Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario del Pueblo de Orani
When Father Josue Enero, parish priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Orani, Bataan, requested for an appointment for the Hermano and Hermana along with their Fiesta committee, I unhesitatingly accepted. I knew that a meeting with them would be a great opportunity to learn, first hand, about the parish’s much venerated Virgen Milagrosa.
Thus one late Saturday afternoon, the good hearted hermano, Benjamin Serrano Sr. and his wife Virginia, the hermana, and the members of their committee came, bringing with them trays of sumptuous-looking shrimps, milkfish (bangus) and crabs. The shrimps and crabs were huge and mouth-watering and I couldn’t help but openly admire them. “These are the pride and wealth of Orani,” Virginia informed me. “The crabs and shrimps of Orani are for export,” Benjamin Sr. proudly pointed out. “And we owe everything to Our Lady of Holy Rosary,” they and their companions collectively beamed.
We heartily partook of the tasty and well prepared dishes of steamed crabs, sinigang na hipon and relyenong bangus. But equally satisfying were the stories and reflection they shared about the many manifestations of loving concern and miraculous deeds of their beloved Patroness, Our Lady of Holy Rosary.
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 15, 1991 is widely acknowledged as an ecological disaster. Mount Pinatubo spew ash and lahar of unimaginable volume that covered lands, rice fields and rivers. Millions of pesos worth of crops were destroyed. Countless lost their homes. Even the water became contaminated.
Though the most affected provinces were Pampanga and Zambales, the town of Orani was not spared. In the wake of the disastrous eruption, the town’s residents saw dead shrimps and crabs surfacing from their fish cages. Faced with this tragic event and the impending permanent loss of livelihood the people of Orani prayed fervently to their Patroness and offered early morning Holy Masses in her honor. They humbly invoked her intercession to spare their rivers and fish pens from poisonous contamination from lahar.
My visitors recounted that one early morning when the devout manang (elderly women) came to church for the Holy Mass, as was their custom, they noticed a large quantity of water on the church floor. There were even saw some sea weeds floating on the puddle of water. They decided to trace where the water was coming from. Their search led them in front of the image of their Patroness, Our Lady of Holy Rosary. The women observed that the lower garment of the image was totally wet and dripping of water. When the men of the town checked their fishponds they was not a single dead fish, crab or shrimp floating from any them. From then on the people of Orani believed that Our Lady of Holy Rosary had heard their plea and intervened. Thus the people of Orani, especially the old folk, have become that “a beautiful young lady with an innocent looking child on her left hand came to the river Silahis.”
Who could question that truly there was divine intervention. The people of Orani knew deep in their hearts that their beloved Patroness brought about a mircle--cleaning the water and blessing the fishponds. “From that time on we have had always a bountiful harvest of huge shrimps and crabs. We have been always spared from red tide. Our Lady is with us and protecting us, isn’t Bishop?” the Orani Fiesta committee delegation asked. I smiled a yes to them.
Our Lady and Saint Dominic
The wooden sculpture of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Orani is 1.68 meters tall. Here the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed holding the Child Jesus on her left hand while on her right hand is the Rosary. The child Jesus is shown with a globe on his left hand and his right hand is raised in a gesture of imparting blessing. The image was brought to Bataan by the Spanish Dominican friars when they came to Bataan in 1587 to begin their evangelical mission in the province. The dedicated missionaries enshrine the image in the town Orani.
The reIigious of Saint Dominic has a special bond and deep filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I told the Fiesta Committee members that this, for me, is the main reason why the early Spanish Dominicans brought an image of our Lady of the Holy Rosary in their journeys and upon arriving in their destinations, would propagate devotion there.
Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221), the founder of the Order of the Preachers, the religious congregation of the Dominicans, was entrusted by Pope Innocent III in 1204 with a difficult and perilous mission to work for the conversion of the Albigenses. The Albigenses were a community of hardened heretics in the region of Provencé, in southeastern France. For fourteen years, Saint Dominic could not make headway among these difficult people. He was moved to seek the divine help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One night, as he was saying his vespers in the chapel of Notre Dame at Proille, Our Lady appeared to him. She inspired and instructed him to pray the prayers taken from the Gospel, that is, Our Father, the Hail Mary to be repeated many times and the Glory Be, in order to glorify the Blessed Trinity. Our Lady said that the recitation of these prayers should be his weapon and means to convert those heretics. This recitation of the prayers that Our Lady told him became the Rosary prayer. He took the Blessed Virgin Mary’s advice and continued to preach the life of Jesus and to pray the Rosary. In time, Saint Dominic emerged victorious and won the conversion of the heretics.
