Imagen milagrosa de La Virgen Maria de Guadalupe, que se venera en Loboc
The only venerated image of the Virgen de Guadalupe (Extremadura) in the Philippines. This image arrived in Loboc in 1843 when the dreadful cholera epidemic raged the town of Loboc. It was commissioned by Fr. Francisco Vasquez, a native of Caceres, Spain where devotion of the Virgen de Guadalupe commenced in the 13th century. In Loboc Church, where the image is enshrined, she is placed in the lower and more accessible level. Known for its centuries-old tradition of wood carving, Lobocanons showed this prowess in the niche reserved for Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is said that the background (Our Lady's niche) of intertwining vines in gilded wood is matchless in its artistry.
ORIGIN OF THE DEVOTION TO THE VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE (EXTREMADURA)
The shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe was the most important Marian shrine in the medieval kingdom of Castile. It is revered in the monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, in today's Cáceres province of the Extremadura autonomous community of Spain.
The shrine housed a statue reputed to have been carved by Luke the Evangelist and given to Saint Leander, archbishop of Seville, by Pope Gregory I. When Seville was taken by the Moors, a group of priests fled northward and buried the statue in the hills near the Guadalupe River in Extremadura. At the beginning of the 14th century, a shepherd claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to him and ordered him to ask priests to dig at the site of the apparition. Excavating priests rediscovered the hidden statue and built a small shrine around it which evolved into the great Guadalupe monastery. Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of three black madonnas in Spain. The statue was canonically crowned in 1928 with a crown designed and crafted by Father Felix Granda.
Pilgrims began arriving in 1326, and in 1340, King Alfonso XI took a personal interest in the shrine's development, attributing his victory over the Moors at the Battle of Rio Salado to the Virgin's intercession. Our Lady of Guadalupe, along with Santiago de Compostela and Nuestra Señora del Pilar became rallying points for the Christian Spaniards in their reconquista of Iberia.
In 1386, the shrine was commended to the Hieronymites, who turned the popular devotion to the figure into a genuine cult. Copies of the statue were venerated in satellite chapels.
THE DEVOTION OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (EXTREMADURA) IN THE PHILIPPINES
In the Visayas, Catholic Faithful venerates two Black Madonnas – the Virgin de la Regla of Lapu-Lapu (Opon) and the Virgen de Guadalupe de Caceres (Extremadura) of Loboc, Bohol. The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe originated from the hilly town Guadalupe in the Spanish region of Extremadura, close to the Portuguese border.
Like its Bohol descendant, the Spanish image is dressed like a queen, stands erect, and holds the Child in one arm. Both mother and child are dark-skinned, and belong to the tradition of the ‘Black Madonnas’ of medieval Western Europe. The cult of Guadalupe was among the most important in Spain at the time of the conquest of Mexico. There another cult to the Virgin in Mexico is quite different from that familiar to the Spaniards: head bowed in an attitude more humble than regal, hands in prayer, and the noticeable absence of the child. The Loboc devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is therefore descended from the Spanish tradition, in honoring their Virgin on May 24, chose to follow neither the Spanish fiesta (September 8) nor the Mexican holiday (December 12), nor even the feastday of the Guadalupe image in Cebu, said to be venerated since the late 16th century (July 16). Fray Aquilino Bon published novenas to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Peter in 1870.
In the 1840s, the Augustinian Recollects brought with them from Spain an image of Our Lady carved from black wood and stands 7ft high. The image was placed on a crate and is intented for veneration in Tagbilaran. Since the townspeople found it hard to open the enclosure of Our Lady, they chose to let her stay inside her crate while visiting several parishes from Tagbilaran. The image went to as far as Carmen town overlooking the town of Loboc that was then plagued by the deadly cholera epidemic. Many people died. However, feeling responsible for ignoring Loboc of the visitation of Our Lady, they pursued in bringing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Parish of Sts. Peter and Paul. This happened on May 24, 1843. And the crate bearing the image of Our Lady was unlocked without difficulty. The Lobocanons in their grief and with a vestige of hope, turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary for help, through the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And the supplication of the Lobocanons was answered. After bringing the image to a fluvial procession in the Loboc River, a three-hour heavy downpour took place. The cholera epidemic lifted and the people were able to resume their daily occupations and get on with their lives.
