Heritage Series: Our Lady of Manaoag Church, Pangasinan

December 31, 2016

The Our Lady of Manaoag Church in Pangasinan is a popular pilgrimage site among devotees of the Virgin Mary.

The Our Lady of Manaoag Church in Pangasinan is possibly one of the most well-known pilgrimage sites in Luzon because of the many reported miraculous experiences of people who prayed to Mother Mary in this church.

Façade of Our Lady of Manaoag Church
Our Lady of Manaoag Church

Heritage Series: Our Lady of Manaoag Church, Pangasinan

    My personal experience at Our Lady of Manaoag Church

    It was in 1989 when I first set foot in Our Lady of Manaoag Church for a thanksgiving pilgrimage with my parents. 

    A portion of the wall of Our Lady of Manaoag Church
    Entrance to the prayer room

    During that time, I remember waking up in a bus station, disoriented and hungry, having traveled from Nueva Ecija during the previous evening. It was early morning and still dark; we were in an unfamiliar place. My young mind could not fully comprehend our purpose for going there but I knew it was a special journey.

    When the light began to fill the day, we made our way to Our Lady of Manaoag Church. At the patio, I was panicked by the frenzy of vendors selling candles and religious articles, all rushing toward us and literally forcing their merchandise to whoever caught their attention. For a brief moment, I thought we were being mobbed.

    But once we were inside the Church, I felt safer and more at peace. It was still crowded inside but at least there was order. My last memory was of my small hand touching the bejeweled dress of the image of Our Lady of Manaoag.

    From the Lady who Calls

    Almost three decades later, Khris and I were on the same pilgrimage to Manaoag. The past year had been very challenging for us but it was filled with memorable events as well so we thought it was fitting to thank God for His unending guidance.

    Inside the Our Lady of Manaoag Church
    Inside the church

    We left Quezon City early and passed through the three expressways (NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX) traversing the great expanse of Central and Northern Luzon. It was a long yet steady ride. Upon reaching Urdaneta City in Pangasinan, it was already a short drive to Manaoag.

    The municipality's name was derived from the condensed form of the local word Mantatawag which means "to call." 

    Local legend tells of a farmer who had a vision of the Virgin Mother, bathed in blinding light, and carrying the child Jesus. 

    She appeared on top of a hill and told the farmer that she wanted a church built in her honor, promising miracles in return.

    Statue of Our Lady of Manaoag Church
    Our Lady of Manaoag statue

    The farmer told his relatives and neighbors about the apparition. Soon, a word about the Virgin Mother spread, and people began to make a pilgrimage to the site of the holy vision. When asked where they had been, the pilgrims would say “Dimad Apo Ya Mantatawag” or "from the Lady who calls."

    Whispering a Prayer inside Our Lady of Manaoag Church

    A Mass was ongoing when we arrived. As we had expected, the Our Lady of Manaoag Church was full, with almost every corridor brimming with devotees. 

    Candles at Our Lady of Manaoag Church
    Candles signifying prayer offering

    Receiving communion almost seemed impossible at first but the lay ministers were considerate enough to go near the pilgrims to distribute the host. After the ceremonies, we went to the adoration room behind the altar. Here, we quietly uttered our prayers and personal intentions to the Holy Mother.

    It has been the tradition of pilgrims to touch the garments of the image of Our Lady of Manaoag, either with one's hand or a handkerchief, to receive Her blessings. 

    Moreover, a visit to this venerated place is incomplete without offering candles to the Blessed Mother. Thus, we bought candles that are color-coded depending on our prayers and lighted these at the Candle Gallery.

    Religious items for sale at Our Lady of Manaoag Church
    Religious items for sale

    Those who have purchased religious souvenirs may have these blessed by a priest at the area beside the Candle Gallery. The holy water is sourced from the well that flows from the ground where the Church stands. Pilgrims who also wish to bring home with them holy water may fill their containers at the nearby faucet at no cost.

    Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag

    The history of the present Church dates back to the 1600s when Augustinian missionaries established the Chapel of Sta. Monica (the old name of Manaoag) at the site of the present cemetery. The Augustinians, however, soon relinquished the administration of the diocese to the Dominicans.

    Lining up to touch the statue of Our Lady of Manaoag
    Inside the chapel

    During subsequent years, threats from neighboring tribes forced the friars to transfer the Church to its present site on top of a hill. Construction of a larger Church commenced a hundred years later in the 1700s and was expanded over a course of two centuries.

    Religious statues inside Our Lady of Manaoag Church
    Religious statues

    Enshrined within the Our Lady of Manaoag Church is the 17th-century ivory image of the Virgin Mary carrying the child Jesus, bestowed with the title Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag. 

    According to historical records, the statue was brought to the Philippines from Spain via the Manila galleon from Acapulco, during the early 17th century by the priest Juan de San Jacinto.

    Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine Museum

    Capping our pilgrimage was a visit to the Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine Museum. Here, statues of Our Lady of Manaoag in various sizes and garments are on display. 

    Letters in the museum of Our Lady of Manaoag Church

    One may also write prayers or thanksgiving notes to the Blessed Mother and drop these at the wooden box.


    From the Church, we roamed around the roadside vendors selling religious statues, rosaries, blessed oil, food, and souvenirs. It was nice to see that the place is now very orderly and disciplined as compared to my memories of it as a child.

    Funny sign at Manaoag
    A funny sign

    We headed home soon after lunch, carrying with our hearts the gratitude for having been able to hurdle numerous challenges as well as having experienced many joys.

    How to go to Our Lady of Manaoag Church

    If you are commuting, you can take any Pangasinan-bound bus in Cubao and ask the driver to drop you off in front of the church.

    If you are taking a bus from Pasay City, it is a bit complicated because you would have to take a tricycle to the church from the drop off point in Pangasinan.

    If you are taking a private vehicle, go to TPLEX and make an exit to Urdaneta and drive straight to Manaoag. 


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    1. Ang ganda naman po ng Our Lady of Manaoag Church maganda pumunta jan lalo na po nung sinabi mo well discipline na ngayon jan🤗.Pag may problema ka kasi punta ka lang ng church ang gaan na agad sa pakiramdam .

    2. Grabe . Ganda din po pala dito sa Our Lady of Manaoag Church. Must visit po dito . Sarap pa naman sa feelings kapag nakakapag samba tayo.. 😊

    3. It is really good to thank God for His wonderful blessings to our life. With the uncertainties and difficulties we have adding the burden of the pandemic it is a must to give thanks to God for He is the One who helps us to go through all of these.

    4. Hindi pa ako nakakapunta dito, but Truly Pangasinan is one of the beautiful Places Din Po talaga , like this Our Lady Of Manaoag Church, Sobrang Ganda ng PagkaGawa, at tlaga namang MpapaSimba Ka Araw araw Dahil sa Sobrang Laki ng Church Nila...