and brought it to a safer place. Since then until the construction of the temporary chapel, the sacred image stayed in a private house on Taft Avenue, in San Miguel de Mayumo and finally in Quiapo.
At the first mass celebrated by his Holiness Pope Paul VI in the Philippines on November 27, 1970 at the Manila Cathedral the image of Nuestra Sra, de Guia was prominently enthroned. At the end of the mass, his Holiness blessed and kissed the hands of the Image.
In observance of the Forth Centennial of Nuestra Sra. de Guia, a replica of the Image was made. From May 1970 to 1971 the replica visited almost all parishes, chapels, hospitals, schools, and other institutions in teh Archdiocese of Manila.
On May 16, 1971 His Eminence Rufino J. Cardinal Santos had celebrated Mass with other prelates and priest at the Independence Grandstand, Manila during which he also placed on the virgin a crown donated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. Fr Patrick Peyton of the Internation Family Rosary Crusade delivered the Homily.
The image was canonically crowned on Decemever 30, 1955 by Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi, who was at that time Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. The commemorative event was preceded by Novena masses and devotions held at the Ermita church and offciaited by different Bishops.
The Virgin is now permanently enshrined in the parish of Nuestra Sra. de Guia. On December 3, 2005 it was canonically recognized by His Excellency Gaudencio B. Rosales, Archbishop of Manila as an Archdiocesan shrine. The pastoral administration of the Archdiocesan Shrine was gven to Fr. Sanny C. de Claro.
Source : Libreta & Novena: “In Honor of Nuestra Señora de Guia [Our Lady of Guidance]”
4 October 2009