Our Lady of Guidance

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Nuestra Señora de Guia
Our Lady of Guidance
Patroness of Overseas Filipino Workers
The venerated image with the famous Pandan leaves associated with her primeval discovery by early Filipino pagans
Location Ermita, Manila, Philippines
Date 19 May 1571
Witness Ferdinand Magellan
Type Molave wood
Holy See approval Pope Paul VI
Shrine Nuestra Señora de Guia Archdiocesan Shrine
Patronage Navigators, travellers, seafarers
Attributes pandan leaves, open hands, marshal's baton, dark skin and Chinese features

Our Lady of Guidance (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Guia) is a 16th-century Roman Catholic image of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception that is widely venerated by Filipino Roman Catholics. Considered to be a form of Black Madonna, the wooden statue is considered the oldest artistic depiction of Mary in the Philippines, and is believed to have been originally brought to the islands by Ferdinand Magellan (along with Santo Niño de Cebú) in the early 16th century. Locally venerated as patroness of navigators and travellers, the image is enshrined in the Nuestra Señora de Guia Archdiocesan Parish in Ermita, City of Manila.


Made of molave (Vitex cofassus) wood, the icon stands at about 50 centimetres, and is characterised by dark skin and Chinese facial features. Its head has a wig of long, light brown hair and is dressed in both a manto and a stylised tapis, the traditional wraparound skirt of pre-Hispanic Filipino women. Among its regalia are a marshal's baton; a set of jewels given by Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Rufino Santos in 1960;[1] and a golden crown donated by Pope Paul VI during his visit to Manila Cathedral on 16 May 1971.

When the Shrine celebrates the image's feast every 19 May,[2] it prohibits the original statue from being borne in procession in order to preserve it. A replica is instead brought out into the city streets for public veneration whilst the original remains ensconced in its glass alcove above the high altar.


The image enshrined above the high altar.

According to the Anales de la Catedral de Manila, the crew of Miguel López de Legaspi discovered along the seaside of what is now Ermita a group of animist natives worshipping a statue of a female figure, later identified as the Virgin Mary. Later accounts claimed the statue was brought by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and was given as a gift to a chieftain of Cebu.[3] Local folklore meanwhile recounts the Spaniards witnessing natives venerate the statue, which was placed on a trunk surrounded by pandan plants. This is remembered today by the placement of real or imitation pandan leaves around the image's base as one of its iconic attributes. The statue is notable for her narrow, almond-shaped eyes, which some consider evidence of a Chinese origin for the statue.

On 19 May 1571 the indigenous kings Rajah Sulaiman III and Rajah Matanda ceded the Kingdom of Maynila to the Spanish, with Legaspi co-consecrating the city to Saint Pudentiana.[4] In 1578, Phillip II of Spain issued a royal decree invoking Our Lady of Guidance to be "sworn patroness" of Manila, making her the city's titular patroness. The statue was initially enshrined at Manila Cathedral until 1606, when the original parish compound was built. Called La Hermita ("The Hermitage"), it was constructed using bamboo, nipa, and molave wood. It was later rebuilt with cement but was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1810.

In 1897, a novena book titled Pagsisiyam sa Nuestra Señora de Guia ("Novena to Our Lady of Guidance") was published by the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas. The prayer book mentioned that the statue was originally worshipped by natives who found it sitting on a trunk, and built a roof above the surrounding Pandan trees. It condemned them for their polytheism and witnessed accounts of murder. The original feast of the image was celebrated on 18 December, but was moved to its present date when a rainstorm hit Manila Cathedral in February 1771.[5]

The reconstructed Shrine was destroyed during the 1945 Battle of Manila. American soldiers who later helped clear the rubble of the destroyed church discovered the statue buried under the sacristy. The current parish was built in 1947.[6]

The image was granted a Canonical Coronation on Rizal Day 1955 by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi. Father Patrick Peyton also once delivered a homily preaching the Family Rosary Crusade in the presence of the image. The statue was removed from the Shrine and remained in the room of Pope John Paul II for the duration of his 1995 Apostolic visit.

In December 2011, EWTN featured the statue as the "Oldest Marian Icon in the Philippines" on the programme, "Mary: Mother of the Philippines".

Archdiocesan Shrine[edit]

The church was granted Archdiocesan status in 2005 under Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. The current parish priest and rector is Rev. Fr. Sanny de Claro.[7]

Due to the church's proximity to the United States Embassy, the statue is often visited by locals who petition Saint Mary for safety in overseas travel. Devotees claim that under this title, the intercession of Saint Mary is speedy and miraculous, particularly in securing approval of requests for United States visas.

She is also considered the patron saint of all Overseas Filipino Workers.

See also[edit]


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