To your health! | The Daily Guardian


LAST January, I wrote about the discovery of an old statuette called Nuestra Señora de la Salud de los Enfermos (Our Lady of the Health of the Sick) or simply Nuestra Señora de la Salud. Because the original was dark in complexion, she is also called “La Salud, the Black Virgin of Health”. This title is found in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, “Health of the Sick”. For short, devotees just call her ‘La Salud” like the Spanish toast, “A la salud!” (To your health!) which I find appropriate for indeed she is the intercessor for those in need of help for their physical and spiritual healing.

I also described her and traced the history of how she came to our shores. That January column ended with the information that there were plans for her to visit the Diocese of Bacolod.

The Recollect Fathers who are the custodians of this image wanted to revive the devotion that had been forgotten because her statue disappeared after World War II and people thought it perished with the destruction of the San Nicolas Church. But she survived and was kept in the sacristy of the San Sebastian Basilica, another Recollect church in Manila. In 1970 she was brought to the office of the Vicar Provincial of the Recollect where she stayed and in 1988 was sent to the Museum of the Order. It was then that they found her and now she is back into the public eye.

Her statue arrived last week and stayed for public veneration in the parish of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Talisay City until last Monday when she was transferred to the St. Exekiel Moreno Monastery in Tangub, Bacolod. She will stay here until November 6 and then visit San Carlos City.

Her arrival did not get much public attention because there was no publicity except in Talisay and her arrival coincided with the visit here of her other image under the title of Our Lady of Simala, Cebu which is very popular in the Visayas and Mindanao. Nevertheless word spread and long queues formed in Talisay.

Why is it that we have not heard of this image and devotion to her? According to Recollect Fray Rommel Rubia, the Marian image was venerated by “our forefathers in Bagumbayan”. It was believed to be miraculous for giving relief to their physical, spiritual and emotional afflictions. It is “one of the most cherished treasures of the Filipino Recollect Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno” that is “currently kept in the museum for safe keeping” but every Filipino Recollects wish is “to see her enthroned again in a shrine worthy of her honor.”

It is interesting Fray Rubia notes, that St. Ezekiel Moreno who is the patron saint of cancer patients had a special devotion to Our Lady of the Health of the Sick. If he had, then this devotion had indeed been of special status in the Philippines for centuries.

Fray Rubia who wrote the recent book on this image, estimated that the image arrived in the Philippines in 1634 together with the 7th batch of Recollect missionaries. The image was enthroned in that year in its shrine in Bagumbayan, Manila. This year then marks the 383rd year of her arrival.

The devotion to Mary under this title increased that by the middle of the 1600s she had “more devotees in the entire islands.” But when her shrine was destroyed twice her image was kept in safety and never again publicly exposed after World War II. Thus public devotion to her disappeared.

Fray Rubia surmised that the loss of devotion was also due to changes of her feast day. The original feast day was the 3rd day of Lent and then moved to April 28. In the 1900s until WWII her feast was celebrated on Sunday closest to March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph but this was transferred again to February to coincide with the Feast of the Purification of Mary until finally set on November 17th.

As it was with Lourdes, people whose wellbeing, physical or spiritual, were restored by the La Salud, left behind before her image testimonies of Our Lady’s miraculous intercession.

I hope the La Salud devotion develops here as well.

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