love locks at baclaran
[The  photo at left shows the facade of the Baclaran Shrine in Parañaque, Metro-Manila; while the photo at right shows the love locks attached/affixed to the fence surrounding the Sta. Teresita Circle and Pond inside the premises of the Baclaran Shrine.]

According to WIKIPEDIA, it has been reported that the history of love padlocks (now known as love locks) dates back about 100 years ago. The story derives from a doleful Serbian tale of World War I, with reference to a bridge which is named Most Ljubavi in the town of Vrnjačka Banja. The story goes that a local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they vowed everlasting love to each other, Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. Consequently, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak. As nubile women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names in union with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and they would then affix them unto the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet, the Most Ljubavi bridge in Serbia.

In the rest of Europe, love locks started appearing in the early 2000s. The reasons why love locks started to appear vary between locations and in many instances are unclear. However, in Rome, the ritual of affixing love locks to the bridge Ponte Milvio can be attributed to the 2006 book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia, who made a film adaptation in 2007.

In the Philippines, love locks have also become a fad, nay a craze too, and the customary place where these love locks are attached or affixed is at the Sta. Teresita (i.e. St. Therese of Lisieux) Circle and Pond located within the premises of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Filipino: Pambansáng Dambana ng Ina ng Laging Saklolo) also known as Redemptorist Church and more popularly known as the Baclaran Church or Baclaran Shrine. The Baclaran Shrine is located along Pres. Roxas Boulevard in Baclaran, Parañaque City, Metro Manila.

The Baclaran Shrine is one of the largest Marian churches in the Philippines and features the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is popular among Filipino Catholics, and has given rise to the throngs of devotees who flood the church every Wednesday to attend the novena and the Holy Mass. In Manila, Wednesdays are popularly called “Baclaran Day” due to the congestion in the streets  brought about by the multitude of devotees who regularly visit the Baclaran Shrine, RAIN or SHINE.

The original icon enshrined above the main altar of the Baclaran Shrine came from Germany, and passed through Ireland and Australia before priests of the Redemptorist Order brought it to what was then the United States territory of the Philippine Islands in 1906. It bears the Papal arms in the back paneling.

Since the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1958, the shrine has been authorized by the Holy See to remain open TWENTY FOUR (24) hours a day throughout the entire year. The shrine itself was blessed by Pope John Paul II during his first Apostolic Visit to the Philippines in 1981. The shrine complex serves as the headquarters of the Manila Vice Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, while the Cebu Province of the Redemptorists is headquartered in Cebu. The shrine’s current rector is the Reverend Father Joseph Echano, C.Ss.R. The shrine celebrates its annual feast day on June 27, the liturgical feast day of the icon.

According to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the Shrine and its attached convent were initially dedicated to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; a grotto statue of the saint on the Shrine grounds memorializes her patronage.

The first Redemptorists came to the Philippines in 1906 and set up a community at Opon, Cebu (now known as Lapu-lapu City). Irish and Australian Redemptorists came to Manila in the 1900s. The Redemptorists community went first to a Malate parish in 1913 where they built a small, popular shrine to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

In 1932, the community transferred to Baclaran. Father Denis Grogan, the builder, was a devotee to St. Thérèse of Lisieux and made her the patroness of the church and the parish house. However, the Ynchausti family, a long-time supporter of the Catholic Church together with a multitude of friends who are benefactors too of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, donated a high altar on condition that it should enshrine the icon of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help. When the church opened, the Shrine became very popular. This ensued as most devotees who would receive blessing from answered prayers based on petitions that they submit and place into petition boxes inside the Church, ascribe these as miracles. The foregoing ascription is especially so, when petitions would refer to healing of family members who are terminally ill.

The Redemptorist priests replaced the Mother of Perpetual Help icon with a larger version to accommodate the growing number of devotees.

Contrary to popular belief, the Perpetual Help Novena did not originate in Baclaran but at the Redemptorist Church of St. Clement in La Paz, Iloilo City in May 1946. After witnessing the devotion of the Ilonggos to the icon, the Irish Redemptorist Rev Gerard O’Donnell introduced the novena to Baclaran. Linguist Rev Leo J. English C.Ss.R. conducted the first Baclaran Novena with 70 participants on Wednesday, June 23, 1948, giving rise to Wednesday’s local moniker of “Baclaran Day”.

