People make yearly pilgrimage to this Rizal town to pay homage to centuries-old Brown Madonna.By Ileana Maramagpublished in The Sunday Times Magazine, 20 May 1962.
Still drawing a steady stream of pilgrims at this time of year is Antipolo, the small hilly town in Rizal province made famous as the shrine of the centuries-old brown Madonna as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
Antipolo, however, is not what it used to be. In the olden days, old folks like to recall, the place was no more than an isolated hamlet that could only be reached by carretela or cascos, via one of the Pasig River’s tributaries that wends its way to several Rizal towns. Thus, pilgrimages to the Virgin of Antipolo in those days were more hazardous and involved no small amount of sacrifice.Often enough, the pilgrims had ti hike the slippery trails of the region or cross the difficult terrain in man-borne hammocks. Aisde from this, the pilgrimages were made more festive by the bright parasols, colorful balintawaks and camisas de chino worn by the pilgrims, Today, the practice has all but disappeared; Antipolo is easy to reach via paved highways and modern-day pilgrims make the Maytime trek in buses or drive down the 28 km. road to Antipolo in snazzy cars,
From Manila, it takes no more than 45 minutes to reach the town proper, and once ed there, pilgrims converge at the modern church which is easily Antipolo’s biggest landmark. Once inside, one discovers that the age-old image of Our Lady of peace and Good Voyage is enshrined in a special niche atop the main altar.
Annually, on May 1st, by tradition, the Virgin is borne in solemn procession to an improvised altar atop Pinagmisahan Hill, where a mass is said to commemorate the first Mass celebrate by the early Spanish missionaries on the same hill. Devotees also mark the feast of Antipolo Virgin every first Tuesday of May.
Early historians report that the image was first brought to Manila from Mexico on June 29, 1626 by the then newly-appointed Governor General Juan Niño de Tabora to isnure the safe voyage of the galleons against pirates and typhoons.
No one can tell exactly how the Virgin became enshrined in the town of Antipolo. There are two versions. One reports the image was taken to the Rizal town by the Governor general and Archbishop and crowned as Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Another account says the statue disappeared and was found perched atop an antipolo tree, on the same spot where the Antipolo church now stands.
Another legend tells of how the Virgin of Antipolo acquired its dark color. The story goes that during the 1639 Chinese Rebellion (which include Rizal and Laguna towns), the Chinese burned the statue but somehow the image miraculously remained unscathed. Instead, the carving turned black and has retained its dark hue through the centuries.
When the Japanese commandeered the old Antipolo church and used it as their garrison during the last war, devotees smuggled the image, buried it in a drum, and later transported it to the Quiapo Church where it was enshrined until after the Liberation.