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The miracle of 1854



The miracle of 1854

By means of Shaymaa Khalil

THE humble chapel in Manila’s Barrio San Miguel, where devotees venerated a statue of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, was the only structure spared from the great fire that consumed everything around it.

The fire was so large it consumed everything in its path that firefighters trying to turn left at the foot of the Ayala Bridge had to detour. When they arrived on the scene, the fire was already out. Every building had been consumed by fire except a modest one visitunharmed amid all the smoldering ruins.

Witnesses to the fire of April 16, 1854 described the event as a miracle because only the bamboo and nipa chapel and surrounding grass were unaffected by the massive fire.

To determine that the event had been a true miracle, the Archbishop of Manila, Francisco G. Ortiz, commissioned the Reverend Father Domingo Azorin to conduct an investigation “so that the competent authority may keep an eye on the truth in order to prevent it from being distorted by arbitrary statements’. and false traditions.”

Among six witnesses, Don Juan de Martin y Arevalo, assistant to the European-English engineers, described how “it was a true miracle that the above-mentioned ermita (hermitage) was saved from the wrath of the flames. On the occasion of the fire of the house bordering the hamlet to the east, the direction from which the fresh wind came, the houses at the back of the hamlet are ermita were also burned; that due to the intensity of the fire, it crossed the adjacent stone house of Mr. Tomas Fuentes, and it was impossible for him to go to the Quintana Bridge with the firefighters in charge of the declarant, through which they had to go with the firefighters to the San Sebastian Causeway towards Malacañang, and thence to the town of San Miguel, and when they arrived they saw that the ermita was intact and the fire was out.”

“My house, which was on fire, was eight meters from the side of the street ermita or visit of Our Lady of the Rosary, and (I) saw the flames coming from my house and the other houses next to it ermita were about to fall on the roof of the chapel, and also some sparks of fire were extinguished by the strong wind, and it is indeed admirable to see that the ermita was saved from the fire, even though there had been no help of any kind, for then the firefighters approached the place, the fire had already been extinguished. That from the day after the fire, perhaps because the news about it had already spread, there was a sudden flow of people who gave alms and others, candles, picked some grass near the visita for the medicine, ‘Doña Isabel Frias , a Spanish mestiza, said.

Don Bonifacio Jose De Vera, one of the clients of the barrio, recalled that: “As one of the neighbors of the community in which the hermitage is located, I saw and witnessed the terrible fire, my house was one of the houses that burned, and I was even more amazed then, when the fire started to get near the ermita, the fire was suddenly extinguished, leaving the ermita without any damage; and what is even more surprising is that the grass that surrounded the ermita did not lose its freshness, which aroused everyone’s admiration; and no one could say that the ermita could be delivered from the fury of the fire without firemen or by any human assistance.”

“I was surprised to hear that this chapel of Nipa was spared by the fire, because the wind came against it with great force without the help of water pumps that could help save it, despite the fact that the passages on either side of San Miguel and Quiapo were impossible to penetrate, and the truth is that the area has rarely been in such dire straits as during the fire that day,” said Don Antonio de Ayala, a Spanish peninsula businessman. His passionate testimony, a testament to faith, like the rest of the testimonies, concluded: “I believed that only God, who can do everything, would save people. camarin (altar).”

Don Pedro de Alcantara testified: “I saw indeed with admiration that the ermita had not been burned, when the fire was almost on the roof and all the houses on either side of the ermita were razed to the ground, a strong wind coming from the east and was thrown around that chapel, and the most astonishing thing here is that the fire extinguished itself without the help of anyone or firemen who had not yet arrived at that place at that time. When the fire brigade arrived, the fire was almost over; so much so that the day after the fire a gathering of people took place around the said ermita, which caused so much joy, and this lasted for more than a week, and everyone was amazed at the hermitage or chapel, and the admiration of those people who there was so great that some offered candles to the Mother of God, and others alms, and some pulled the grass surrounding the hermitage, saying that it could be used for medicine.

The morning after the fire, “I approached the site and saw with awe that the ermita had been spared, and also saw a large number of people gathering to witness the aftermath of the fire,” said Don Sinforoso Victorino, the second lieutenant of San Miguel. .

Because he had not witnessed the fire himself for a while gobernadorcillo, Don Fruto Sanchez, described that when they “rushed to the scene of the fire to help the people as much as possible, I was surprised to see the ermita, and that there was no other help from other people, and that only a few who are doing a lot of work at that moment; that when the fire brigade arrived, the fire was almost out; that the houses nearest the ermita to the east and to the north were all consumed by the fire; that when the fire was out, many people came from all over and were amazed at what had happened, and everyone said it was a miracle.

After the pastor submitted the interviews he conducted, Archbishop Ortiz ordered that the original document be preserved in the parish’s archdiocesan archives. The archives of the University of Santo Tomas also keep a document of the event. In recognition of what had been verified as miraculous intervention, Spanish Governor General Manual Pavia y Lacy ordered the chapel to be rebuilt in stone, replacing the nipa visita.

Fearing that the stone chapel would disintegrate, Doña Florencia G. Barretto ordered the reconstruction of the chapel, built in concrete, in the late 1940s. Today, her granddaughter, Carmencita Legarda Cu Unjieng, is the capillitas (small chapel) keeper.

A story from centuries ago tells of a Spanish high-ranking government official who sat in a tub of hot water because of an upset stomach. Out of nowhere, a beautiful lady carrying a child appeared. She said that he needed grass that grew around a certain nipa hut which, if boiled and drunk, would help him recover. Then the lady disappeared.

The official asked the guard if he had seen a lady come through the gate, but the guard said no. The Spanish official then sent for the grass, followed the mysterious lady’s instructions and recovered. He himself then went to the visita, the nipa hut, where he found the same lovely lady and the same child at the altar. It was Our Lady of the Rosary.

A nine-day festival is celebrated in her honor from April 20 to April 28. This year, the festivities begin with the First Novena and Mass on Friday, April 20 at 6 p.m. The next day, Sunday April 21, there will be a morning service starting at 8:30 am. Services will continue each evening at 6:00 PM from Monday, April 22 through Friday, April 27. The celebration will conclude with a final service at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 28.

To get to the capillitaDriving north over the Ayala Bridge, turn left at the foot onto Carlos Palanca St. (formerly Calle del Rosario, then Echague). The white concrete chapel is 200 meters further on the right.