Written by Clare Marie Alarba, B.S. in Fisheries II.
Philippines is the home of 86.6 million Filipino adherants of Christianity, according to a US-based Pew Research Center study in 2010. Philippine history books showed and taught us that Christianity was introduced as Spain colonizes the Philippines. And kudos to the Spaniards for they succeeded, making Filipinos embrace the religion. What proves the Spanish colonization is the open-handedly welcome and acceptance of Christianity in the country. Aside from the memories buried in our minds, the remnants of the past can be seen and observed in our churches, scapulars, crucifix, bible and even in religious acivities exercised by many Filipinos, especially by Roman Catholics.
Even today, marks of the Spanish colonization are visible. One of which is the religious gatherings and event Filipinos celebrate and attend to. The religion Christianity, specifically Roman Caatholic had obviously made a climacteric event.
On specific dates, families would gather and perform a prayer to honor and celebrate the event. A lot of religious family gathering of various forms. Among of them is the Medalla Milagrosa or simply Milagrosa.
Medalla Milagrosa is a religious activity held to celebrate and honor the Marian apparition witnessed by Saint Catherine Laboure. Medalla Milagrosa or Miraculous Medal is also known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception.
The Miraculous Medal is actually a medal designed by Saint Catherine Laboure herself and is believed that wearing such medal can bring special graces through intercession to Mother Mary.
People didn’t just wore the medal but offered prayers and celebrated the feast of the miraculous medal. Just like in Passi City, Iloilo.
Passi City is the only component city of Iloilo province. Aside from the sweet pineapple products the city can offer, it is alsol rich in religious culture and tradition. As mentioned, Passinhons are one of those who practice the tradition of celebrating the feast of the miraculous medal, which they call it Medalla Mlagrosa or Milagrosa. The term Medalla Milagrosa doesn’t just apply as the medal or object but is also used to name the celebration.
Passinhons started practicing the tradition in Sitio Capasigan, Barangay Alimono, Passi City, Iloilo on November 18, 1977. The tradition is being handed down in the family as what Lucena Aguilario did. The tradition was then continued by the son of Lucena and his wife, Roberto Aguilario and Rhodora Aguilario. They are two Marian devotees and leaders preparing and leading the prayers and singing on the feast of the miraculous medal.
According to the leaders, the celebration or the praying and singing, as much as possible should be done every month. Every house of the family must hold the celebration. The Milagrosa is often celebrated together with the birthday celebration of a particular family member.
Medalla Milagrosa starts at night. Members of the family will gather together with their guitars for singing. An altar is placed in an open area where members will surround and kneel in front of it. By six oclock in the evening, Milagrosa starts, first the holy rosary is prayed followed by a novena and eventually the Medalla Milagrosa and is being ended by songs and of a final prayer.
The first song is a welcome song and is about Mother Mary and Jesus. The next five songs are praise songs. They are prayer songs about the miraculous medal as well as asking for forgiveness of all the sins and asking protection from above. Milagrosa is ended by a final prayer.
While some of the members are on their knees praying and singing, some members will start preaparing the food. The gathering is always included and is part of the tradition.
Milagrosa continues until the morning. Family members will again gather to pray and sing. They will start with the holy rosary followed by praying the novena, the Medalia Milagrosa prayers then the singing. Though this time goodbye songs will be played.
The songs are ‘Salve, Oh Virgen Maria’, ‘Pagdayaw kay Maria’ and ‘Adios Maria’ which is sung in the morning for the goodbye prayer song.
Aside from the Aguilario family, a lot of families in Passi City do practice the tradition. These families are Palma, Palmes, Alaro, Agpalsa and Muyco family and clan. The said families share the same common routine when it comes to praying and singing. Each of the families have their own saint figurines that is being used. And as for the food, there is no restriction of what food will be served as long as the family gather to celebrate the feast of the miraculous medal.
The young members in the family are highly encouraged to participate and attend for they are the ones who will be handed down with and continue doing the tradition.
Passi City is not the only place that practices the tradtion. Parts of Capiz and Aklan also pray and sing Milagrosa.
The feast of Medalla Milagrosa is on November. People was moved especially the Marian devotees as the story of Saint Catherine Laboure seeing Mother Mary or the apparition of Mother Mary to Saint Catherine Laboure was heard.
Mother Mary showed up to Saint Catherine and asked her to wear medal with the words “Oh Mary conceive without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”. By the year 1830, the said invocation together with the deep faith and intercession as well as wearing the Medalia Milagrosa led to many miracles, attributed to a series of revelations made by Saint Catherine Laboure.
The great intercession and devotion of Passinhon families as well as other families practicing the tradtion lead them and helped them to have stronger faith. Christianity may be an invasive species to the religion we had before. But somehow, as we embraced the good side of it, practicing the traditions, people became stronger in a way that the blind faith they have keep them on hope.
These traditions may look like merely traditions but seeing them with an open eye, these are art. The beauty in it, like the Medalia Milagrosa, seeing the family together singing, is to appreciated.
For as you look closely to it, you can see that they are just jamming, singing only that they are driven of the spiritual aspect as devotees of Milagrosa. Milagrosa might appear as a religious tradition but it is actually more than that. The way they pluck the strings and join in with the harmony and peaceful sound of the prayer songs prove to be appreciated as a performance art.
There are a lot of religious traditions across the country that has not yet been showcased. They are not needed to be showcased to impress people but to be appreciated for this is a form of art. And art gives color to the colorless world.