From oral accounts of old people in Orani it was well accepted that the Spanish Dominicans brought to them not just a wooden image but a “mother.” Their “mother” whom they fondly invoke as Our Lady of Holy Rosary provides and performs unending miracles. And through the years they reverently and lovingly call her Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario del Pueblo de Orani.
My Orani Fiesta committee visitors also shared some unforgettable and popular miracles attributed to the Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario. These two are worth remembering. First was during the so called “five battles of La Naval de Manila on March 15 to October 04, 1647. During that time here was a battle raging on between Spain and Netherlands. On June 22, 1647 the superior Dutch armada sailed to Bataan and was poised to attack the towns of Samal and Abucay. The Dutch had six ship and six barges. Outnumbered and with only rudimentary artilleries in their arsenal, the brave people of Pampanga and Bataan stood their ground. The women, old people and children gathered together in Orani and ardently prayed to their “mother” for protection, and asked for miracle. Their prayers were answered and the miracle came. Three enemy ship were sunk, and the Dutch invaders retreated and sailed away.
The second was the locust plague of 1718. Locust invaded the whole central Luzon especially Pampanga and Bulacan. The nearby province of Bataan was spared and saved. At the onslaught of the plague in the neighboring provinces, the people of Bataan turned to their Virgen Milagrosa with full trust in her maternal and miraculous assistance. She lovingly intervened. A strong wind came which drove the invading locust to the sea. Until now this miracle is being commemorated on every second Sunday of October when the town people perform the Jota de Orani.
There are still so many stories of personal and communal experiences of loving intervention by the Virgen Milagrosa. To this day, the townsfolk affirm, the Virgen Milagrosa provides and performs miracles for her devoted and faithful children who come to her and invoke her maternal intercession.
The Blessed Mother Is Here
When my gracious and generous visitors left, I continued to ponder on the beautiful sharing of inspiring stories about Our Lady of Holy Rosary. (I also felt confident that Orani’s fiesta celebration preparation is in good hands!) I remembered this beautiful anecdote. A young woman was a faithful devotee of the Blessed Mother. She lived her entire life for her. She always imitated the selfless examples of the Blessed Mother and kept telling herself that when she gets to heaven, the very person she wants to see and to speak with is the Blessed Mother. One night, she had a dream where she died and went straight to heaven. She was overwhelmed, and immediately asked Saint Peter about the Blessed Mother. Saint Peter replied that at this moment the Blessed Mother is not in heaven. “Where is she?” she wanted to know. Saint peter replied, “the Blessed Mother is not here. She is now in the Philippines.”
If the Blessed Mother is in the Philippines surely she is in Orani, Bataan, where the people dearly love her as their Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario del Pueblo de Orani. Truly, our Blessed Mother is not away from us; she is always with us, and for us. She visits us all the time, in the manner that she visited her cousin Elizabeth (cfr. Luke 1,39-45), full of loving care and concern. Our Blessed Mother comes to us in our time of need. She is always with us in spirit.
The caring presence of the Blessed Mother comforts, consoles and is truly an assurance of safety and security. As the Blessed Mother brought Jesus to Elizabeth, she gives her Son Jesus to us too. Who could calm our fears and pacify our anxieties no better that Jesus Himself? With Jesus we are secure in this earthly pilgrimage. With Jesus we are stable. With Jesus with us, we are saved. Our Blessed Mother will surely bring us to Jesus, and Jesus to us.
There was no point in her life that the Blessed Mother did not trust and believe in God; that she did not obey and follow Him. She believed in the message of Archangel Gabriel and she bravely accepted whatever it entailed and asked from her (cfr. Luke 1,38). All that our Blessed Mother received from God, she lovingly shares with us. Our dearly Blessed Mother brought Jesus to the whole world and imparted to us the forgiving love and mercy of God. As a caring Mother she impels us to come to Jesus and urges us “do whatever He tells” us (John 2,5).
As our Blessed Mother affirms “the Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1,49), Jesus through her will also does marvelous things for us. Our Blessed Mother assures us of these miraculous deeds, as she was assured by God, that with Him “with nothing is impossible” (Luke 1,37).
As darkness enveloped the skies to signal rest, I whispered my prayer to our Blessed Mother, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
+Ruperto Cruz Santos