Saturday, November 10, 2007

Celebrating the Feast of Nuestra Senora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga - the patroness of Cavite City, also called "Reina de Cavite" and "La Virgen de la Soledad" is celebrating her feast day tomorrow, November 11.
for 19 years i lived in Cavite City and up to now we still make sure that somehow our family joins the wonderful celebration. yesterday we joined the city wide motorcade joined by hundreds of automobiles from bikes to motorbikes, tricycles, jeeps, baby bus, cars, vans et al. we were number 90, and surprisingly a lot joined the half day long motorcade although it falls on a weekday. i wish i can tell you how rich the festivities we celebrate every year in the city, anyways, i will try my best to get pictures of the much long awaited event to make the story more vivid to you my readers. but for now let me give you the short history of our miraculous mother....

A legend narrates that many years ago, a small detachment of Spanish carabiniero was stationed at a sentry post called garita located at the end of the Isthmus of Rosario. One stormy night, while a Spanish sentinel was at his post, he perceived a halo of a bright shifting light. A dazzling apparition rose form the currents of Cañacao Bay startling the sentry wih suspicion that it could be Muslim pirates who were out to ransack the puerto because that time, Cavite was at the peak of economic prosperity because of the galleon trade. Frightened, he shouted "¡Alto! ¡Alto!" ("Halt! Halt!"). However, instead of stopping, the light proceeded toward him. Hence, in a loud voice he asked, "¿Quién vive?" ("Who is there?"). He then heard a sweet and melodious voice saying; "Soldadito, ¿por qué el alto me das en noche tan fría? Dame paso. ¿No conoces a Maria?"[1] The sentinel, struck in awe and confusion, humbly and repentantly replied, "Perdóname, Virgen Maria, Reina de mi devoción; pues solo soy un soldado que cumplo mi obligación!"

The morning after the stormy night was serene and sunny. The early risers, mostly fisherman and workers at the Cavite Royal Arsenal, usually passed through the Porta Vaga gate in entering the puerto, and to their surprise, along the beach of Cañacáo Bay, they found a framed image of the Virgen de la Soledad. It was close to the spot where the Virgin appeared the previous night. They brought the image to the parish priest who temporarily installed it in the parish church. Later a small chapel was built near the Porta Vaga walls, and for three centuries it was the shrine of the Virgen de la Soledad.

Another story tells that the image was found by a fisherman on their way back home from work in an unoccupied banca (fishing boat) near the Garita, a tiny school house in the isthmus.

The image of Our Lady is painted on a canvas. An inscription was found at the back of the painting. A doze de Abril 1692 años Juan Oliba puso esta Stma. Ymagen Haqui, which means, "The sacred image was placed here by Juan Oliba on April 12,1692. This particular icon was used to bless the galleon plying between Cavite and Acapulco (Mexico) during formal sending off ceremonies. Thus, she was called the Patroness of the Galleon. The most venerated image of La Virgen de la Soledad de Porta Vaga is an invaluable treasure inherited by the Caviteños from their antepasado (ancestors). This is the oldest existing dated Marian painting in the Philippines. The Virgen de la Soledad was acknowledged as the Celestial Guardian and Protectress of the entire province of Cavite and the port since her arrival in Cavite shore.