Sunday, May 8, 2011


by John Michael V. Santos

The Virgin Mary, under the nomenclature "La Virgen del Pilar", appeared to Saint James the Greater on the year 40 beside the River Ebro in Zaragoza, Spain. The Virgin, who was then living in the Holy Land, was transported by angels to console the apostle in his hour of distress. The apostle was gravely saddened by the results of his labors in evangelizing the locals to the Church of Christ. The Mother of God appeared to him atop a jasper pillar which was carried by Angels. She ordered James to construct a Church in her honor which will house the Pillar.

Then and there, the Virgin promised the apostle that "The Pillar will stand from this moment until the end of time in order that God may work miracles and wonders through my intercession for all those who place themselves under my patronage". She then left leaving an image of herself atop the jasper pillar. Saint James constructed a church which was and still is under the patronage of Santa Maria del Pilar. The church was then built and Our Lady remained true to her words because the people started to believe the apostle and the good news of salvation that he brought with him.

The Virgin of the Pillar is hailed as the Reina y Madre de la Hispanidad (Queen and Mother of Spanish Culture) because on the 12th of October, 1492 (The Virgin's feast) Christopher Columbus discovered the New World to which the faith of Christ as well as the Spanish language would spread. Spain brought the devotion to its colonies, including the Philippines, and today, Our Lady of the Pillar has important shrines at the Sta. Cruz Church in Manila as well as in Zamboanga City.

In 2007, I finally decided to fulfill my dream, the dream of having our family’s own virgin, I did not foresee that realizing this dream would not be an easy road, that the seemingly simple decision to commission an image would also be a test of my faith in God and my devotion to His Mother. I chose the title Nuestra Senora del Pilar for it is the First Catholic Marian advocation and my grandmother's namesake whose birthday falls on the 11th of October, a day before the Virgin's feast.

I then commissioned the Virgen del Pilar from a famous sculptor in the Metropolis. Months and months passed but the Virgin's condition improvement was not as it was planned. I got broke by going to their atelier almost every week just to make sure that the Virgin will be finished in the soonest possible time. After a year, I decided to cancel the project for I could no longer afford to incur more losses.

I then sought the help of Philippines' leading Ecclesiastical Art Restorer, Thomas Joven for the continuation of the project which i thought, at that time, was a broken dream. Fortunately, my mentor and friend gladly accepted the job.

After a few months of conceptualization and careful execution, the Virgen came out vibrant and triumphant in an ensemble by Jerome de Jesus and his dynamic team from Plumaria Sacred Vestments.

Our family image, of hardy gemelina wood, is all of two feet, and stands on a cloud base 10 cm. tall and, which in turn, rests on a pillar 40 cm. high.

The image was solemnly blessed by Rev. Fr. Cesar Macariola, Parochial Vicar of San Juan Nepomuceno Parish in Malibay, on the 29th of May 2011 in the Valenzuela Residence.

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