Shrine of the Brown Madonna inauguration 27 years ago remembered

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By Nars Padilla

Kafagway Roundup

Friday, September 27, 2013

WITH the heavenly blessings of the Lord, the Shrine of the Brown Madonna will celebrate its 27th year anniversary with simple yet heartwarming and joyful activities on October 6. The red letter day starts with a floral and candlelight offering at 8:30 a.m. by the BARP Foundation, teachers and students of Phases Learning Center, devotees of Mama Mary and members of the National Correspondents of Baguio, project sponsor of the Shrine located at Km. 7, Asin Road.

At 9 a.m., a thanksgiving mass will be celebrated by a priest from the Baguio Recoletos Seminary. The Holy Mass will also usher the BARP Foundation Golden Years Festival 2013 series of events in keeping with Presidential Proclamation issued in 1994 by former President Fidel V. Ramos declaring October as Filipino Elderly Month.

The forthcoming celebration next Sunday reminds me our late daughter Maria Leonora, fondly known to us and her many friends and admirers as “Nonie”. In the mid 80s she was employed as a reporter at the Baguio Midland Courier. Nonie was a Mass Communications graduate of the Saint Louis University. Nonie was also a photojournalist.


Happily, she was assigned to cover the inauguration program of the Shrine of the Brown Madonna. On October 12, 1986, the Courier ran a full page of Nonie’s article and photos marking the special religious event with the headline – A new shrine rises in Benguet. Hopefully, the news article of our beloved Nonie will provide our friends and devotees of the Blessed Mother Mary more information about the Shrine inside the rock cave. Here is her article.

“What was intended as a transport connection between La Union and Baguio City is now a solemn place of prayer and worship for the devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the blessing of the Shrine of the Brown Madonna of Benguet in the Temple of the Rock recently.

The Shrine located at Km. 7 along Asin Road in Tuba, Benguet shelters an enthralling nine-foot image of the Blessed Virgin, which was transported early this week to the city from Manila.

What could be called as a labor of love of the National Correspondents Club of Baguio, a group of Baguio-based national correspondents headed by Nars Padilla and the municipal officials of Tuba, headed by OIC Mayor Albert Claro, the shrine’s inauguration coincided with the celebration of the Month of the Holy Rosary. Craftsmen and other volunteers pooled by Kagawad Carlos Samonte, Victor Dulay, Agustin Oyasan and Reynaldo Nauyac, barangay captain of Asin Road, Km. 5, transformed the 30 foot tunnel into a doorless chapel thus making it the first of its kind in the country.

The project which started three months ago with the blessing of Monsignor Emiliano Madangeng, Vicar Apostolic of the City of Baguio and Mountain Provinces, is dedicated to the people of Baguio and Benguet and to the devotees of the Blessed Virgin.

Gracing the inaugural festivities were government and military personalities, city and barrio folks and devotees, Philippine Constabulary’s first lady Nonette de Villa, who was the guest of honor, and was later on assisted by Midland Courier editor Cecile Afable, Virginia Paraan, wife of the Baguio OIC mayor, Leonila Claro, wife of Tuba OIC mayor, Cecil Aquias, Sol Padilla and Gloria Cordova, in the ribbon-cutting and the release of ceremonial doves of peace.

Madame de Villa, represented by Ma. Cristina Enrile, wife of the Defense Minster, who failed to make it to the occasion due to other important commitment. She also crowned the Browned Madonna with Claro and Padilla assisting her.

The blessing ceremonies were officiated by Monsignor Madangeng and a concelebrated mass was offered by the Bishop, fathers Fred Jubac, Regina Bancaya and Roger Positar of the Order of Saint Agustin. The Recoletos Seminary and the Asin Road ladies choir added to the solemnity of the occasion. The Shrine’s lighting facilities was provided by the Aboitiz Group of Companies through Rene Ronquillo, vice president and operations manager.

Taking on a symbolic tone of reconciliation, seven ceremonial doves representing peace and harmony were released during the inauguration by the principal sponsors, including former city Mayor Ernesto Bueno.

Novenas will be offered by various barangays and groups, the first of which was sponsored by the NCCB. Indeed, in its simplicity, the Brown Madonna of Benguet makes one reflect that prayer can change things and it can change people. And people can change things.

A collage of at least 12 meaningful pictures captured by Nonie’s camera, spread carefully on the page, made the Shrine’s inauguration rites a moving and living historical religious endeavor. Aside from being a journalist, our Nonie was also a graduate of Physical Therapy from the Pines City Colleges.

She engaged in the profession after passing the government licensure exams. She also took up her Masters in Social Work at the University of the Philippines-Baguio with flying colors.

As fate would have it, Nonie about 10 years ago, died from breast cancer after she courageously fought the killer disease for over two years. May her soul rest in peace in the vineyard of eternal happiness of the Lord.

Again October 6 is just around the corner. Let’s celebrate the 27th anniversary of the Shrine of the Brown Madonna together.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 28, 2013.


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