From Pagan Resistance to Divine Intervention: The Incredible History Behind the Manaoag Shrine

The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, located on top of a hill in the small town of Manaoag in the Province of Pangasinan, is one of the most visited churches in the Philippines. The church houses the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, which is locally known as Ina’n Birhen na Manaoag or Apo Baket. The church has a rich history dating back to the establishment of the mission of Santa Monica by the Augustinian friars in the Province of Pangasinan for evangelization in 1575.

Historical Marker of the Minor Basilica of Manaoag

The Augustinians also established the mission of Lingayen and Bagnotan (now Dagupan) but left due to the resistance of the Pangasinenses who remained in their paganism. The Franciscans also tried to evangelize the province but failed to convert the natives of Pangasinan. In 1587, the Dominican Missionaries established their mission in Binalatongan (now San Carlos) under the patronage of their founder Saint Dominic De Guzman.

The Dominicans also started a mission in Mangaldan, which is 9 km from Santa Monica and was administered as a “visita” to the Augustinian convent of Lingayen. Due to the distance (30 km) of Lingayen to Santa Monica, the Augustinians surrendered its ministration to the hands of Bishop Diego de Soria, OP, who assigned it to Fr. Juan de San Jacinto, OP, the Vicar of Mangaldan. When the Dominicans accepted this mission in 1605, Fr. de San Jacinto thought of building a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.

The town’s name, Manaoag, comes from the story of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a farmer on a treetop. The story relates that in the center of a cloud appeared the Virgin of the Rosary and her most holy Son. She expressed her wish that a shrine be erected in her honor in that same place, where her devotees could go in the future, to implore her maternal protection. This story spread far and wide, and people would go to the place where the apparition happened. Since then, the church has been visited by many people seeking the help of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag.

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag was canonically crowned on April 26, 1926, at 7 o’clock in the morning, after the proper petition had been made. The ceremony took place in front of the Church. The Apostolic Delegate then, H.E. Guglielmo Piani, S.D.B., placed the crown on Our Lady, while the Archbishop of Manila, H.E. Michael J. O’Doherty, crowned the Holy Child.

On April 21, 2011, the church was affiliated with a special bond of Spiritual Affinity with the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Manaoag Shrine is the first to have this status in the Philippines. This bond assures pilgrims of the same blessings and the chance to obtain plenary indulgence, as they would when visiting a papal basilica in Rome.

On February 17, 2015, the shrine was elevated to a Minor Basilica in a proclamation ceremony graced by more than 100 archbishops and bishops, leaders of church and state, and thousands of devotees.

The Dominican Community that administers the Basilica has never stopped in their mission and vision – to preach the Gospel of Jesus and to evangelize the people of Manaoag and the pilgrim people of God.