Nuestra Senora del Mar de Cautiva

Facade of Nuestra Senora del Mar de Cautiva

In 1845, when the Holy Guardian Angels were the patron saints of Sto. Tomas, La Union, Fr. Santiago Romero, parish priest, propagated the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Virgin of the Rosaries. He asked some sculptors in Manila to carve three statues for enshrinement at the parish church--one for the Blessed Mother, another for St. Michael the Archangel, and a third for the Holy Guardian Angels.

In July of that year, the statues were packed in three boxes and sent to Sto. Tomas by sailboat named Matutina via China Sea.

Near Bolinao, Pangasinan, the Matutina was attacked by sea pirates from Jolo. The crewmen of the sailboat fought valiantly while praying to the Blessed Mother for help and protection, and though outnumbered and wounded, no one among them died.

The pirates seized all their belongings, including the boxes containing the holy statues. They mocked at the statues and cut the left forearm of the statue of the Blessed Mother then threw the three boxes into the sea.

Image of Nuestra Senora del Mar de Cautiva

Two of the boxes sank while the one that contained the Blessed Mother's statue floated to the shores of Bolinao. Christian soldiers found the open box with the holy statue amazingly dry. They took the statue to their parish priest who noted the address Sto. Tomas, La Union on the box. He wrote Fr. Santiago who asked that the holy image be sent to Sto. Tomas.

On July 19, 1845, the holy image of the Blessed Mother was brought to the parish church of Sto. Tomas amid music and ringing of church bells ten enshrined at the altar for public devotion. Since then, numerous miracles, conversions and cures, including safe and easy childbirth, were attributed to her.

Fr. Lorenzo Rodriguez, an Augustinian, had replaced the holy statue's lost arm with a golden forearm. But the replacement shrank and fell off the statue on the third day. It was replaced with an ivory arm, but the same thing happened. So what the devotees did was to tie the ivory forearm with strings to avoid its falling off. This remains until now for all to see.

The devotees concluded that the Blessed Mother perhaps preferred it that way. Maybe she wanted a permanent mark of what she had suffered in the hands of the pirates. Or she wanted a memento of the manner her holy image reached Sto. Tomas.

With this holy image, the Blessed Mother is venerated as Virgen del Mar Cautiva, the patroness of Sto. Tomas, La Union, owing to her mysterious story by the sea.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from and

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