Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Immaculate Conception in Philippine history

19th century Inmacuda image.
Visitors at the Manila Cathedral would not miss the image of the Immaculate Conception enshrined at the main altar. On the Sunday preceding her feast day, 08 December,  a grand procession of Marian images had been held around Intramuros these past many years.

We visited the Cathedral on the 7th, and we discovered a new image on a colorful carroza inside one of the Cathedral's side altars. 

It's described as a "19th century Philippine-made image of the Virgin [that] was found in an antique shop [that] resembl[es] the Immaculada venerated in the Franciscan church in pre-war Intramuros"  It was recreated based on an "old photograph of the original Immaculada .. believed to have been lost during the Second World War."

There was a Royal Decree ordering compliance to a brief issued on 16 February 1761 advocating that in all domains under the Spanish monarchy the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is the universal and singular patroness.  

This can be found as an entry in Cedulario 1748-1768 (folder SDS-699 in the National Archives of the Philippines).  Rose Marie Mendoza, good friend and fellow researcher at the National Archives these last couple of years, posted in Facebook a photograph of this entry page just in time for the feast day of the patroness (08 December 2015). 

The entry reads: "Real Cedula. Que ordena el cumplimiento del breve que acompaƱa de 16 Febrero ultimo para que en todos los dominios de la monarquia EspaƱola se tome por universal y singular patrona y abogada de ella a la Inmaculada Concepcion de la Virgen Maria." [in the backside of page 289 of the Cedulario]

That came after several events in the history of the Inmaculada in the Philippines. These can be found in the Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas, 1574-1682, published as Philippine Church History, A Summary Translation in two volumes in 1994: 
  •  Item 4 under Philippine Historical Personality - Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (f.16-f.17 of the Anales; page 30 of vol.1, Summary): "On June 24, 1571, [Legazpi] took possesion of Manila. It was the feastday of St. John the Baptist. On that day too, he established the Parochial Church of the city under the patronage of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Its first parish priest was Lcdo, Juan de Villanueva."
  • Item 13 under the Biography of Maestro Don Fray Domingo de Salazar, O.P., D.D., First Bishop and First Archbishop of Manila (f.18-f.21; p 35): "On December 21, 1581 it [the church constructed by Bishop Salazar] was made into a Cathedral, the first Episcopal seat in the entire archipelago. A suffragan to the Archdiocese of Mexico, it was dedicated to the Most Pure and Immaculate Conception of Our Lady by virtue of the Bull of Pope Gregory XIII issued at Rome in the 7th year of His Pontificate in 1578."     
  • PROMULGATION. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the Cathedral (and Archdiocese of Manila (f.110; pp 126-127):  "The last promise Archbishop Poblete and Governor Manrique de Lara fulfilled dealt with Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. They agreed to celebrate her feast permanently every 8th of December up to its Octave.
How was the first day celebrated? "Thoughout the celebration there were fireworks, plays etc.On the first day, the Governor and the Royal Audiencia were the sponsors. A Pontifical Sung Mass was offered by the Archbishop at the Cathedral with Don Fr. Antonio de San Gregorio,OFM, Bishop of Nueva Caceres as preacher. The celebration was continued at the Cathedral the following day with the City and its Officials as sponsors. The succeeding celebrations were celebrated (and sponsored) by the Religious Orders. The last day was celebrated at the San Francisco Church with the Nueva Caceres Prelate as celebrant and the Archbishop as preacher.'

Then there is the interesting story on the death of Archbishop Miguel de Poblete on 08 December 1667 (f.198-f.200; pp 210-212:

The Archbishop was suffering from the recurrence of an ailment; he also had dysentery which 'so weakened him that he had to take to his bed,' He could no longer deliver his sermon, and complicated by high fever, 'on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, December 7, it was suggested for him to make his last will' and 'to prepare himself for the Holy Viaticum.'  The Viaticum was brought from Sta. Cruz instead from the Cathedral and adminsitered to him at four in the afternoon that day.

The Inmaculada at the cental altar of Manila Cathedral.
After 1:00 a.m. of December 8, "they [probablythe servant, Fr Juan de la Paz and the Archbishop's nephew] saw that he was lying on his right side with his right hand on his cheek. His eyes were closed and his robe, unruffled. Thinking that he was just probably asleep, they made some noise, But as they did not notice any movement, the Father Confessor called to him. Not hearing any response, they knew the Archbishop had passed away. At precisely that moment, the Cathedral tower clock struck. It was 2:00 a.m. of December 8, 1667, a Thursday and the feast of the Immaculate Concepcion of which Archbishop Poblete was a staunch devotee,'

He could not be buried that day because they were celebrating the Royal Coronation. 

He had been staying at his house by the Pasig river, "When the Intramuros gates were opened, they brought the body there for embalming.  They transported it aboard a small sampan. Upon docking, they transferred it into a hammock. Hardly had they entered the Sto. Domingo gate when the Cathedral and the Church bells of Intramuros started ringing. Such was the practice at daybreak every December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Religious escorting the body commented that indeed the corpse of such a holy and faultless man really merited a grand "welcome". The soldiers at the gate, with tears of joy, jubilantly received and let the party pass through. A big, informal procession followed.'

The body was laid out in the Archbishop's Palace. Its doors opened at 4:00 a.m. of December 9 so that the throng of people from Manila and from towns 6 or 8 leagues away from the city could pay their respect.  He was buried in the Cathedral three days later, 11 December, a Sunday.

Photos by the author,

  • Cedulario 1748-1768. Folder SDS-699. National Archives of the Philippines.
  • Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas, 1574-1682. Philippine Church History, A Summary Translation, Vol. 1. (Manila: Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila and Rev. Fr. Ruperto C. Santos), 1994.

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