NTRA. SRA. DE LA SOLEDAD DE PORTA VAGA. Ca. 1690s. Formerly in the Ermita of Cavite Puerto, now in San Roque, Cavite City. La Virgen Maria. 1904.
By Antonio E. Sta. Elena
The Sunday Times Magazine
November is a memorable month for the people of Cavite City. Every year, on the second and third Sundays of this month, the feast of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, their patroness and protector, is celebrated.
The kapistahan, however, is on the second Sunday, when thousands of devotees from the uplands and the neighboring towns come to Cavite City to pay homage to the Venerable Old Lady, as she is called. The third Sunday is set for the town people of Cavite City.
The feast of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga is a tradition with the Caviteños and a way of life attesting to their attachment and their devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Many miracles have been attributed to the Caviteños’patroness, whose image is encased in glass, measuring approximately 24 by 38 inches, showing a demure, sad face that is inclined to the right and with hands folded in prayer. The Virgin is wearing a deep lavender dress, the hem of which is inlaid with precious stones.
The face is said to be an exact replica of the framed image of the Blessed Virgin which a fisherman allegedly found drifting on the waters across the Spanish fort of Cavite. That was more than 300nyears ago, and the image has been given the title of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga.
At Angelus, so the legend runs, the Blessed Virgin would leave her place in the shrine and take a stroll atop the forbidden walls of Porta Vaga.
One time, a young guardia civil on his beat was taken aback by the presence of a tall lady in white who walked past him. The soldier thought she was the wife of one of the Spanish officers, so he didn’t mind. But when he suddenly realized, that nobody, not even the wife of the officer of the garrison was allowed on the walls, much less this late hour of the afternoon, he called out: “Who goes there?”.
Getting no reply, he called out even louder: ”Stop, or I’ll shoot!”, he said, aiming his rifle.
The strange visitor stopped, turned and faced the Guardia Civil.
“Sentinel, sentinel”, she spoke in a soft, clear voice. “Don’t you know who I am? I am Maria—light of the day.”
The soldier dropped to his knees, and with bowed head said, “Forgive me, Mother, I am only a soldier and I have my duties to perform”.
When he raised his head, the mysterious lady had vanished.
Another story tells of a raging storm and a flood that threatened to engulf Cavite City many, many years ago. Torrential rains and the waters surrounding the isthmus of Rosario and the town of San Roque, rose knee-high on the streets, stalling all vehicles and making transportation impossible. The town people became alarmed. Fathers gathered their families and began to pray to the Blessed Virgin.
But it kept raining for hours and the waters continued to rise. The loud voices and wailing of the children and mothers, mingling with the sound of the wind and the rain gave added cause for increasing alarm and fear.
Meanwhile, more families knelt together and prayed harder, calling the name of the Blessed Virgin loudly.
Suddenly, the wind ceased and the rain stopped. When the people opened their windows, they were surprised to see a tall lady clad in white walking atop the water. They couldn’t believe their eyes.
As the strange lady continued walking, the people noticed the water under her sandaled feet fast subsiding. In no time, land had reappeared. The people jumped in delight. But just as soon, the lady in white vanished like vapor.
Whereupon, the people dropped to their knees again and made the sign of the cross. They knew it was the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga who had saved their lives.
The old historic walls of Porta Vaga and the ermita or church, were demolished during the war, but the image and shirne of the Blessed Virgin were spared. It was transferred to the parochial church of san Roque in the heart of the town, where it is now the object of continued veneration by the Caviteños.
(ADDENDUM: On March 16, 1984, the icon of the Virgin was stolen from its altar but was recovered on August 15, 1984, divested of all its original gold decorations and precious stones. Devotees restores the image to its former glory, and on August 19, 1984, it was re-enshrined in the altar with much rejoicing)