According to the late-seventeenth-century manuscript Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philipinas,
the image was found after the taking of Manila from Rajah Soliman. After a hard
and bloody battle, Legazpi entered the beautiful and magnificent city of Manila
with its 4,000 beautiful houses on May 19, 1571, the feast day of Santa Potenciana.
Manila was then seen as the capital of the powerful and famous island of Luzon.
A soldier walking along the shore of Manila Bay (remember, the US Embassy compound
was reclaimed from the sea) found the miraculous image of Nuestra Señora de Guia
among the center foliage of a pandan tree. According to local lore, the natives
built a quaint wooden temple for the image, where it was transferred a little beyond
the place where it was originally found.
Historians trying to establish the origin of this image have come up with a theory
that it was brought to the Philippines, together with the Santo Niño de Cebu, by
Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and was given to the rulers of Manila as a present by
the rulers of Cebu. However, there is no recorded amity between the pre-Spanish
rulers of Cebu and Manila. As a matter of fact, Legazpi took Manila with the help
of Visayan warriors. Soliman of Manila is quoted to have said that his people were
different from the mercenary Visayans. Therefore, the image cannot be traced back
Nationalist scholars maintain that the image carved from molave with distinct Oriental
rather than Western features was made by pre-Spanish Filipinos (or perhaps a Chinese
artisan) who venerated it as an idol, a likha, a diwata, or perhaps an anito. Yet,
when the Virgin of Ermita is seen without her finery, she is definitely a Roman
Catholic image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. The question is: Where
did this image come from? Why was it worshipped in what is now Ermita long before
the Spaniards took possession of Manila?