Basilica of Our Lady of Piat



Facade of Basilica of Our Lady of Piat

The Dominican missionaries started Christianity in the eastern part of the Cagayan province called Itawes region in 1596. The region includes the towns of Tabang, Malweg, Piat and Tuao. The then Dominican Provincial Father Miguel de San Jacinto named Piat as their mission. The very first Holy Mass in Piat was celebrated on 24 August 1604. On the same year, Bishop Diego de Soria, O.P. negotiated for more missionaries for the region. The Dominicans in their evangelization efforts to Christianize the region brought in from Macau the miraculous life-sized image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. The image, which was extraordinarily made of paper-mache, was first venerated in Lallo, Cagayan, the then Episcopal Seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia.

Meanwhile, on May 1, 1610, Piat was made a parish with St. Dominic de Guzman as patron saint. However, the Dominican missionaries found it difficult to bring the light of faith to the Itawes people who were known to be wild, belligerent and stubborn. So they decided to introduce to the people the devotion to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. The Dominicans brought the majestic image of the Lady from Lallo to Piat in 1622. The Blessed Lady took her place in the side altar of the Parish Church of Piat. During her stay in Piat, the Blessed Mother gave to the Itawes her marvelous help and protection both in their spiritual and material needs. This made the Itawes endeared to the Blessed Mother more and they claimed her image as her own. From the bloodthirsty wolves, the Itawes became gentle sheep.

Interior of Basilica of Our Lady of Piat

After a yearlong stay in Piat, Fr. Juan de Sta. Ana, O.P. sent the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary to Tuguegarao and sent a replica to Piat as a replacement. The Itawes, warlike as they were, almost staged a revolt protesting the changes. The Itawes, warlike as they were, almost staged a revolt protesting the changes. They wanted the original image to stay in Piat since they already claimed it as their own. Hence, the original image of the Blessed Mother was sent back to Piat and has stayed there ever since and now considered as the Patroness of Cagayan Valley.

However, the people of Tuao, neighboring town of Piat, also wanted to keep the image of the Blessed Mother. To resolve the conflict, a chapel, 800 meters away from the parish church was built to house the Blessed Mother. This chapel was built atop a hill near a riverbank of the Chico River, a river that separates the towns of Piat and Tuao. The said chapel served as a protection to the people living near the riverbank who suffer from the yearly inundation of the Chico River, which would cause devastation to their life and property. Since the image of the Blessed Lady was brought to Piat, not a single inundation happened until this day.

The construction of the chapel was started by Rev. Fr. Diego Pinero, O.P. and finished by Rev. Fr. Francisco Jurado, O.P. but this was gutted by fire in 1740. Fr. Jose Gurumata, O.P. reconstructed the church and Fr. Isidro Rodriguez, O.P. put the galvanized roofing.

Since the old church became too small while the number of pilgrims and devotees who visited the Blessed mother kept on multiplying, the church was again reconstructed to accommodate the continuous influx of pilgrims and devotees from far and wide who heard the miraculous works of Our Lady of Piat.

Image of Our Lady of Piat

In recognition of Mary's special regard for Cagayan Valley, His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII granted indulgences to everyone who makes a pilgrimage or visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Piat. These indulgences are as follows:

  • A plenary indulgence on July 2, the Feast of Our Lady of Piat;
  • A plenary indulgence on the occasion of a pilgrimage on any other day;

In 1951, Our Lady of Piat toured all the towns and parishes of Cagayan Valley which is composed of the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya. Her Majesty was joyfully and solemnly welcomed by thousands of people lining the streets and attending the Eucharistic celebrations. For over three months, Our Lady made her journey over bumpy roads and rivers just like her journey to the hill country of Judea when she went to bless the house of Zechariah. That was the very first time that the Blessed Lady left her sanctuary in Piat.

During the Marian Year of the Philippines in 1954, the Vatican approved the Canonical Coronation of Our Lady of Piat. On the 20th of June of that year, the then Papal Nuncio, Most Reverend Edigio Vagnozzi celebrated an evening Mass after which he crowned Our Lady of Piat amid the splendor of the church ceremonies in the presence of over hundreds and thousands of devotees coming from all over the country and abroad. The solemn occasion was preceded by a three-day Congress in honor of Mary.

In July 1995, the church was elevated to an Archdiocesan Shrine. The solemn celebration of the Eucharist was presided by His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin, and participated by Archbishops, Bishops and Clergy from all over the Philippines. The inaugural rites was attended by people from all walks of life, led by political and sociocivic leaders and also devotees from all over the country and abroad.

June 22, 1999 was the climax of the centuries of evangelization to keep the Christian faith alive and strong in the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. On this historic date, this small Itawes town became an important center of faith and Marian devotion. God has crowned the marvelous works of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cagayan Valley with the elevation of her Shrine at Piat to a Basilica Minore, the very first Basilica in the entire Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction composed of seven provinces.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from flickr.com, virtualtourist.com and skyscrapercity.com.

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