Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Facade of Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

The earliest Christian mission of the place now called Manaoag was established between 1595 and 1600. The province of Pangasinan was then under the Augustinian who were the first to arrive in the Philippines. Based in Lingayen, they occasionally visited the small settlement by the Baloquin River. They built a small chapel there in 1600 in the site where the present cemetery is now. It was placed under the patronage of Santa Monica (mother of St. Augustine). And the place was called Mission of Sta. Monica.

At about the same time, the Augustinian missionaries started to leave Pangasinan and moved towards Zambales and the Ilocos Region. Archbishop Diego de Soria who was then Archbishop of Manila as well as Governor of Manila and of Pangasinan, offered the Sta. Monica Mission to his fellow Dominicans. By then, the Dominicans were already in Binalatongan (San Carlos), Calasiao and Mangaldan. The Dominicans took over this mission in 1605 and was attended to by the Dominicans in Mangaldan. The first Dominican missionary to set foot in Sta. Monica mission was Padre Juan de San Jacinto. The Dominicans formally accepted the mission in 1608. And in 1610 it was established as an independent Vicariate in Mangaldan.

The first resident missionary was Padre Tomas Jimenez in 1610.It was he who moved the settlement across the river Baloquin to what is now the present site of the Poblacion. He built a chapel of light materials and placed on its altar the ivory image of Our Lady of the Rosary which was brought by P. Juan de San de Jacinto from Spain via Acapulco. The patroness of the mission was then declared as the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.

Interior of Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Folk tradition has it that the Blessed Mother herself designated the place where the church would be built. A local farmer claimed that he heard a woman calling him. When he saw her, she told him that she wanted a church to be built there. At first the priest did not believe him. But when many people started to come and their prayers were heard and they became good Christians, the priest started to built the church on the site of the apparition.

Christians who came to this apparition place, when asked where they went, answered: Where the Lady calls. To call, in the Pangasinan dialect is manaoag. And so it happened that the place eventually was named Manaoag. Many parishes in what is now Region 1 and Region 2 were under the care of the Spanish Dominican missionaries. These started the tradition of bringing their parishioners to Manaoag once a year. This tradition is observed up to this day. The towns in the regions organize annual pilgrimages which they call Misa de Gracia.

At the start of the 18th century, in 1701, a very devout member of the Dominican Third Order (now called Dominican Laity), Don Gaspar Gamboa, and his wife Dona Agatha Yangta promised to donate a new concrete church to serve as the shrine. The donation was ratified in Lingayen on April 13, 1733. The facade of this church had three big doors and three big windows at the choir loft. There was also a big belfry at the left side. This Yangta-Gamboa church was destroyed by the earthquakes of 1832 and 1833. A new church was built but was destroyed again by the earthquake of March 16, 1892. A temporary chapel of light materials was built and in 1896 the construction of another bigger and stronger church commenced. The walls were already finished when the revolution began. And the work was stopped.

Altar of Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

On May 10, 1898, the temporary chapel of the Blessed Virgin was burned by the Katipuneros. The image and its ornaments were brought to Dagupan Church for safekeeping. The flight from Manaoag to Dagupan was very dramatic. The image was loaded on a carabao-drawn carreton and was accompanied by may volunteer escorts and guards armed with bolos. The revolutionaries ambushed the group in Mangaldan. Many died on both sides but the image was able to reach Dagupan safely. Padre Jose Puente was the leader of that flight to Dagupan. Several times there were attempts to ransack the Dagupan Church but the pious people of Dagupan, especially the Dominican Tertiaries, secretly hid the image in their homes.

All the Spanish missionaries, including the Dominicans, had to leave their parishes. And there were not enough native priests to take their place in taking care of the spiritual needs of the people. Fortunately for Manaoag, a native priest by the name of Padre Mariano L. Pacis came. He built a provisional chapel and residence. The Spanish-American was ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1898. American Bishops took over the existing dioceses. The Spanish Dominicans were allowed to work again on Philippine soil.

The Church authorities, especially the Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Vigan) offered to the Spanish Dominicans either San Carlos, the first town they evangelized in Pangasinan, or Manaoag where the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary is located. And the Dominicans chose Manaoag as the Souvenir of the apostolic labors in Regions I and II. At he end of 1901, the Dominican Provincial sent three priests to Manaoag, namely Padres Cipriano Pampliega, Mariano Revilla and Jose Bartolo. They lived with Padre Mariano Pacis in his improvised convento until the American soldiers moved out of the Dominican Convento on January 16, 1902.

The unfinished church of 1896 was waiting for the work to be resumed. And the Dominican Province and the three priests accepted the challenge. The roof of the main body of the church, except the two wings were finished in 1906. The interior, the altar and the throne of the image of Our Lady were also finished. And in 1909, the image of Our Lady was brought back from Dagupan to Manaoag.

With Our Lady of Manaoag back in her shrine, the pilgrimages resumed. Thousands of devotees gave their donations for the further beautification of the shrine. The two wings were finished including the colossal Dome in 1913.

With the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal, Marian devotion in the Philippines received an added impetus. In the early 1920s some of the images of Our Blessed Mother were canonically crowned. This means that the Church authorities, even the Pope, have acknowledged that the Blessed Mother has granted favors to her devotees.

The faithful of Northern Luzon clamored for the coronation of their patroness, Our Lady of Manaoag, as well. The rector of the Shrine of Manaoag, Padre Mariano Rodriguez drafted the petition addressed to the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI. The Bishop of Nueva Segovia, Jose Hurth and the Dominican Provincial Padre Serapio Tamayo, OP personally appealed to the Holy Father. And permission was granted.

The Rescript from Rome was dated August 25, 1925. Cardinal Vico, Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation of Rites, signed it. From then, preparations were made for the great event. The date for the coronation was the 20th day after Easter Sunday, believed to be the day of the apparition.

April 21 finally came and amidst the thunderous clapping of hands and joyful shouts of the multitude, the blare of bands, the din of church bells, the crack of fireworks and exploding rockets, the Apostolic Delegate, Msgr. Guillermo Piani, DD, took the smaller crown and placed it on the image of the Infant Jesus, then the larger grown on the head of Our Lady. The voice of the aging prelate was drowned as he said, Thus you are crowned by our hands on earth, so may we also be crowned by your hands in heaven.

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

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