Last December 12, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales declared Ermita Church the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guia, the oldest Marian image in the Philippines. It was this image that started the cult of the Virgin Mary that is now spread all over the country. Up to now, no one has been able to explain its true origin. What is known is that on May 19, 1571, one of the sailors of the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi found the image enshrined on a pandan (screw pine) in a village called Laygo. The indios, the name Filipino was not yet in use, were said to have been worshipping the image for years. The head of the image was of narra, the body of molave. The two were dowelled with wooden pins. Two friars, Diego de Herrera and Francisco Ortejo, who accompanied Legaspi to Luzon said that the image was that of the Virgin Mary. So it was not destroyed as a pagan idol. Instead it was recognized as the very first image of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines. How it got to the Philippines before the Spaniards came remained a mystery. The Spaniards dressed the image that was worshipped by the pagans in royal vestments and built a rustic as her shrine. According to the annals of the Manila Cathedral, she performed so many miracles especially in behalf of navigators that she was given the title Nuestra Señora de Guia (Guidance). To her was attributed the fact that from an inconsequential community, Manila became Asia's No. 1 Port. She was the official patroness of the Galleon Trade Whenever a galleon left, she was taken all the way to Cavite. A procession for her was held whenever any galleon was overdue and she presided in the Te Deum that proclaimed the sighting of the galleons arriving from Acapulco. The galleon trade brought so much progress that by 1606, the rustic chapel was replaced by a stone church. She was popularly called Capitana of the ships of Castille. In 1758, a Royal Decree proclaimed the image found in a pandan as the Sworn Patroness of the city of Manila.
So the image of Our Lady of Guidance in Ermita church goes back to the very beginnings of our history. In November 1970, His Holiness Pope Paul VI made a historic visit to the Philippines. He celebrated Mass in the Manila Cathedral with our Lady of Guidance at the main altar. After the Mass, His Holiness blessed and kissed the image that pagan Filipinos worshipped before the advent of Christianity to our shores.