The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag is one the most visited churches in the Philippines. It is situated on top of the hill of the small town of Manaoag in the Province of Pangasinan. It is where the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, locally known as Ina’n Birhen na Manaoag or Apo Baket is enshrined. The remarkable long history of the church since the establishment of the mission of Santa Monica by the Augustinian friars when they first arrived in the Province of Pangasinan for evangelization is indeed something to be treasured by the folks of Manaoag.
Historically, when the Augustinians arrived in Pangasinan to evangelize in 1575, they established the mission of Lingayen, Bagnotan (now Dagupan) and Santa Monica (now
Manaoag). However, they left because of the resistance of the Pangasinenses who remained in their paganism. There were other undocumented missionaries who ministered in Pangasinan. The Franciscans also attempted to evangelize the Province. However, their efforts were futile as they were not able to convert the natives of Pangasinan. Subsequently, in 1587, the Dominican Missionaries established their mission in Binalatongan (now San Carlos) under the patronage of their founder Saint Dominic De Guzman.
The Dominicans also started mission in Mangaldan which is 9 km from Santa Monica that was administered as “visita” to the Augustinian convent of Lingayen. Considering the distance (30 km) of Lingayen to Santa Monica, the Augustinians willingly surrendered its ministration to the hands of bishop of Nueva Segovia, Bishop Diego de Soria, OP, who in turn assigned it to Fr. Juan de San Jacinto, OP, who was the Vicar of Mangaldan. Thus, when the Dominicans accepted this mission in 1605, Fr. de San Jacinto thought of building a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary.
Tradition holds that the name of the town, Manaoag, came from the story of apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a farmer on a treetop. The story relates that in the center of a cloud appeared the Virgin
of the Rosary and her most holy Son. She expressed her wish that a shrine be erected in her honor in that same place, where her devotees could go in the future, to implore her maternal protection. This story spread far and wide and people would go to the place where the apparition happened. So when people would ask who visited the place, they would answer “diad lugar ya caoalaan na Birhen ya man tataoag.” or “diad Apo ya mantataoag.” And so, the town was called Manaoag. Since then, the church had been visited by many people seeking the help of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag.
The image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, after the proper petition had been made, was canonically crowned on April 26, 1926 at 7 o’clock in the morning. The ceremony took place in front of the Church. The Apostolic Delegate then, H.E. Guglielmo Piani, S.D.B., placed the crown on Our Lady, while the Archbishop of Manila, H.E. Michael J. O'Doherty, crowned the Holy Child.
On April 21, 2011, the church was affiliated with a special bond of Spiritual Affinity with the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Manaoag Shrine is the first to have this status in the Philippines. This bond assures pilgrims of the same blessings and the chance to obtain plenary indulgence, as they would when visiting a papal basilica in Rome.
On February 17, 2015, the shrine was elevated to a Minor Basilica in a proclamation ceremony graced by more than 100 archbishops and bishops, leaders of church and state, and thousands of devotees.
The Dominican Community who administers the Basilica has never stopped in their mission and vision – to preach the Gospel of Jesus and to evangelize the people of Manaoag and the pilgrim people of God. Regular masses and other religious activities in the parish keeps the Basilica in communion with the
Church. Recently, improvements and innovations have been implemented to create a more conducive place for prayer and worship. After every mass a Blessing Prayer is said for the sick and religious articles are sprinkled with holy water. Outside, vehicles are blessed in an organized manner.
Ushers and usherettes are stationed inside the church to provide a prayerful and orderly visit to the Basilica. They also serve as guides for the pilgrims, especially for the first timers. During the pandemic, they make sure that the health and safety protocols of the Basilica are maintained by sanitizing the pews inside the church after every mass. With their efforts, we hope to offer the pilgrims a memorable visit to the Basilica, where they can pray and practice their Catholic faith. When the church is full, the Basilica has created more open spaces beside the church to accommodate more people to participate in the holy mass.
The Basilica also maintains the upkeep of the facilities and surroundings of the church. The souvenir shops of the Basilica offer a variety of religious articles, prayer booklets and novenas as well as candles which pilgrims can light with a
fervent prayer at the Candle Gallery. Although the veneration area of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag at the back of the retablo is temporary closed due to the pandemic, people can still get a little bit closer to Our Lady in front of her throne, to ask for her intercession.
The Basilica will always be a channel of hope, providing spiritual growth to all who come and visit Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag. Truly, Our Lady of the Rosary does not and will never cease calling her children. In turn, her children, the people of God, cannot refuse her calling, not even with hardship and sacrifice, just to visit her in her shrine and to seek her intercession.