Our Lady of Guidance

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Our Lady of Guidance
Nuestra Señora de Guia
Patroness of Overseas Filipino Workers
Ermita Church Nuestra Sra de Guia.JPG
The icon enthroned on its iconic pandan leaves.
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, 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 is considered the oldest extant 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 Ermita Church, in the Ermita area of the City of Manila. Pope Paul VI granted the image its Canonical coronation on 30 December 1955.


Made of molave (Vitex cofassus) wood, the statue stands about 50 centimetres (20 in) and is characterized by dark skin and long, brunette hair. She is dressed in both a manto and a stylized tapis, the traditional wraparound skirt of Filipino women. Among her regalia is a sceptre, 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.


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-Tantrist natives in what is now Ermita along the eastern shores of Manila Bay worshiping a statue of a female figure (later identified as the Virgin Mary). Local folklore meanwhile recounts the Spaniards witnessing natives venerating the statue, which was placed on a trunk surrounded by pandan plants. This is remembered through the placement of real or imitation pandan leaves around the image's base as one of its iconic attributes.

On 19 May 1571, the local sovereigns: Tariq Sulayman and Rajah Matanda ceded Kota Selurong (A puppet-state of the Brunei Sultanate) and the Kingdom of Tondo to the Spanish Empire, with Miguel López de Legazpi, who had arrived from Mexico, consecrating the city to both Saint Pudentiana and Our Lady of Guidance.[2] In 1578, Phillip II of Spain issued a royal decree invoking Our Lady of Guidance to be "sworn patroness" of Manila. The statue was first enshrined in Manila Cathedral inside the citadel of Intramuros until 1606, when the first parish compound was built on the present shrine's site. Called La Hermita ("The Hermitage") because of a Mexican hermit who lived in the area, the hermitage was originally made of bamboo, nipa, and molave wood. It was later rebuilt in stone but suffered damaged in an earthquake in 1810.

In 1897, a novena booklet titled Novena o Pagsisiam 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 book recounts the story of natives who found it sitting on a trunk, and built a roof above the surrounding pandan plants. The text goes on to condemn them for their polytheism and witnessed accounts of murder. The original feast day of the image was kept on 18 December, but the date was transferred to 19 May when a rainstorm hit Manila Cathedral in February 1771.[3]

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 hid the statue in a niche of the church's crypt a few weeks before the Allies liberated Manila in February 1945. Fr. Rogelio Bedonia, along with a chaplain and four soldiers of the United States Army, went to the completely-ruined shrine, retrieved the icon, and brought it to a safer place. Until the construction of a temporary chapel, the icon stayed in a private house on Taft Avenue, in San Miguel de Mayumo and then finally in Quiapo. The current shrine was built in 1947.[4]

A replica of the image was made to commemorate the quadricentennial of the icon's finding. From May 1970 to 1971, the replica visited almost all parishes, chapels, hospitals, schools, and other institutions in the Archdiocese of Manila. It is this replica that is brought out for processions and public veneration during its feast day, with the original remaining ensconced in its glass-covered alcove above the main altar.[5] The statue was removed from the shrine and placed 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" in the program, "Mary: Mother of the Philippines". Father Patrick Peyton also once preached a homily on the Family Rosary Crusade in the presence of the image.

Papal associations[edit]

The image was canonically crowned on Rizal Day, 30 December 1955, by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi.

The statue was removed from the shrine and placed in the room of Pope John Paul II for the duration of his 1995 Apostolic visit. On 14 January 2015, the image was again removed from Ermita Church and transferred to the Apostolic Nunciature along Taft Avenue, where Pope Francis stayed during his visit to the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The icon was later present at the Quirino Grandstand for the Pope's open-air Mass on 18 January.

Archdiocesan Shrine[edit]

The church was granted Archdiocesan Shrine status in 2005 under former Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. The current parish priest and rector is Rev. Monsignor Mario David Enríquez, who was installed on 16 July 2015.[6]


Due to the church's proximity to the United States Embassy, the statue is often visited by locals who petition the Virgin Mary for safety in overseas travel. Devotees claim that under this title, the intercession of the Virgin 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. ^ "History". Official Website of the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral - Basilica.
  3. ^ (1897). "Novena o Pagsisyam sa Nuestra Senora de Guia", Imprental del Colegio de Santo Tomas, Manila.
  4. ^ DeAnda (2009-11-22). "In Honor of Nuestra Señora de Guia". With one's past...
  5. ^ Archdiocesan Shrine Of Nuestra Señora De Guia Parish
  6. ^ http://www.rcam.org/clergy/page_detail_clergy/E/enriquez_mario.htm

External links[edit]