Friday, May 09, 2014

Friday, May 09, 2014
The weather is sunny in this part of the country, and it is literally sweltering, I feel like I’m beside an oven.  I think I need to cool-off for a while at some beach nearby, but there’s a musical band playing tonight at the plaza – for free!  It’s the town’s fiesta, the beach can wait for tomorrow.  Maybe I got used to the cool mountain air of Sagada, staying there for almost a month got me acclimatized with the nice weather there.  I’ve got to come back soon.

So what’s to visit in Manaoag?  People come here, especially those who offer devotions to the miraculous ivory image of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, the patroness of the town, locally referred to as “Apo Baket”.  The image is revered by devotees and believed to be performing miraculous cures among ailing people and providing intervention to the Divine Providence through devotees’ solemn prayers.

If I may make an observation though – and here I go again with my endless romanticism on things religious – I’m getting confused with religion and its paradoxes.  I was sitting beside the gate of the church, the entrance to the image of Our Lady of Manaoag and watching people come and go.  First of, I should refrain from this habit, but I can’t help it.  I have observed different world religions from previous travels and I know people differs and probably religions too.  Yet (and you’ll probably agree with me on this) people pray to one God.

Getting back to my sentiment, while I was sitting at the bench beside the entrance, I’ve observed people in different garbs, some decent, mostly in their tourist attire, others in beach outfit!  I saw probably two who are wearing spaghetti straps and really short pants, their butts almost smiling up from behind, and entering what Christians would consider as “the house of God”.   I’m not religious of sort, it’s just confusing, it’s an oxymora to Christian dogma. 
You've traveled from far away Manila to offer a pilgrimage to the well venerated Marian image - all those effort, time and money spent - and all you've found to wear to face the one reason you've came here for, and offer prayers at the house of God, is a shorty short jeans and a string top?  I mean, really?
Well, people have interwoven fashion into religion, no matter how indecent it is.  Then again, indecency is probably a complex word that has different meanings to different people, many would contest its context, there is no singular perspective on this issue.
And so be it.
Manaoag itself is a desolate town with nothing much to offer in the way of tourism, except for  pilgrimage tourism.  It’s the town’s income bucket, people come to Manaoag to visit the church, most are just passersby on their way to other resort areas or towns in the Ilocandia or Cordillera regions.  It makes sense, beseeching safe onward travels would sure be a good start of a long trip. 
Yet for some, praying homage to “Apo Baket” is on a more serious and momentous tone.  An ailment, an earnest request, or simply a sincere devotion.
The feast of Our Lady of Manaoag is celebrated on the third Wednesday of Easter.  This year it fell on May 7, 2014, at the time of writing, there are still some events going on in the town, until Sunday.  Whereas, the universal feast day of Our Lady of The Holy Rosary is celebrated every first Sunday of October.
Mass Services are held everyday but the Saturdays and Sundays masses are the ones mostly visited when thousands flock the town to offer prayers for their intents, light candles, offer flowers, buy religious souvenirs and have it blessed, there’s a “blessing area” right at the back of the church beside the candle lightings or offerings.
Getting to Manaoag from Manila, there are direct buses from Manila to Manaoag. Dagupan Bus (phone (02) 727-2330) from their terminal in New York Street, Cubao has several trips a day (24/7).  Victory Liner (phone (02) 727-4688) is running direct to Manaoag.  Fare is P360.  And also 5 Star Bus Company  (phone 02-8516614) in Tramo, Pasay City. Travel time is about 4 hours.
Address: Manaoag, Pangasinan, Philippines
Google Map Direction: Manaoag, Pangasinan


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