The Philippines under Portugal?
By Ambeth R. Ocampo | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Contrary to popular belief, I frequent Ermita for antique shops and Solidaridad
Bookstore, not for the sad remainder of a once-bustling red-light district that
has since moved to the northern end of Makati Avenue. Manila’s red-light district
used to be in an area between Ermita Church and Malate Church, both shrines of venerated
images of the Virgin Mary. Not wishing to lose this religious element, the Makati
red-light district is concentrated around P. Burgos Street, named in honor of Fr.
Jose A. Burgos (the “bur” in “Gomburza”).
Ermita (the hermitage) has seen better days and is no longer the genteel residential
district described by Nick Joaquin and Carmen Guerrero Nakpil. Present-day Ermita
is worse than the district in decline described by F. Sionil Jose in his novel “Ermita.”
But in spite of the urban blight, the faithful still come to pray at the feet of
Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance), perhaps the oldest documented Marian
image in the Philippines. It predates the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in
Manila in 1571.
This simple image made of Philippine hardwood, molave, measures about 50 centimeters
in height. Buried under an embroidered skirt and chemise, it has a serene face and
wears a wig of human hair. The image is adorned with a crown presented by Pope Paul
VI during his Manila visit in 1971 as well as jewels presented by Manila Archbishop
Rufino L. Cardinal Santos. Like the venerated image of Nuestra Senõra de Paz y de
Buen Viaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) in Antipolo, the Virgin of Ermita
is also invoked by travellers, especially those who seek visas in the nearby US