MANILA, Philippines—From a septuagenarian who believes she was miraculously given a new lease on life to a preschooler who could barely say “Mama Mary,” Filipinos of different backgrounds and ages sought out their favorite image of the Blessed Virgin Mary at an exhibit organized by Radio Veritas.
Luz Deveraturda, 73, wept as she came across a life-size image of the Our Lady of Piat, one of the 200 Marian images presented at the 4th Grand Marian Exhibit ongoing at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
“Wow, I finally found you,” she quipped in Filipino.
A Marian devotee, Deveraturda said that for many years, she had been wanting to organize a pilgrimage to the shrine of the miraculous icon near Tuguegarao City in Cagayan province.
“She answered all my prayers. I was able to change my life for the better. I am so grateful, I could cry,” she said in Filipino.
Calvin Froyalde, 21, like many others who went inside the exhibit area, took pictures of several of the Marian images. He said he would print these pictures and put them on his home altar.
He was, however, looking for a particular image of the Virgin Mary in white and blue that he saw in a dream last week. Froyalde said he did not see her face but he was sure it was “Mama Mary.”
“I had not been attending Mass,” he said in Filipino.
Asked how long it has been since he heard Mass, he answered: “Months.”
Even a child knows
Only 3 years old, Princess Margareth Verga knows the mother of Jesus Christ like she knows her parents.
While other parents had to take their young children’s hand to touch the images, Princess, while carried by her father, reached out on her own to touch each and every image of the Virgin Mary, and made a rudimentary sign of the cross.
Asked why she was touching the icons, she mumbled in Filipino: “Because I pray. That’s Mama Mary.”
Princess knows Mary and Jesus because they take her along when they hear Mass, her mother said.
Radio Veritas, for the fourth year, has gathered images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from parishes and personal collections for a public showing.
There is a simple explanation why the exhibit remains vast, varied and popular. The Catholic Church teaches the faithful to ask for Mary’s intercession in their prayers to God.
There are huge, elaborate images such as Our Lady of Sto. Rosario De Macarena made out of a metal plate that took five men to install, to the life-size Pieta, to the one-foot tall Our Lady of Caysasay.
The image of the Our Lady of Caysasay of Batangas was lent by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales who reportedly considers it his personal patron.
Other well-known Marian images are the Our Lady of Manaoag, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Our Lady of Veritas
There are unique figures, such as Bambina Maria, an image of a baby Mary in swaddling clothes and La Niña Maria, an image of a child Mary.
There is an unorthodox image of Our Lady of the Milk and Good Birth (Nuestra Señora de la Leche y buen Parto), which has Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus.
“Mahal na Birheng Biglang Awa,” the only Filipino-titled image, is a life-size representation of the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Islas Filipinas (Our Lady Queen of the Philippine Islands).
Hard to miss is Our Lady of Veritas (Truth) that is positioned at the entrance of the exhibit area, as if beckoning the faithful to come and pray.
If your heart is calm
She is the patron saint of the followers (Kapanalig) of Radio Veritas, according to Sr. Gemma Dela Cruz.
“Unlike the other images here, the Our Lady of Veritas’ mouth is slightly open, as if [she’s] talking to us. If your heart is calm, she will reveal things to you,” she said.
In this image, Mary is not holding the Baby Jesus. Instead, her palms are up. “Her hands are not holding Jesus because she already gave Him to us,” Dela Cruz said.
Something about Mary
For some people, there are never enough images of Mary.
Dela Cruz said many were looking for Our Lady of Remedios so they could pray to God through Mary.
“The sick come here and look for Our Lady of Remedios that stands for ‘remedies,’” she said.
Others were looking for Our Lady of Guadalupe, another famous icon from a Marian apparition.
Since the exhibit opened last Oct. 8, every day, about 1,000 people come in, De la Cruz said. The number would double during the weekends.
“Mama Mary attracts a lot of people. She’s the patroness of Filipinos. We’re the only people who call her Mama. She really is our mother,” she said.
For this year’s exhibit, Fr. Anton Pascual, president of Radio Veritas, said organizers hoped the Marian images would not only inspire the faithful to follow the example of Mary but also move them to share whatever they have to help the victims of Tropical Storm “Ondoy.”
“We hope to get support for the victims of Ondoy,” said Pascual, who also heads Caritas Manila, the charity arm of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Also included in the exhibit are 20 Marian and Mother and Child paintings of inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City who are all serving life sentences.
The Grand Marian Exhibit on the second floor of the SM Mall of Asia runs until Wednesday, Oct. 14.