SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA. The center of veneration of many Filipinos in the church of Sampaloc is this image of St. Anthony, patron saint for the recovery of lost items. His devotion was promoted by Franciscan missionaries.
The St. Anthony Shrine in Sampaloc is one of two Franciscan churches in Manila dedicated to the devotion of St. Anthony of Padua, propagated by the Order. The first Franciscan missionaries to the Philippines embarked from the port of San Lucas in July 1576 and by the time the ship reached Manila on 24 June 1577, seven had died in the voyage leaving just 10 Franciscans to start their missions.
By 2 August, they had finished the construction of a convent where they were lodged. A second mission from Madrid left in 1577, which included San Pedro Bautista, who was martyred in Japan.
The Franciscans are credited for founding the towns of Santa Ana De Sapa, Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Pililla, Lumbang, Tayabas, Naga, Morong, Lucban, Pila, Pangil, Iriga, among others.
In the 18th and mid 19th cenury, the Order expanded its labors in Leyte and Samar.
Known as builders, Franciscans erected San Juan De Dios Hospital and founded the San Lazaro Leprosarium (1605), the Military Hospital (1578, destroyed in an 1863 earthquake), San Diego Leprosarium in Camarines (1586, the Monte de Piedad de Manila (1879)—and the aforementioned twin churches.
The St. Anthony Shrine on Bustillos St. houses a very old image of San Antonio de Padua who bears the Christ Child in his arms. This San Antonio used to be enshrined at the Iglesia de San Francisco, a monumental church constructed in 1739 in the walled city of Intramuros. It is the devotion to this saint that proved to be popular among Filipinos, and in time, the image became an important icon of veneration, drawing devotees from all over for the triduum masses and processions held from June 13 to 16.
The stately Franciscan Church, however, suffered the same fate as major churches during the 1945 Liberation of Manila , completely destroyed by bombs in the bloody siege. When people came back to sort through the ruins, they found the image of their revered San Antonio miraculously unscathed, under the rubble of the church.
The rescued statue was whisked away for safekeeping to the Franciscan church of Sta. Ana. Through the prodding of Fr, Mariano Montero, OFM, the image was transferred to the reconstructed convent and church of V.O.T. in Sampaloc, which became known as the Shrine of St. Anthony.
San Antonio was mounted on the wall directly behind the main altar of the shrine.
The saint continues to attract large crowds anywhere from 5,000 devotees on ordinary days, to 8,000 during the 13 weekly Solemn Novenas prefacing the saint’s feast day.