DOCUMENTED MIRACLES OF THE VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE (EXTREMADURA) DE LOBOC
Loboc documented so many miracles which they attribute to the loving intercession of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Foremost of which happened on November 26, 1876. As immortalized in a painting on the ceiling of Loboc Church by reknowned Cebuano painter Ray Francia, a flood plunged Loboc wreaking havoc to the whole town. The water went up submerging the altar of Loboc Church but leaving the image unscathed as the waters calmly stopped at the base of the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe. The Lobocanons added that despite the extent of the flood, they were left unharmed.
Many devotees from other places in the Philippines also attend the Maytime festival to honor the Virgen de Guadalupe and to ask for her miraculous intercessions. Other childless mothers who went to Loboc in May to dance the bolibongkingking before her image return to her shrine offering their child, the fruit of their supplication to God through the prayers of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Some, whose prayers have been answered return to Loboc in thanksgiving and present new vestments and metal ornaments to the Virgen de Guadalupe, the devotional patroness of Loboc.
MAYTIME FESTIVAL IN HONOR OF THE VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE DE LOBOC
In thanksgiving, the Lobocanons celebrate the feast of the Blessed Virgin every 24th of May with all the revelry that they could muster. The event starts with the 9-day Novena Masses which end on the vesper day, with the gozos or praises to the Virgin rendered in Spanish or Visayan before the beginning of the daily mass.
Following the Sunday schedule, several masses are offered during the feast day proper and the Pontifical Mass is usually scheduled at about 9am with, more often than not, the Bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran officiating accompanied by visiting priest-members of the diocese and those coming from other towns and cities of the Philippines. It is a well-attended affair, not only by the priest visitors but also by visiting nuns and government dignitaries.
On the 24th, the feast day itself, an activity called the “altares” is carried out just before the Pontifical Mass. Four small altars are set outside the four doors of the church with the image of the Virgin on each altar. Verses and the “Oremus” are chanted and hymns sung accompanied by the brass band and an orchestra. An example of the repertory would be - Altares 1 "Virgen sa Guadalupe" by Marcelo Varquez, Altares 2 "Bulahan" (Bendita), Altares 3 "Afectos" and Altares 4 "Maanyag nga inahan." These compositions are sung in Visayan in 2 or more voices.
Nightly activities are held way back on the 15th of May sponsored by the different religious and civic organizations of the town to add gaiety to the solemn 9-days consecutive Novena Masses held prior to the feast day.
Music and drama is an inherent part of the lives of every Lobocanon and is revealed by the people’s participation in cultural shows, choirs, bands and other groups. The now-famous Loboc Children’s Choir and other groups find time to perform their repertoire during these nights which adds joy and revelry to the occasion.
An important event that portrays the people’s great love for the Blessed Virgin is the Sambat or the fluvial parade that is held on the eve of the feast. For the occasion, a floating restaurant where the image of the Blessed Virgin will be enthroned is elaborately decorated with expenses reaching up to a hundred thousand pesos.
Band members, together with the Parish Priest and visiting dignitaries from the church and state, ride the floating vessel. Marches and procession music is played non-stop during the parade wherein the main vessel is followed by smaller boats likewise elegantly decorated with buntings and flowers. The event culminates with fireworks and more music making.
Another activity which lasts for three days starting from the feast day proper is known in Loboc as the Bolibongkingking Festival. The Bolibongkingking is a ritual devotion of dance and music commemorated in thanksgiving for the healing of the people during the cholera outbreak which was lifted due to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
During the festival, indigenous instruments are used such as the guimbao, the drum and the agong, the gong. The name Bolibongkingking was derived from the sound of the drum which goes “bolibong” and the sound of the gong which goes “kingking” thus Bolibongkingking.
The Bolibongkingking is also believed to be a healing ritual. With the mesmerizing beat of the drums and the gongs, the faithful dances and sways the different parts of their bodies that are aching in front of the image of the Blessed Virgin. Others do it in thanksgiving for graces granted through the Virgin’s intercession. Often you will see old women with handkerchiefs held aloft, mothers with infants, men waving their arms and teenagers dancing with gusto. Others feel inhibited, especially the first timers, but in the long run become the best dancers, carried away by the mesmerizing rhythm and beat of the music.