VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON. SJ
The image of Our Lady was carved in Mexico with black wood. It accompanied three trips of the Manila Galleon. It is thru her intercession that the safety of these voyages was attributed. The Manila Galleon was what made prosperity for Manila. The people who were allocated bolletas rejoiced with the successful run of the Galleon. There was not only the storms of the Pacific that the Galleon had to run but also the British and Dutch pirates who found the silver going west and the gold going east of the Galleon a substantial booty sufficient to risk all they had. It was the silver of Mexico going to the Chinese Empire and the gold of the islands, the spices, and the Chinese silk going to Mexico and to Spain. It was a lucrative trade that supported the colonization of the Las Islas Filipinas.
The Galleon ships were made of the wood from the forests of Cavite and the forced labor that was recruited from all over the archipelago. To some extent this is what produced the characteristic aloofness and bravura of the Cavitenos. They were recruited from all parts of the archipelago and therefore had no or little common bond but they had to survive. Cavite must have had a dense forest and fertile soil when the Spaniards came. (It was also here that one form of Chabacano survived. It was a form pidgin Spanish that did not start with Spanish but with Portuguese. They were the Portuguese half breeds that the Spaniards rescued from the Dutch Protestants in Ternate Indonesia. They settled these half breeds in Zamboanga, Cavite city, Ternate, Cavite, and Ermita in Manila. I still reached relatives in Sta. Ana who spoke this pidgin Spanish.) Manila rejoiced when a Galleon made the trip successfully. It meant prosperity for at least a couple of years. At the end of a third trip they decided to retire the image of Our Lade from the voyages and placed the image in the hills of Antipolo.
My grandfather on my mother’s side was Chinese and had a great devotion to Our Lady of Antipolo. The reason for the start of this devotion was a Chinese rebellion. The Spaniards needed the Chinese but were always wary of their ingenuity and hard work. They therefore tended to keep them in enclaves. And one of these enclaves was the settlement in Binan and Sta. Rosa in Laguna. In one of their revolts they crossed the lake, captured Antipolo, and threw the image into a bonfire. But it did not burn. That is the reason for the devotion of the Manila Chinese to the shrine of Antipolo.
My mother used to tell me that when she was a child they would hire a casco from the “muelles” of Binondo and sail up the Pasig River and dock in Angono or thereabouts and from there walk up to Antipolo. The children did not walk but were carried in a hammock type bed, called “hamaka,” two at a time and carried by two men, one at each end of a pole.. They made this yearly trip in May and they had a house a few blocks from the church which I still reached. In my childhood it took us the whole day to go to Antipolo. We had to go through Sta. Ana and up the hills. But now with the good roads it takes us about half an hour to go from Marikina. I still concelebrate with some of the parish priests of the Diocese of Antipolo. They used to allow me to celebrate Mass by myself but recently I have had difficulty standing up for the whole Mass. This is a family tradition that we go up to Antipolo once a year in May to honor Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage who is a secondary patron of the Philippines.
May One is the start of the pilgrimages and many walk or ride bicycles up to Antipolo and then make side trips to Hinulugan Taktak. It has always been a festive trip walking up to the shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
Tags: Fr. Emeterio Barcelon SJ