IF PANGASINAN has Our Lady of Manaoag as patroness, Cebu has Virgen de la Regla, or Our Lady of the Rule.
When I visited the church on Aug. 18, 1996, with friends Barge Ramos, Jerry Salaza and Michael Pizarro, I saw her for the first time, and touched the hem of her vestment. I prayed to her I would be able to go to New York, which I did on Nov. 6, 1996.
The church of Our Lady of the Rule is in Opon town on the historic island of Mactan. The people first saw a picture of the Virgen de la Regla in 1735, when the first parish priest, Francisco Avalle, an Augustinian monk, showed it to them.
Father Avalle was a devotee, having lived for 10 years in the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Regla in Chipiona, Andalucia, Spain. St. Augustine himself venerated this image. When he died in 430, his monks continued the devotion to her. When the Vandals invaded Africa in 433, the monks fled to Spain, taking the image with them.
For several centuries, the Virgen de la Regla was venerated under several names: Virgen Libica, Virgen del Sagrario, Estrella de los Mares and La Virgen Morena, or Morenita.
Centuries passed and the image had been almost forgotten until, in 1330, the Virgin appeared to an Augustinian priest in the city of Leon, where King Ferdinand, after reconquering Spain, dedicated the Cathedral to Santa Maria de la Regla.
The Virgin, who was carrying the Child Jesus in her arms, told the priest to go to the Sea of Cadiz and look for a cave where the image had been hidden away. She told the priest to get the image and place it in her church. She said she would guide him with celestial light.
The priest did what he was told, and went on a long journey. One day, he rested under a tree and fell into deep slumber. Then he heard a sweet voice saying this was the place.
He prayed and asked the Virgin to show him the exact spot. A ball of fire from heaven fell and struck the tree, but did not burn it.
With the help of the people in the area, the priest dug the earth, until he found a huge rock. When the people lifted it, they saw the opening of a cave, and when they opened it, they saw a wooden crate, in front of which a lamp was burning.
A church was built on the spot where the statue was found. There, the statue of Our Lady of the Rule had been permanently enshrined.
In 1735, the people of Opon chose Our Lady of the Rule to be their patroness. They had a big picture made and placed it on the altar. Miracles began to happen. Nov. 21 became Our Lady's feastday.
Thousands of pilgrims from neighboring islands come to the fiesta. They also come on Nov. 27 to mark the canonical coronation anniversary.
On Nov. 27, 1954, Archbishop Julio Rosales crowned the Virgin as highlight to the Archdiocesan Marian Congress that year.
The novena where I got this story was dated Feb. 21, 1987, with an imprimatur by Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. It was written in 1954.
Every Saturday, 8 a.m., a Mass is sung at the shrine of Our Lady in Opon. Every day the devotees may go up to the sanctuary at the back and kiss the precious relic donated in 1908 by the Apostolic delegate Monsignor Agius.
Please, report all favors received through Our Lady of the Rule to the parish priest of Opon.