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Our Lady of Piat: Shaper of Cagayano’s Catholic Faith

Written on the cover of the souvenir program during the blessing of the new shrine in Piat, Cagayan were these words: ‘Those whose steps were led to this sanctuary on the hill, no matter what, they long to return not so much to gather back those footprints but to renew a filial bond with a mother to loving and true.”

July 2. The neighborhood roosters have out-crowed each other to announce the stroke of three o’clock of ‘ dawn. The kitchen of a family in Centro, Baggao, Cagayan has been busy an hour earlier to cook the various meals they will bring to the municipality of Piat. Children as young as five years old were forcibly awaken by the parent for a bath and to ready their Sunday’s best. They have to look good in the eyes of ‘the Black Madonna’ known in this part of the country as Our Lady of Piat.

By four o’clock, the entire family will trooped to the provincial road junction, a few meters away from their house, to wait for their other fellow pilgrims and the hired local passenger bus, the Caltrans to bring them to the pilgrimage town of Piat.

It’s the same scenario in most municipalities in the region from the rural to the urban areas in the last four decades or so. July 2 has been declared as the feast day of the Nuestra Senora de la Visitacion De Piat known as the Nuestra Senora De Piat; a day where thousands of devotees arrived even two days earlier to avail of choice areas within the vicinity of the Basilica Minore of The Lady.

She has been hailed as “Yena Tam Ngamin (mother of all)” among the Ibanags and the Itawes while the Ilocanos like those of the Baggao family calls her ‘Apo Baket (Venerable Matriarch).’ Since its Canonical Coronation on June 20, 1954, the veneration to the Virgin of Piat has bordered on fanaticism very similar to that of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

Fanaticism or not, the reputation of the image has reach a wider population from all over that almost everybody who process their faith to the Roman Catholic church has one way or the other took a trip to Piat to ask intercessions from The Lady in their everyday activities; trip overseas, examinations, marital problems, problems in the work place, promotions, anniversaries, you name it, they ask for it.

The image which, according to historians, came from Macau and initially brought to Lal-lo, Cagayan, has been attributed to the various healing miracles as early as 1604 when a Spanish officer was healed from his sickness. Majority of these are healing miracles and the latest have been documented. The church said that of late, there have been several other reported and these are being looked into for authentication.

In 1995, the Holy See recognized Piat as a Shrine of the Virgin Mary.

On April 2005, the “Bukal Ng Buhay (Spring of Life)” was discovered after a Filipina Overseas Worker claimed the Lady visited her in a dream and asked her to look for a hidden spring. While the discovery has added to the mystique of Our Lady of Piat, skeptics began to flood the church with all their hidden agenda.

Earlier, the church announced that whether the spring is miraculous or not, it now depends on the faith of the believer.

Of the hundred or so miracles attributed to her, five have been captured and documented by early Cagayan chroniclers including that of 1624 drought, the saving of full-passenger boat from Pamplona to Aparri on June 2, 1735, the healing of a lunatic boy in Abulug, the crocodile incident as reported by Father Romano and the numerous floods which, to this day, continue to wreck havoc over the plains of the Itawes region.

Originally brought to the Itawes region for evangelization attempts and to subdue the warlike Itawes in the region, it has since took its home on top of a hill in Piat town, facing the municipality of Tuao, to save it from possible onslaught of the Rio Chico River during the monsoon months.

The shrine is now one of the only 12 Basilica Minores in the country. True to her promise, The Lady has continuously shower Cagayanos with her blessings which come in various forms. As in the years passed, expect the municipality to be turned once again into a mecca of unquestionable faith, a heritage left by the Spaniards long after they have all been gone. Northernforum.net

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