If you have been in the metropolis for quite a while, one of the most common phrases you will hear is that other word to call Wednesday: Baclaran Day. The day when devout Catholics go to this busy part of Parañaque for their weekly devotions to the Marian icon of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
At the center of this devotion is the towering contemporary Romanesque church dedicated to the Mother of Perpetual Help, which by itself has become a well-known and beloved landmark in this part of the metropolis.
Being a Wednesday at the time of this entry’s release, it’s about time that the Urban Roamer checks out this particular place as we learn as well the stories related to it.
In trying to frame the narrative of Baclaran and the Mother of Perpetual Help, it helps that we first learn the story of how the devotion began here. Thus this particular narrative began in 1906, when the Catholic religious order of the Redemptorist Fathers arrived in the country. They were among the early Catholic congregations who have established themselves in the country after the end of the Spanish colonial period. As such, they were the new ones in the Philippine Catholic scene then being dominated by the “Big 4” religious orders who have long established themselves in the country: the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Augustinians, and the Jesuits.
The Redemptorists introduced as well the devotion of the Mother of the Perpetual Help, an icon that depicts Jesus in the arms of His mother Mary wtih two angels on side. Sure there were many of such representations that have existed, but the Mother of Perpetual Help was different that the figures in the portrait had an Eastern Orthodox influence in them. (check out this post from years ago as reference) Considering that the icon is said to have originated in Crete, Greece, (a dominantly Eastern Orthodox country) that should not come as a surprise.
The Redemptorists built a church in Malate, a shrine dedicated to the Mother of Perpetual Help which soon gained quite a following. This devotion was only introduced only in the early 20th century, yet it managed to have quite a following, perhaps rivaling that of the devotions to the Black Nazarene during Fridays.
To address the growing needs, the Redemptorist community moved to Baclaran in 1932, where a new church was built dedicated to St. Therese of Lisieux. But of course, what drew the faithful there was the devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help. Although interrupted by World War II, the old fishing community of Baclaran grew into a hub of religious activity. The first novena mass for the Mother of Perpetual Help was held for the first time on a Wednesday, June 23, 1948. And the novena masses were held every Wednesday since, giving rise to the monicker for Wednesday as Baclaran Day.
It became apparent that the small Baclaran church would no longer be able to accommodate a growing number of devotees. Aplan was drawn up to build a bigger church that was to be designed by architect Cesar Concio Sr. (AKA the father-in-law of ABS-CBN Chair and actress Charo Santos-Concio) Construction took five years due to funding issues along the way. Nevertheless, the church was completed, opening its doors to the public on December 5, 1958. It has never closed since, making this church one of the few Catholic churches in the country that is always open, as authorized to do so by the Vatican itself.
Commercial activity around the Baclaran area grew tremendously as well, no doubt as an effect of the presence of the church as the old fishing community was transformed to be the Divisoria and Quiapo of sorts in this part of the metropolis. As such, the Baclaran Redemptorist Church has become a landmark in today’s metropolis that it helped define the Baclaran we know today.