Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Salvation



Facade of Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Salvation

The building of a shrine undoubtedly is the work of divine inspiration. However, the execution of this divine intervention could not but lodge in the hearts and minds of people who must have closer links with God. This is best noted in the beginnings of the Shrine of Our Lady of Salvation, in that famous landmark of Tiwi (Geothermal Spring), Albay on a hilly barangay called Joroan.

Constructed as a nipa and bamboo structure, the church of Our Lady of Salvation for years held court on its hilly site. Until, at the instance of a local landowner, Vicente Vera, whose wife Clara Vera was designated Hermana in its yearly fiesta during the 1860s, the crude chapel was moved down the valley in the center of the barrio and there continued its pastoral ministrations to the local parishioners.

The coming of Rev. Pastor Rafer signaled also the construction of the now beautiful and modern Diocesan Shrine on October 2, 1967. The next parish priest, Rev. Jose Crisol on January 19, 1976, continued his work. The generosity of the local parishioners and Bicolanos from other regions and foreign lands may be said to have sustained the continuing building and rebuilding project of the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Salvation to its present look.

The original design of the Shrine was the handiwork of Juanito Pelea of Tiwi and it was redesigned and finished under the supervision of Architect Fidel Siappo of Legaspi City. Then Bishop of Legaspi, Most Rev. Teotimo C. Pacis, CM, blessed the Shrine on August 21, 1976.

Interior of Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Salvation

Enshrined in the Joroan Church is the more than 200-year-old image of Our Lady of Salvation, which celebrated its bicentennial year on August 25, 1976. To the Cagnipans, the original name of Joroan, the presence of their Lady of Salvation inside their church has afforded them the sense of security they derive from expressing their devotion to the Lady, our own Blessed Mother, Mother of the Church.

History of Nuestra Señora de Salvacion

Joroan is a small village nestled in the lower shoulder of the mountains in Tiwi in the northernmost tip of Albay Province.

The famous Joroan of today was Cagnipa in antiquity. Province of Camarines Sur, then known as Ambos Camarines. In Buhi at that time lived a man named Don Silverio Arcilla who was well known for his vast real estate properties.

On a certain day while Mariano Dacuba, a tenant of Arcilla, was clearing the land, he chopped off a big Calpi tree. But there was something about it: already severed from the base for many hours it maintained its life and freshness. Suddenly it occurred to him to bring it personally to Buhi.

Altar of Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Salvation

He informed Don Silverio about it and the latter consulted with the Friar Pastor. In Buhi this time lived a sculptor by the name Bagacumba. He had him summoned for the possibility of carving an image from the wood. Indeed three images were produced: Our Lady of Salvation, Our Lady of Solitude and St. Anthony of Padua.

Since Joroan was within the circumscription of Buhi, the image was given to the barrio. Whereupon the residents compromised an amount in return. With this predicament they were obliged to construct a chapel in the center of the barrio. This was done under the initiative of Don Silverio. Consequently an Hermana Mayor was elected to take care of the virgin. She was Sotera Cababag. Given this favorable circumstances, the people could now gather in the chapel on Sundays and holidays.

On August 25, 1776 the Image of Our Lady of Salvation was given for veneration to the people of Joroan, then called Cagnipa. The year 1976 marked the Bicentennial of the image and the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Salvation. One the occasion of the Bicentennial Year the image of Our Lady of Salvation was taken around the diocese from January 1 to June 30.

As culmination of the Bicentennial Year on August 25, 1976 His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, crowned canonically the image of Our Lady of Salvation.

Description of the Image of Our Lady of Salvation

The devotion to our Lady of Salvation, not quite known in other regions of the country, is the most popular in the province of Albay, one of the six provinces comprising the Bicol Peninsula: Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Masbate, Catanduanes and Sorsogon. It began with an image designed and sculpted two hundred years ago in Buhi, Camarines Sur out of a huge calpe tree cut down in the forests of Joroan, Tiwi, Albay.

Image of Our Lady of Salvation

In the image, we see the serpent's head crushed under the feet of Our Lady. This feature is found in many representations of Our Lady. Saint Catherine Laboure saw it in the vision that gave origin to the Miraculous Medal (1830). It is also present in all images of the Immaculate Conception.

In the image, we also see the Child Jesus nestled in the Lady's arm. By this profile, she is the woman who gave consent to the Incarnation and by that consent, she became the mother of the Word Incarnate. This also symbolizes the union of the Mother and Son in the work of our salvation: a union manifested from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death on the cross. Significantly, the woman who consented to his Incarnation also consented to his immolation.

Preserved from original sin, the Immaculate Virgin was taken into heaven upon the completion of her earthly sojourn. The Lord exalted her as the Queen of all Creation. This queenship is fittingly symbolized by the crown which two angels are holding over her head.

Her right hand, in the act of saving, holds a man who can very well be the representative of every many who calls on her and clings to her as health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comforter of the afflicted, hope of the forsaken, star of the sea. For centuries, our people have been crying out to her: An devotos mo sorogon, sa mga sakit agawon. Save from evil and from woe all who are devoted to you!

An angel in kneeling position is offering to Jesus in her left arm a vessel full of burning hearts. The Child Jesus holds in his right hand a burning heart while his left hand is stretched out in the act of accepting the hearts offered by the angel. These hearts are our hearts, created by God and restless until they rest on him; hearts of flesh, not alien of human frailty, but Mary is there as the Queen of all hearts to make our hearts pleasing to God.

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

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