A Pilgrimage to the Queen
Marian images rouse faith (and tourism) from Filipino devotees
In 1964, a prolonged drought hit Cagayan region, severely affecting its indigenous people called the Itawes. They suffered from starvation, their farm animals died from heat, crops and foliage withered from lack of rain. Desperate to seek help, the townspeople turned to their parish priest to ask for guidance. The cleric advised them to make peace with the Lord and begin a novena to Our Lady of Piat. In the middle of their prayer, a miracle happened, torrential rain fell ending the town’s lingering famine and reviving the people’s receding faith.
From that day on, overwhelming accounts of Our Lady of Piat’s miraculous intercessions spread like fire all over the country. The Blessed Mother is believed to heal all kinds of illness for devotees who humbly search for help and divine intervention.
Four hundred years later, the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Piat remains to be a significant event in the lives of the people of Cagayan Valley. This year, the unflinching devotion to the Blessed Mother sparked a renewed tourism campaign that is anchored on the Marian Voyage of Peace.
A holy gathering
Nine Marian images from the Northern Philippines, in their different titles, arrived in Cagayan recently to join Our Lady of Piat in the first ever Marian Voyage of Peace: Our Lady of Fatima (Valenzuela) Our Lady of Badoc (Ilocos Norte), Immaculate Conception (Bulacan), Our Lady of Charity (Agoo, La Union), Nuesta Señora del Mar de Cautiva (Sto. Tomas, La Union), Nuestra Señora de Caridad (Ilocos Sur), Our Lady of Guibang (Isabela), Our Lady of Namacpacan (Luna, La Union), and (Our Lady of Manaog (Pangasinan).
Organized by the Cagayan North Convention & Visitors Bureau (CNCVB), Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, and the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Marian Voyage of Peace began with a fluvial procession of
Our Lady of Piat from Aparri to Tuguegarao City. The other Marian images were housed in assigned repository churches within the vicariate of Tuguegarao City, Peñablanca, and Iguig to allow devotees to do their Visita Iglesia.
But the highlight of the event took place at the cathedral patio of Sts. Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral where a mass in the name of the Blessed Mother was officiated and was followed by a Marian procession around Tuguegarao City.
“Three years ago, the CNCVB was asked to come up with a signature event that could really depict Cagayan. And since Cagayanos are known for their religiosity and devotion to Our Lady of Piat, we wanted to do an event that could bring together devotees and pilgrims of the Blessed Mother through her different images and titles from the Northern Philippines,” explained CNCVB Chairman, Joselito Luna.
Also, the Marian Voyage of Peace coincided with the 426th founding anniversary of the province of Cagayan and the Feast Day of Our Lady of Piat last Friday, July 2.
Merging faith with tourism
With over 18 Spanish Architectural churches along the tourism highway, Cagayan Valley has always been known as one of the major pilgrimage tourism destinations in the country. However, what others seem to forget is that Cagayan Valley Region also boasts of adventure tourism spots for caving, river boating, fishing, bird watching, wind surfing and diving.
DoT Regional Director Bless Diwa believes that the influx of devotees and pilgrims can help boost Cagayan Valley’s tourism industry by promoting its unique sights and travel packages.
“The DoT is keen on supporting the Marian Voyage of Peace because with its huge following from devotees not only from the Philippines but in other countries, we get an opportunity to tell our local and foreign tourists about the beauty of Cagayan and hospitality of the Cagayanos,” said Diwa.
Among the tour packages offered by the DOT and CNCVB are: an exploration of Callao Caves, a seven-chambered, white rock cave that houses massive limestone and rock formations and a small chapel for devotees; a river cruise of the breathtaking Pinacanauan River in Peñablanca; a trek to Iguig Calvary Halls where life-size depictions of the Stations of the Cross can be found; and a heritage tour of Spanish Colonial Churches around Cagayan.
According to Diwa, the success of the Marian Voyage of Peace is enough reason for them to sustain such event regardless of the cost and extensive preparations.
“We believe that Cagayan is ready to take more risks in promoting our region. It’s time for us to be vigilant in turning Cagayan into a full-blown pilgrimage and adventure destination,” she added.