Shrine of St. Blaise



Image of St. Blaise

The parish of Sebaste is located in the northern part of Antique. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Pandan; on the northeast by the parish of Ibajay (Aklan); on the south by the parish of Culasi and on the west by Cuyo East Pass. It is about 109 kilometers from the capital town of San Jose.

The parish got its name from the place where its patron saint, St. Blaise, came from. It is claimed that the name Sebaste is derived from a town somewhere in Armenia or Capadoccia, then a name given to Asia Minor. It is a place where St. Blaise, then Bishop, had a see.

The place Sebaste, in Antique, was formerly called Ipayo, the name of the river that flow through it. Ipayo was said to have been a municipality during the Spanish time in 1800 up to the later part of 1880, but pestilence and other calamities wrought havoc upon the communities that comprised it. What was once a populated and developed land became a tragic sight of desolation and despair. Misfortune collected its heavy toll upon the municipality that it was forced to be annexed to Pandan and Culasi. Thereafter, what was once the seat of that municipality is called Arabal of Sebaste.

It was said that the image of St. Blaise was sent as a gift of Doña Matilde, wife of the Duke of Seville, to her son, Fr. Mariano Vicente Zapanta, then the assigned parish priest of Pandan. When Fr. Zapanta transferred his residence to Ipayo, he took along with him the image of St. Blaise and installed him as the patron saint. He thought that the place was cursed, so the statue of St. Blaise was installed in the church. It was not long after St. Blaise was made the patron saint of Ipayo when his miracles as claimed were manifested not only in preventing calamities to happen but also in healing the sick. St. Blaise was a Doctor of Medicine and a bishop. He was a throat specialist. The news of his miracles spread throughout the length and breadth of the region of Western Visayas. Hence, on every 3rd February, the date of the feast in his honor, Ipayo becomes the site of the assemblage of countless number of people. The celebration has become a pilgrimage site of the people from Antique, Aklan, Iloilo, Capiz, Negros, Mindanao, Mindoro and many other places.

St. Blaise draws devotees to the parish in a unique way. He is associated with candles which people light. The statue of St. Blaise is carried over to touch the head, the back, up to the ankle of devotees with their strong faith that St. Blaise intercedes for their recovery. People who have been cured and those who implored the help of St. Blaise kept coming to Sebaste not only during the feast but even months before and after the celebration. San Blas, as he is commonly known, has come to be revered in many homes. No sooner has San Blas made the place well-known throughout the Island of Panay. Soon after, the name Ipayo was changed to Sebaste to honor the place from where the saint came from.

A story was told and often recounted up to this time that people from the town of Pandan wanted to get back and install the statue of St. Blaise in the Parish Church in Pandan. They had the right to do so for Ipayo was still a barrio of Pandan. But stories spread that in the following morning, the statue of St. Blaise returned to Ipayo Chapel. When they saw the statue that morning, it was full of amorsicos. People believed that the good San Blas really wanted to stay in Ipayo. Form then on, no one dared to claim the statue anymore. The saint had found his rightful dwelling place among the people of Sebaste.

Long before the coming of modern transportation, it was recalled by hundreds of living witnesses that crowds of people, hundreds of them, would not mind walking several kilometers for several days to come and visit Sebaste in order to fulfill their vows to the good saint, Señor San Blas. People from different places and from all walks of life but especially the poor and the simple would come on the feast day. They light their candles, pray their novenas, join the procession, receive the sacrament of confession and attend the Holy Eucharist. Every year, in the town of Sebaste, thousands upon thousands of devotees flock the church in honor of the good San Blas. The number of pilgrims increases as years go by. It is also very evident that there is a good number of daily churchgoers in the parish. And right after the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the faithful would line up and visit the Shrine of San Blas. Up to this day, the good San Blas is the concrete visible protector of the people of the parish and all who render devotion to him. God, the Almighty Father has truly blessed the people with a life beyond their own intercessions. Sebaste has developed into a parish alive in the faith.

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

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