“THE VIRGIN AND CHILD OF MANAOAG” / “DIMAD APO YA MANTATAOAG” by J.A. Austria, pen-and-ink on paper, 11 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches. From the series Kuanyin and Mary: The Anima Archetype as Compassion. Completed 09 April 2012 - Manila.
“The first in a series of inks entitled Kuanyin and Mary: The Anima Archetype as Compassion” . It’s a portfolio of 20-something print-like inks that will deal with the various manifestations of Mary and the bodhisattva Kuanyin as compassion figures. This piece is the “green light” for the project, based on the story of the Virgin of Manaoag.
According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to a young farmer sometime in the 1600’s. At first the man only heard a beautiful voice calling his name [taoag]. When he turned his eyes to the hill where the call is coming from, he saw a beautiful woman made up entirely of light, carrying a cute baby and a rosary.
It is a narrative in the pattern of European “apparition legends”. But it seems that in the colonial Philippines, the Virgin was not of a prophet of impending doom—but a compassionate healer of sicknesses and other human miseries.
Her message was brief and simple. Her wish was that a chapel be erected on that hill and promised that she will heal / comfort all the sick and troubled people who asks for her intercession.
The story is rich in archetypal symbols of the sacred feminine or anima: the madonna and child motif [a symbol of wholeness], her appearance atop a tree [axis mundi motif], the later appearance of healing water…all these are classical symbols of the healing qualities of the positive anima.
But what really strikes me is the element of “calling”. The lady was in fact known to the people as Dimad Apo ya Mantatawag—the lady / woman who calls. From the spiritual point of view, she’s the compassion of the Sacred calling people to come and receive her maternal embrace.
And I guess that message remains as poignant as it was 400 years ago. The Basilica of Manaoag [which houses an ivory image of the Virgin Mary] is probably the most popular shrine celebrating the Sacred Feminine in the Philippines. She called only once…but it still echoes for the past four centuries.