A must visit destination on every Pangasinan trip! A pilgrimage site that is considered holy by the Vatican city. All I can say is, feel the wonders and miracles yourself at Our Lady of Manaoag Church
We visited this basilica on a Saturday morning, bright and early to miss the crowds. There was plenty of FREE parking near the church so we didn’t have to walk too far. Try to visit on a weekday if you can. There is ample parking near the Basilica but make sure it is free (There is also paid parking areas).
We both found the grounds and Rosary Garden to be so peaceful and the church respectfully quiet (that was before the crowds arrived). If you can only get there on a weekend, then early morning or late evening are the best. Our Lady of Manaoag Church opens as early as 5AM and closes at 9PM. From what I have seen, the Basilica is usually very crowded on weekends, Lenten season, Easter, May and October (the month of the Holy Rosary).
If you are going just as a tourist you can probably see this place in 30 – 40 minutes. If you are religious and treat this as a pilgrimage you might need a day to observe the services.
Our first stop was the first Lady statue, which is found at the entrance to the Rosary Garden. Next to the statue is an area where you can light a candle, offer a mass, and say a prayer if you wish. The Rosary Garden is a beautiful spot to sit or stroll. The gardens are well kept, it is clean and tidy… and very peaceful.
Then Enter the Basilica where the Shrine and main statue of Our Lady Of Manaoag is found. She sits there beautifully in her white gown. Many people come far and wide to pray for any intention they may have. Eg. If sick, to get better; if they have an upcoming exam, to pass; people pray for their family, for safe travels, for themselves. Many people believe that by visiting Our Lady, she grants the wishes of all.
Climbing a few flights of stairs you will come to an area where you can touch the dress of the Virgin Mary. You literally can only stick your hands through the hole, as to protect the dress itself. To do this you will have to queue up and on a busy day that queue can get pretty long. You queue up outside the main room and reach through a hole from behind the statue.
A Little History
It All Started In 1610
According to tradition, a farmer was on his way home after a long and hard days work. Worried about his family, his farm, the crops and the thought of losing it all to raiders, he cried to the Heavenly Mother as he walked. The sun had set as he walked the path in the dusk only to become aware of a bright light shining on him. Turning to the west, he confirmed the sun had already set. Hesitantly he turned to the light.
Though the light was bright, he could make out the radiant face of a woman holding a Rosary in her right hand and a Child in her left arm. Overcome by superstition and fear, he was about to run when he heard a sweet voice calling out his name. The sweet voice continued. “Son, I want a church built here in my honour. My children shall receive many favours in this place.”
Overflowing with joy, the man told his story to his wife, children, relatives and friends. But upon telling the parish priest he got a different reception. The old Padre not only did not believe him and suggested the man was suffering from hallucinations brought on by the extreme heat of the day.
Nevertheless, the story spread like wildfire and when people from neighbouring settlements heard the tale, they had to come to see for themselves. These pilgrims went home not only assured of the truth of the event but also felt that their petitions had been answered. The pilgrimage to the Lady developed into a least once a year event to fulfil a vow, make new petition to her, and offer their devotion to her.
Coming home from their visit to the place of the Lady’s appearance and on being asked along the way from where they came, the early pilgrims would point to the general directions of the settlement and answer “ Dimad Apo ya Mantataoa ”, or from the Lady who Calls. In time the rest of the words in the phrase were dropped and a derivation was substituted – MANAOAG. This remained the name of the town.
Our Lady of Manaoag Church Becomes A Minor Basilica
On February 17, 2015, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag was solemnly declared as a Minor Basilica. The decree conferring the honorific title was issued by Pope Francis on October 11, 2014.
If you are religious, or simply if the mood hits you, you can light candles and pray your petitions. Our Lady of Manaoag Church provides a great place for pilgrims, giving them more space to say their prayers and show reverence. You can light the traditional white candles or you can try something different and light a colored floating candle. This is very popular, especially for the kids. If you still have time, don’t forget to visit the Manaoag Museum near the Parish Office. It contains relics from Dominican Friars and antique items used by the Church and Our Lady.
There are souvenir shops selling items such as rosaries, candles and other religious items. If you plan to buy, do it before going to mass so that your bought items (like Rosaries) can be blessed just after the mass. A good place for prayer and reflection. You can read the prayer on the wall before lighting the candles. I suggest buying these candles inside the compound as the prices outside are often much higher. After the mass, you can try local delicacies like tupig being sold in the stalls.
A Few Negatives
BEWARE: there are a lot of pickpockets and scams around the area, so keep your personal belongings close and be vigilant at all times.
When you first arrive, it is highly advisable not to ask for directions from vendors or bystanders as they will offer private parking spaces that are far from the church. When we arrived we were told I am not allowed to enter an area near the church because it’s “one way” and they are pointing me to enter a compound and wanted a parking fee. Lucky I had a friend with me that had been here a few times before and knew better. It is so annoying how first time visitors are easily victimized.
Another negative was the persistent kids asking you to buy from them for their baon. Once you do give them some money it just seems to attract more.
It is usually always busy there, especially during the feast days on the third Wednesday after Easter and first Sunday of October. It is a beautiful Church, one that should be visited, even if you are not religious.
Overall the experience was good. The Basilica is truly lovely and the gardens clean and well maintained. But the only way to fully understand the experience is to visit Our Lady of Manaoag Church yourself. We highly recommend it!
Milo St, Manaoag, Pangasinan, Philippines
Phone: +63 75 529 0132
Status: Minor basilica
Archdiocese: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
Dedication:Our Lady of Manaoag