By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok May 01,2017 - 09:41 PM


Mention Baclaran and the first thing that comes to your mind is the popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH) whose shrine in Baclaran, Paranaque City, is a favorite pilgrimage site among Filipino Catholic devotees and peoples of other faiths.

The perpetual novena to the OMPH is widespread among Filipino Catholics who, at one time or the other, must have experienced jostling for space in the church that welcomes 150,000 devotees every week or close to 8 million devotees each year. Among OMPH shrines all over the world, the church in Baclaran draws the largest number of devotees.

Last week (April 24–27), the number of visitors must have spiked a bit as foreign visitors and hundreds of local delegates descended on Baclaran to attend a glorious milestone, that is, the four-day Icon Pilgrimage Congress. The Superior General of the Redemptorists, Fr. Michael Brehl, CSsR, came all the way from Rome to join a bevy of church officials from Italy, United Kingdom, Canada, UK, Singapore, Vietnam, Africa, Japan and five other countries to interact with locals and experience Baclaran.

I happened to join the once-in-a-lifetime event together with fellow devotee Rosemarie Windeca of General Luna, Siargao, through the kindness of my good friend, Fr. Edwin Bacaltos, CSsR.

The official custodian of the original icon and the international shrine in Rome is the Redemptorist congregation, sometimes referred to as the sons of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Marian Doctor of the Church who founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, formal name of the Redemptorists.

Two thousand seventeen is a special year for the Redemptorists as they recall that fateful day in 1866 when Pope Pius IX entrusted the sacred icon to the congregation with an expressed desire to “make her known” throughout the world. The remembrance of this 150-year-old mandate is at the heart of the four-day Congress, even as the community looks forward to the future of the church under the mantle of “The Icon of Compassion.”

The Redemptorists arrived in Opon (old name of Lapu-Lapu City) in 1906, but it was not until 1946 when they started the novena. More than a century and a decade later, the devotion is being described as a phenomenon, spreading even in churches and parishes not run by the Redemptorists.

The situation has prompted Redemptorist missionary, author and political activist Fr. Amado “Pix” Picardal, CSsR, to say in jest that the congregation no longer has the “franchise” to the icon.

Fr. Pix, who has been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte when he was still Davao City mayor owing to his alleged links to the dreaded Davao Death Squad and the DDS-style of killing drug addicts in the current war on drugs, shared his reflections on the phenomenon of the OMPH devotion in the Philippines. He concluded his talk by stressing that the February 2017 pastoral statement issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on drug-related killings ends with, “Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.”

I think it was the closest thing Fr. Pix could do in presenting his talk in the perspective of the brutal drug war, which has made headlines all over the world. In an interview with him in the sidelines of the Congress, Fr. Picardal disclosed that his report on the EJKs, apart from findings of international human rights watchdogs, was attached to the case lodged by lawyer Jude Sabio against President Duterte and 11 others before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In any case, since Fr. Pix mentioned that he surveyed the more than 7,000 islands that dot the Philippine archipelago as a way of validating the OMPH phenomenon of a devotion, I asked him during the open forum about the possibility of bringing the Icon of Compassion to the disputed islands in the South China Sea. My question brought the house down although I didn’t mean my question to be taken as a joke. Fr. Pix answered, “Maybe we can do that.”

For lack of space, I will reserve more observations and anecdotes about the recently concluded Icon Pilgrimage Congress in succeeding articles.

* * *

It’s all systems go for the 3rd National Convention of the Schoenstatt Movement in the Philippines this coming Friday, May 5 to May 7, in the Schoenstatt Spirituality Center, Lawaan, Talisay City.

The theme of this year’s convention, “Fr. Joseph Kentenich, sign of the Father’s love in our time” aims to highlight the life and times of the father and founder of Schoenstatt. Fr. Kentenich lived through the tumult of World War II, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and experienced another period of personal trials after surviving concentration camp. We see in Fr. Joseph Kentenich a life lived in patient endurance, faith and fealty to the church which he loved so much.

As we go through these uncertain times, we in the Schoenstatt Movement look up to him as “a guide in faith, friend and spiritual father” (lifted from

Sr. Charito Maria Olvido, main convenor, told this corner the Schoenstatt Spirituality Center, venue of the convention, prepares to accommodate close to 200 delegates coming from as far as Laoag, Ilocos Norte in the north to Davao City in the south.

Fr. Jonald Concha, rector of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Mary, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt, will open the convention with a Eucharistic celebration at 3 p.m. on May 5, at the shrine.

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TAGS: Africa, Baclaran, Canada, church, faiths, Italy, Japan, Mention, Parañaque, Singapore, UK, United Kingdom, Vietnam

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