Our Lady ‘Ina Poonbato’ – A Pilgrim Center Rises

Like Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady Ina Poonbato has ethnic roots. Poonbato, the once-sleepy village at the foot of Mt. Pinatubo, in Botolan, Zambales in the Philippines, has today evolved into a global pilgrim center of Our Lady Ina Poonbato, whose genesis as an Aeta legend, dates back to the 17th century. The rainforests of Mt. Pinatubo are home for the ancient semi-nomadic Aetas since pre-history. After the mammoth Mt. Pinatubo eruption, they returned to their homes, planting crops on much richer soil.

eastwind journals, 220625 (archives tr274)

By Bernie V. Lopez, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com

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Genesis and History

Franklin Narciso, surviving kin of tribal chieftain Apang Djadig who discovered the statue of Our Lady in the 17th century, is the source of oral history of Ina Poonbato (see photo). He was the caretaker of the Aglipay church when this author interviewed him in 2016. Aglipay is a local splinter from the Catholic Church. Franklin’s story is collaborated by Catholic Sisters Babie Hilario and Joyce Fablos in a subsequent interview.

Franklin related that Djadig, tired from hunting, slept under a tree with huge rocks (hence Poonbato, meaning ‘tree stone’). He was awakened by the voice of a lady. According to a Catholic document, the lady said, “Take me home with you.”

Djadig found an elegant wooden statue of the lady at the tree, which he brought home. His wife was angry because he failed to bring home food from his hunt. She threw the statue into a fire, and the house was burnt to the ground, but the statue was not damaged. Instantly, the wife had a lingering skin disease, and when she touched the image of Ina, she was healed. Djadig built a grotto for Ina and announced to his tribe that she had healing powers. True enough, many were healed. They held an annual feast for Ina, their healer.

When the friars from the Spanish Augustinian Recoletos arrived in 1736, they took the statue and named it Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buenviaje, (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage). The Aetas killed the priests and retrieved the statue. The Recoletos made a life-size replica of cement, which was later retrieved from the lahar after the infamous Mt. Pinatubo eruption. Today, that statue is in a grotto behind the church (see photo).

When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, Sister Raquel Reodica, RVM (Religious of the Virgin Mary), a Catholic nun noted as the “cancer healer of the Lord”, visited their mission house in Poonbato. As the RVM sisters were helping to rescue the Aetas, they found the five-foot statue of Ina Poonbato buried in lahar up to the shoulders (see photos). They tried to extricate it, digging around the lahar, but it would not budge.

Sister Raquel asked a colonel if his helicopter could possibly extricate the statue. The colonel said it was impossible for the helicopter to lift such a heavy cement statue. Sister Raquel insisted, “Just try, colonel. Nothing to lose.” He gave in, instructing the pilot to abandon the job if it was too heavy. The helicopter extricated the image with ease. The colonel ran up excitedly to Sr. Raquel and said, “Sister, it’s a miracle. The pilot says the helicopter weighing scale recorded ‘zero weight’.”

At the author’s arrival in 2016, there were two separate pilgrim centers in both Aglipay and Catholic churches. Amazingly, the two centers helped each other and told the pilgrims to also visit the other center. During the feast of Ina, Poonbato was jampacked with thousands of pilgrims from all over the nation, even as far as Daly City in California.

Sisters Babie and Joyce reported that in the past few years, pilgrims have soared, coming from as far as Bataan, Ilocos, Metro-Manila, Bulacan, San Pedro and San Isidro in Laguna, Dasmarinas in Cavite. Sister Babie estimated that in last feast day on January 23-24, 2016, about 12,000 to 14,000 pilgrims converged in Poonbato, based on an overflowing attendance in 14 masses in a single day.

Last March 4, the Mayor of Gumaca in Quezon led dozens of pilgrims to Poonbato. He vowed that, if his son would pass the board exam, he would return as a pilgrim in gratitude. On March 11, he returned when his son had passed the board. He brought many replicas of Ina to Gumaca, spreading the good news to the town. There are many reports from both Catholics and Aglipays of prayers granted – the sick being healed, the childless having children.