The present Modern Romanesque church is the third to be built on the same site. It was designed by architect César Concio. It took six years to build because most of the money came from small donations—the suggestion from the pulpit was 10 Philippine centavos per week—that often ran out requiring construction to stop. The foundation stone was laid on January 11, 1953 and on December 1, 1958 the new church was consecrated. The church opened with a mass on December 5, 1958 and has been open 24 hours ever since, never ever closing.

Early in the 1970s Karol Wojtyła, Cardinal-Archbishop of Kraków, Poland, said Mass in the Shrine during a brief, unofficial stopover in Manila, as will hereunder be discussed.

When I took the Bar examinations in 1980, I never had the chance to attend a review class  as I did not go on leave not wanting to lose my monthly pay as I was then a Project Officer of the National Housing Authority particularly at its Tondo Foreshore Dagat-Dagatan Development Project (the “Project”) .

More than that, as the Project was World Bank-financed, a team of World Bank officers would regularly monitor the Project for which reason, we then have to be always ready to present progress reports on small livelihood projects that we have implemented in conjunction with enterprising Tondo Foreshore residents which we have identified as project beneficiaries.

For which reason, I started my Wednesday devotion to the Blessed Mother at the Baclaran Shrine and vowed to continue with the devotion till kingdom come.

Thus, since 1980 I have been attending the novena scheduled at 5:30 am at the Baclaran Shrine. I would usually head for the Baclaran Shrine by 4:00 AM to insure that a seat would be available as ordinarily, on Wednesdays, most especially when it is the first Wednesday of the month, the Baclaran Shrine is filled to its rafters.

As has been told, when Pope John Paul II was still then  Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, he had the chance to pass by Manila for a long stop-over. As Cardinal Wojtyla wanted to say mass, he made arrangements that he be allowed to leave the airport premises and to say mass at the nearest church. And the Baclaran Shrine was chosen as venue for the mass. It happened that it was a Wednesday and when Cardinal Wojtyla arrived at the Baclaran Shrine, he was so amazed to see throngs of people inside the church.  Indeed, it was a sight to behold, Cardinal Wojtyla was truly inspired to see throngs of Filipinos queuing up to receive the Holy Communion and of singing in unison the liturgical hymns for the novena-mass.

In cases, where I could not make it to the BACLARAN Shrine, I would usually attend the novena in honor of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help (“OLPH”) either at the OLPH church along 13th Avenue in Cubao, Quezon City, Metro-Manila or at the Twin Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church at the West Triangle Homes Subdivision similarly located in Quezon City, Metro-Manila.

Recently, I have been noticing the growing number of padlocks locked into the iron grill fence which circumscribes some kind of a fountain with a small pond behind the image of Sta. Teresita standing at the northwestern portion of the Baclaran Shrine, which I learned thereafter, is called the Sta. Teresita Circle and Pond.

As of this writing, a laminated notice signed by Fr. Joey Echano, CSsR, the Rector of the Baclaran Shrine has been affixed on the site in THREE (3) locations which announced, actually in the vernacular, that in view of the burgeoning weight of the love locks that could possible bring the fence down, the attaching of love locks have to be stopped as the location for love locks will soon be transferred to another place within the Baclaran Shrine.

Years ago, this phenomenon of lovers putting up their so-called love locks on the iron grill fence surrounding the Sta. Teresita Circle and Pond at the Baclaran Shrine was featured in a television show entitled RATED “K”. The show is hosted by Korina Sanchez (“Korina”), the pretty wife of the presidential candidate and Liberal Party standard bearer, former Senator Mar Roxas (“Sen. Mar”), who now appears to be a sure cinch to the Presidential palace in Malacanang. It has been bruited about that the largest love lock attached to the fence is that love lock of  Sen. Mar and Korina.

Will their LARGE love lock which plausibly could bring luck to the relationship of the TWO (2) lovers, would it similarly portend a win for Sen. Mar in the coming 2016 Presidential elections?

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