LARAWANG TUNAY NG MAHAL NA BIRHEN, "La Purisima Concepcion, Malabon, Rizal". Ca. early 60s.
The Philippines’ titular patroness is the Immaculate Conception and practically every town in the country has a church or a chapel that honors our Lady under this title. The country’s leading shrine is the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros but one other popular place of worship is the Immaculate Conception Parish in Malabon (which started as a visita in 1600) which houses an ancient image of “La Purisima Concepcion”.
The Purisima image is attributed to an anonymous Pampanga carver in the 1700s, and is made from mulawin wood. Despite its antiquity, the image is in very good condition, lovingly cared for through the centuries by her devotees.
It is a smallish image, showing the young Mary with clasped hands atop a globe, dressed in vestments that gracefully drape her body, skillfully carved to give a windblown illusion of the Lady’s mantle. Wrapping her body is a ribbon-like veil that holds her hair at the back.
Several miracles have been attributed to our Lady. There is an 1880 account of a Chinese merchant who fell into the Malabon River, who was saved by a boat just in the nick of time. In gratitude, he donated a marble font to the church. In another later account, a group of businessman, fleeing the Japanese during the dark days of the last World War, hid under the church retablo and remained unseen by the pursuing enemy soldiers. They believed Our Lady covered them with Her mantle of protection. La Purisima was canonically crowned on 7 December 1986 on the basis of a Papal Bull issued in September 1986.
The image of La Purisima is the center of veneration every year, on her universal feast day, December 8, and the observance in Malabon lasts for several days. The first day is marked with a procession, while the Fisherman’s Festival is held the next day, highlighted with an evening Pagoda fluvial procession. Our Lady is welcomed back on land with greetings of Salve Regina. On Dec. 10, the Araw ng Concepcion is observed, marked with church baptisms, weddings, confirmations and barangay processions.