Many Filipino devotees in the US and EU have replicas of Ina, who has gone global. There are devotees today in Filipino communities in the US and EU, having replicas of Ina. Perhaps it is because, back in October 1985, Pope John Paul II blest an image brought to the Vatican by the late Rosellyn Magsaysay, wife of Zambales ex-Gov. Jun Magsaysay. Rosellyn was Ina’s instrument in spreading the devotion towards a Global Marian Pilgrim Center by promoting the devotion to Filipino communities in her many trips to the US and EU.

The mustard seed planted by Djadig, the Aeta chieftain, has grown into a mammoth tree.

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PHOTO GALLERY

STAINED GLASS RENDITION OF INA WITH AETAS AND ZAMBALENOS IN ADORATION.

ina 5585 – ethnic painting

FRANKLIN NARCISO, SOURCE OF ORAL ETHNIC HISTORY, DIRECT DESCENDANT OF 17TH CENTURY AETA CHIEFTAIN APANG DJADIG.

ina 5591 – oral historian franklin narciso

THE ORIGINAL FIVE-FOOT IMAGE OF INA WHICH WAS ‘RESCUED’ FROM LAHAR.

ina 5625 – original statue rescued from lahar

ORIGINAL PHOTO OF INA BURIED IN LAHAR.

ina 5631 – original photo of Ina buried in laher

ORIGINAL PHOTO OF INA BURIED IN LAHAR.

ina 5631 – original photo of Ina buried in laher

INA IN PROCESSION IN BOTOLAN, ZAMBALES ON EASTER 2016.

ina 5713 – procession easter 2016

INA IN PROCESSION IN BOTOLAN, ZAMBALES ON EASTER 2016.

ina 5712 – procession easter 2016

POPE JOHN PAUL II BLESSES STATUE OF INA FOR FILIPINO DEVOTEES.

ina 5656 – pope john paul II blesses Ina’s statdue for Filipino devotees

ANCIENT CARVING ON CHURCH PORTAL.STREAMER OUTSIDE THE CHURCH.

ina 5576 – church portal carving

INA HAS AN EXTENSIVE WARDROBE. HER DRESS IS CHANGED WEEKLY.

ina 5610 – ina’s extensive wardrobe

INA POONBATO, PRAY FOR US.

ina 5569 – Ina poonbato, pray for us

MORE INSPIRING ARTICLES – click ‘HOME’ (top right of this page) or go to eastwindjournals.com.

FOR THOSE WHO NEED HEALING, spiritual or physical (depression, anxiety, loneliness, terminal cancer, covid, diabetes, etc.) – say an online healing prayer with one or both healers below. Terminal patients have been healed in cyberspace –

1) Father Fernando Suarezwww.youtube.com/watch?v=8UP3LHBgtIc.

2) Sr. Raquel Reodica, RVM – www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAZcwNimBSg

Download free e-book ‘Healing Stories of Sr. Raquel’ at eastwindjournals.com/2021/08/13/healing-stories-of-sr-raquel-e-book-free-download/).

AUTHOR’S BOOK  – Wings and Wanderlust – Discovering Your Inner Self. At age 26, the author hitchhiked 25,000 kilometers in Europe and North Africa for three straight years. In this book of his wild adventures, he learned deep insights that changed him totally, which he wants to share with readers. It also a guidebook on how to plan your own adventure.

Order a paperback or an e-book. For paperbacks, if you are a Philippine resident, save on shipping cost by ordering by email at eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com. For e-books, if you have an IPAD, download the app ‘kindle’. For non-IPADS, buy a kindle device (check guidelines.) – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09KS7QYWL.

Author’s Credentials. Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo University) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN, ex-TVS Tokyo) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.

amdg

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