Our Lady of Guidance

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Our Lady of Guidance
Nuestra Señora de Guia
Patroness of Overseas Filipino Workers
The venerated image with the Pandan leaves associated with her 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 Our Lady of Guidance 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 image of the Blessed Virgin Mary depicted as the Immaculate Conception that is widely venerated by Filipino Roman Catholics. The wooden Black Madonna statue is considered as the oldest Marian statue 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 travelers, the image is enshrined at the Our Lady of Guidance Archdiocesan Shrine, commonly known as the Ermita Church, in the Ermita area of the City of Manila.


Made of molave (Vitex cofassus) wood, the statue stands about 50 centimetres (20 in) and is characterized by dark skin with a long, light brown hair. She is dressed in both a manto and a stylized tapis, the traditional wraparound skirt of Filipino women. Among her regalia is a scepter, 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 the Manila Cathedral on May 16, 1971.


The image enshrined above the high altar.

According to the Anales de la Catedral de Manila, the crew of Miguel López de Legazpi discovered a group of animist natives worshiping a statue of a female figure, later identified as the Virgin Mary along the seaside of what is now Ermita. Later accounts claimed the statue was brought by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and was given as a gift to Rajah Humabon, whose realm included what is now Cebu City.[2] 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 its narrow, almond-shaped eyes, which some consider evidence of a Chinese origin for the statue.

On May 19, 1571, the sovereigns Rajah Sulaiman III and Rajah Matanda ceded the Kingdom of Maynila to the Spanish Empire, with López de Legazpi consecrating the city to both Saint Pudentiana and Our Lady of Guidance.[3] 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 first enshrined in Manila Cathedral inside the walled city of Manila until 1606, when the first parish compound was built on the present shrine's site. Called La Hermita ("The Hermitage"), it was originally made of bamboo, nipa, and molave wood. It was later rebuilt with stone but suffered damaged in 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 in Manila. The prayer book mentioned that the statue was originally worshiped 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.[4]

During the Second World War, the statue was saved by the parish priest of Ermita Church, Fr. Blas de Guernica, and Justo N. López. They secretly kept the statue in one of the niches of the crypt behind the main altar a few weeks before the Allied liberation of Manila. Ermita Church was destroyed during the Battle of Manila in February 1945. 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 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 then finally in Quiapo. The current parish church was built in 1947.[5]

The image was given a Canonical Coronation on Rizal Day December 30, 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.

A replica of the image was made to commemorate the image's quadricentenary. From May 1970 to 1971, the replica visited almost all parishes, chapels, hospitals, schools, and other institutions in the Archdiocese of Manila. Since then, it is the replica that is brought out in procession and for public veneration during the its feast day on 19 May, with the original remaining ensconced in its glass-covered alcove above the main altar.[6]

In December 2011, EWTN featured the statue as the "oldest Marian Icon in the Philippines" in the program, "Mary: Mother of the Philippines".

On 14 January 2015, the image was securely removed from the Ermita Church and transferred to the Apostolic Nunciature building along Taft Avenue in Manila, where Pope Francis will stay during his apostolic visit. The image will be brought to the Quirino Grandstand for veneration during the Pope's open-air mass scheduled for 18 January.

Archdiocesan Shrine[edit]

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

Patron saint[edit]

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]


  1. ^ Barcelona, Mary Anne. Edited by Consuelo B. Estepa, Ph.D. (2004). "Ynang Maria: A Celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Philippines". Anvil Publishing, Inc, Pasig City.
  2. ^ "Ang Simbahan ng Nuestra Señora de Guia (The Church of Our Lady of Guidance) Marker". HMDB.org.
  3. ^ "History". Official Website of the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral - Basilica.
  4. ^ (1897). "Novena o Pagsisyam sa Nuestra Senora de Guia", Imprental del Colegio de Santo Tomas, Manila.
  5. ^ DeAnda (2009-11-22). "In Honor of Nuestra Señora de Guia". With one's past...
  6. ^ Archdiocesan Shrine Of Nuestra Señora De Guia Parish
  7. ^ http://www.rcam.org/clergy/page_detail_clergy/D/de_claro_sanny.htm

External links[edit]