Feature The Black Virgin of Health
By: Kayela Genete
Nuestra Senora dela Salud, also known as Our Lady of Health, has finally been seen by the public after 400 years. Numerous miracles were attributed to this Black Virgin, making her one of the most celebrated Marian images in the country. In 1606, the first batch of Augustinian Recollect missionaries went to Manila. The seventh batch brought two images from Mexico – the image of Nuestra Senora dela Salud – in the year 1634. The Convent of San Juan de Bagumbayan was the the Black Virgin’s first home. Yet, she was moved constantly mainly because of three things: during the Chinese uprising, the demolition of the Bagumbayan Church by the Governor General Sebastian de Corcuera, and upon the threat of the British invaders in Manila. However, this never stopped devotees from flocking to her side. An author once said, “it is certainly that the image has more devotees in the entire islands.” Over 5,000 people came to her processions. If one compares it to The Black Nazarene’s processions today, that number might be relatively small. Yet, one must take into account that the population in the 1600s is small and to amass such number would mean one-fourth of the population of a certain area where she was venerated. The number of her patrons grew over the centuries. Pregnant women and the sick were immediately cured through her intercession. ‘Ex votos’ filled her altar when she was moved to the San Nicholas Church. These are offerings in fulfillment of a vow or in gratitude (usually pinned to the clothes or put in the altar of the image). The Feast of La Salud is on November 17. However, it went through changes over the centuries. Her Feast was first celebrated every Third Friday of the Lent, next on April 28, then again in February 2 and finally on November 17, the Saturday nearest to the solemnity of St. Joseph. During the bombing of Intramuros in World War II, most of the miraculous images that were housed in San Nicholas were destroyed. Nuestra Senora dela Salud’s image was one of the images that was saved. Although the image survived the havoc of war, such unfortunate events forced her transfer from one Recollect convent to another. By this time, the image of La Salud was no longer enshrined in the Church for public veneration. With this, the devotion to La Salud gradually waned and was lost in circulation, so to say. There was even a claim that the image was not spared by the devastation of war. After more than 70 years of leading a “hidden life”, the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the province of St. Ezekiel Moreno, together with our lay collaborators, is now making every effort to reintroduce, revive and strengthen this devotion to La Salud. In an age more concerned than ever before with wellness and lifestyle, Nuestra Senora dela Salud can only reclaim her throne in the hearts of Filipinos as we struggle with perennial problems — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Viva, La Salud!