In the town of Sta. Lucia of Ilocos Sur, one can find an ancient santa figure around which the devotion of millions of God-fearing Ilocanos have revolved over the last centuries. It is that of the small figure of the town’s pintakasi—Santa Lucia—“Apo Baket” as she is fondly addressed, ‘grandmother’ in Ilocano, a term of endearment for someone who has never failed to listen to supplications for miracles and simple requests.
Dumanguake was the name of present-day Santa Lucia when Captain Juan de Salcedo landed there on the way to North Luzon. The Spaniards enslaved the Bag-o natives and made them work without compensation.
One day, while the Spaniards were punishing some disobedient natives, a group of men grouped themselves because they resented the harsh treatment of the Spanish. A fight ensued and the natives wanted to side with the Spanish. Suddenly an old woman stood in front of them. When they asked her name, she uttered "Lucia." After uttering her name, she disappeared. Seeing this, the Spaniards and the natives agreed to build a church on the site of the apparition, and dedicated it to Santa Lucia--whose name eventually became the name of the new town
The small image of Sta. Lucia is based on the Sicilian martyr, Lucy, whose eyes were gouged out by her torturers but which were miraculously restored. Hence, she is invoked against afflictions of the eye. The antique wooden image was brought by Augustinian friars to the Philippines, but it is not known if this was the same image brought to the mission of Sta. Lucia, established in 1586. Oldtimers would only say that the image had been there since their grandparents’ time. Another image of Sta. Lucia—this one with ivory head and hands--- was stolen years’ back, but luckily, the perpetrators ignored the wooden image which many people believe to be ‘milagrosa’.
Sta. Lucia has a delicately carved face, now darkened with age. It is outfitted with glass eyes and human hair wig. On her garment are pinned hundreds of silver ‘ex-votos’ –votive offerings on the shape of eyes, lung, heart, legs and other limbs---which represent the body parts healed by the saints. Her vestments are full to overflowing—a powerful testament to her miraculous power—so much so that the parish priest had to transfer thousands more of the ex-votos on a banner. The offerings also are known to possess curative powers; pious devotees would often rub these silver offerings on their eyes.
The saint is not just sought out for cures but also when crops fail or when rains refused to fall. Peasants and townsfolk bring Sta. Lucia out and procession her in the fields so that she would bring back a bountiful harvest to the town who has grown to love and safeguard her with their lives.