OUR LADY PEACE AND GOOD VOYAGE
ANTIPOLO CATHEDRAL FROM STONE CHURCH TO NATIONAL SHRINE
In 1591, the Jesuits missionaries took over the ecclesiastical administration of a parcel of land that was formerly part of the conquered Kingdom of Tundok (now, Tondo). By 1596, the Jesuits transferred their missionary center from a settlement in Taytay to the village of Antipolo, where they had successfully converted a total of seven hundred household. As the village of Antipolo attracted migrants and new settlers, increasing converts to the catholic faith and stretching its border to include under its jurisdiction several smaller villages and areas populated by aetas, a church was deemed a necessity.
A hill at the endmost of the village, overlooking the village, was the chosen site. In 1604, a church made out of timber was erected with funds raised from the contributions of the faithful. On March 25, 1526, the galleon "El Almirante", arrive from a trading voyage with Acapulco, Mexico. On board was Don Juan Niño de Tabora, a newly appointed Governor General of the Philippine Islands, and with him was a statue of the Blessed Virgin, versed from a dark hardwood, sculptured and blessed in Mexico.
The arrival of the Brown Virgin at the port of manila was cause for a celebration. A religious procession attended the image of the Blessed Virgin as she was transferred from the galleon to the church of San Ignacio, the Jesuit church in Intramuros. When the Governor General died in 1623, the Brown Virgin was given to the care of the Jesuit Fathers to be enshrined in the church of Antipolo. In 1639, the Chinese in the village of Antipolo rose in revolt, burning both town and church. The massacre was so grave that Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera and Captain General, ordered the Brown Virgin captured and transferred to Manila. Henceforth, the Brown Virgin was moved to Cavite where it was venerated.
The Dutch, who were at war with Spain, came to Cavite in 1647. But, despite their superior vessels, they never took the town because the Brown Virgin, as is universally believed, protected Cavite from the invaders.
In 1648, the Brown Virgin was removed from the Cavite shrine and was transferred to Mexico aboard the galleon "San Diego" as the patroness of the Acapulco trade. Going against the ferocious Pacific storms, freebooters and pirates on the high seas, political enemies of Spain, through incompetent navigators and mutinies from demoralized crew, the Blessed Virgin of Antipolo made successfully crossings on board the galleons, "Encarnacion", "San Diego", "San Jose" and the "Nuestra Señora del Pilar", playing the Manila-Acapulco-Manila route from 1648 to 1748. It was inevitable that the Brown Virgin be acclaimed "LA VIRGIN DELA PAZ Y BUEN VIAJE".
After each voyage, the Brown Virgin was received by two highest officials of the islands-the Captain General and the Archbishop of Manila would conduct her back to her own altar in Antipolo, the occasion being a religious holiday. By this time, Antipolo had already been elevated from a simple village to a regular township status in the province of Tondo. Her home was by now a large stone church, the native stone continually discolored by years of rain and sun, with the main street of the town, a cobbled carpet leading to the church patio. This church had three big altars done in the Corinthian style, in the tradition of the Intramuros churches. On the high altar was exposed the Virgin of Antipolo, whose pedestal, tradition has it, was made out of the trunk of the Tipolo tree where she was found on several occasions. Above the image of the Brown Virgin, in a cupola atop the altar, was a portrait of the Brown Virgin nestled amidst the branches of the Tipolo tree.
The image of the Christ Saviour presided over the altar to the left, while the altar to the right was dedicated to the image of St, Joseph. On either side of the church were six wooden hand carved panels, each panel has a scene depicting a miracle of our Lady. On the sides and the back of this church wound a narrow passageway, at the end of which was a small dark covered stairway leading to a platform at the back of the higher altar. From this platform, one could reach out for the fragrant gold embroidered garments of Our Blessed Lady since one was faced to the backside of the image.
In the Royal Decree of May 19, 1864, the curacies of the Royal province of San Nicolas de Tolentino based in Mindanao were turned over to the Jesuits and in return, the curacies of Antipolo, Taytay and Morong were tuned over to the Agustinian Recollects. Thus, the church of Antipolo came to be under the administration of the Agustinian Recollects. On November 26, 1926, the image of "NUESTRA SEÑORA DELA PAZ Y BUEN VIAJE" was canonically crowned by the most reverend Michael J. O'Doherty, Archbishop of Manila. In 1944, on the closing month of the Japanese Imperial Army made Antipolo town their garrisons, and the church became their arsenal. Fearing for the image's sanctity, the Sacristan Mayor, Procopio Angeles, took it upon himself to look after the Brown Virgin. He wrapped the image in a thick woolen blanket and placed it in an empty gasoline drum, then he buried the image in its container under the convert kitchen. At the first sign of an American attack, the Japanese had whole blocks of the town blazing, mercilessly killing civilians caught in the fiery mayhem. A number of the town people, together with the Sacristan Mayor, gathered in the mountains and carried their Patroness over rough and steep trails, evacuating her to safer grounds. From Kulaiki, a hill between Antipolo and Angono, then onward to Angono, to Santolan, then to Pasig. With her shrine razed to the ground, the Brown Virgin remained in the home of the Ocampos at 963 R. Hidalgo in Quiapo for a whole month. She was then transferred to the Quiapo church.
On October 15, 1945, in solemn ceremonies and accompanied by thousands of her devotees, she returned to Antipolo, her home.
Upon her return, the Brown Virgin gazed upon her supplicants from upon a makeshift throne. The church was only a makeshift wooden frame with a motley assortment of galvanized iron, aluminum and sawali for the roof and sidings.
Today, the Cathedral of Antipolo is a modern circular edifice topped with a large dome on which stands a huge cross. Its spacious interior of marble flooring can accommodate about 5,000 persons. Above the main altar is the shrine of our Lady - a marble balcony roofed by a marble canopy encased in glass. Six marble pillars, three on each side of the balcony, in a semicircle frame the area of the main altar. Four paintings depicting miracles of Our Lady adorn the spaces between the pillars.