Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned



Facade of Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned

Muntinlupa according to a Spanish document dated 1818 but published in Spain in 1850 was a pueblo belonging to the Province of Tondo and became part of the parish of St. Anne when Taguig, Tondo in 1587 was established. Later, when Calamba of the province of Laguna was erected in 1632 it apparently became, according to some vague oral tradition, part of the Calamba Parish. But in 1742 when San Pedro de Tunasan of Laguna province was established as a parish, Muntinlupa which included the area of Cupang, Sucat and Alabang was made part of this parish, yet, civil documents show that it remained a pueblo of Tondo Province. Thus in 1818 when a chart was drawn up showing the pueblos of Tondo Province, Muntinlupa, considered a pueblo de la Provincia de Tondo was listed as a parish with Fr. Epifanio Marcelo as Parish Priest who was listed also a Parish Priest of San Pedro in Laguna Province. Apparently according to a Spanish Historian, Muntinlupa was already a town but there was not enough priests to minister to the parishes since many priests from the religious orders were withdrawn at that time from the Philippines. Hence, Fr. Marcelo was Parish Priest both of Muntinlupa and San Pedro de Tunasan.

On February 14, 1863 the then Archbishop of Manila, Most Rev. Gregorio Meliton Martinez, a Diocesan or Secular Priest, issued a Decreto Superior creating a new parish in el pueblo de Muntinlupa, a place developed and big enough to serve as center, effectively separating it from its Matriz (mother parish), San Pedro de la provincia de Laguna. On April 3, 1863, Fr. Mariano Umali was designated as Interim (Acting) Parish Priest. After him came Fr. Jose Dionisio de Mendoza.

Altar of Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned

It is noteworthy that the document erecting the parish on el pueblo de Muntinlupa does not indicate the Patroness or Patron of the parish. Rev. Fr. Antolin Espeleta, a native of this place and born in 1913, who is 90 years old now believes that the titular of the Parish Priest was from the beginning the Our Lady of the Abandoned which is one of the titles of the Virgin Mary, reminiscing that even when he was a small boy he would usually see two prominent images, one of our Lady and the other, Sto. Niño, when the Parish Church was at the corner of Amparo St. and Nueva (now Sto. Niño St.) and even when the parish church was transferred to the present site between 1920-1922. During the 1940s, the image of Sto. Niño was being borrowed regularly by a group of women for their special devotion (usually on early morning dawn procession) until it got kept in a small chapel which stood right at the spot where the present St. Niño Chapel is situated. This shows perhaps that Mary, Our Lady of the Abandoned (Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados) was considered primary Patroness and Sto. Niño was the object of a special devotion.

The datum on the Spanish documents calling Muntinlupa pueblo showed that at the time it was already considered one of the towns of the Province of Tondo but when the Americans came by an oversight it formally proclaimed the pueblo de Muntinlupa a town in 1917. Civilly it was carved out from the territories of Taguig.

Image of Our Lady of the Abandoned

What is further noteworthy is that the parish was established at that time when movements for independence were brewing. This found expression in the Church in the move for secularization of parishes--a move aiming to hand over the parishes to the secular or diocesan clergy. Archbishop Martinez, himself a secular priest, was very sympathetic to the secular or diocesan clergy. It is not a wonder that the first Parish Priest was a diocesan or secular priest. And since then, it has always been the diocesan or secular clergy who has been serving as Pastor in the Parish of Muntinlupa.

From 1863-1920, the parish church was located along Amparo St. at the junction of Calle Nueva. It was built of light materials. In 1920, Fr. Cardon, parish priest, transferred the church to the present site. According to Fr. Antolin Espeleta, native of this place and parish priest in 1957-1982, when he was a young boy between 1920-1922, this present image of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados was already venerated at the altar.

According to the older folks of the parish, the church was originally facing the lake, Laguna de Bay. It was only when the National Road was constructed during the time of Fr. Rosalino Veneracion, the so-called Hoodlum Priest who later became a Monsignor, that the front of the church was made to face the new highway to the south. After him, Fr. Espeleta, Fr. Yap and Msgr. Eusebio tried to improve the facade. After a research on Architectural designs during the Spanish period, the then parish priest, Msgr. Roberto Espenilla together with Reynaldo Uy, an architect, drew a design of a Facade of Spanish Vintage.

The said design was presented and approved by His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila upon recommendation of the Archdiocesan Commission of Church. This was constructed in 1994 and is the present church facade.

As time went on, territorial changes took place. In 1970, a new parish composed of Alabang, Sucat, Cupang and Buli was created with San Roque as its patron. Since then, nine more parishes and one chaplaincy were established. At present, there are eleven parishes and one chaplaincy in Muntinlupa which form the Vicariate of Our Lady of the Abandoned.

From 1994 to 1995, the church facade was built and the interior was renovated. This led to the Dedication of the Church solemnized by His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin on May 20, 1995.

It is fortunate or even perhaps destined by Divine Providence that the Jubilee Cross, the official pilgrim cross of Pope John Paul II for the World Youth Day celebration, was brought to this church on December 18, 1994 in preparation for the World Youth Day in 1995 in Manila.

During the Quadricentennial celebration of the Archdiocese of Manila in 1995, the Inang Mapag-ampon Parish Church was declared a Pilgrim church in Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa by His Eminence Cardinal Sin.

Muntinlupa, previously a barrio, became a bustling town and now one of the cites in Metropolitan Manila Area continues to grow and to challenge the church in her apostolic work of spreading the good new of salvation. The living Church, the People of God, is being challenged to live their faith. The people and their parish priest have been working to make the church beautiful and to develop the devotion to the Blessed Mother in her title as Nstra. Señora de los Desamparados during the Spanish time, Our Lady of the Abandoned during the American era and now fondly called in the native language Inang Mapag-ampon.

On May 31, 1997, Feast of Mary's Visitation, the faithful gathered around the local ordinary and pastor, His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin to witness the proclamation of the Church as the Archdiocesan Shrine of Mary, Our Lady of the Abandoned.

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

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