Once a year, I always visited Agoo, La Union and find time to dropped by to Agoo Church. This church has a personal place in my heart because all my wishes were granted. I remember 7 years ago, it was a low moment in my life that I had a covenant with this holy place that every time I come to La Union I will pay respect and offer my thanksgiving.
Even if its an ordinary day, you can see plenty of devotees praying, interestingly such sight is now uncommon in the urban cities and municipalities. Maybe it is the ambiance of a far away municipality from Metro-Manila or maybe it is the intense devotion of the Agoo residents to Our Lady of Charity that makes the church a nice place to visit.
The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Charity. The parish was founded in 1578 by Franciscan friars, Fray John Baptist Lucarelli of Pesaro, Italy and Fray Sebastián de San Francisco of Baesa, Spain. The original church was constructed with native materials, nipa and bamboo (in Barangay Nagreban or Nagrugcan) under its patron, St. Francis of Assisi. In 1598, Padres Saturmino Franco, Casimiro Melgosa and Aquilino García finished a 3-tiered bell tower for the church. In the same year, the Augustinians named St. Monica as the town’s new patron saint.
The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Charity is noted for its Mexican Baroque architectural feature. A rosette stained glass window upon the Basilica’s facade is a marked contrast to the gray color of the front wall. Amid the statues of Saints Peter and Paul statues at the main door are carved Hebrew scripts, which is a short form of the Ten Commandments.
Agoo Basilica’s unconventional architecture is demonstrated by its two non-identical bell towers. To the left of the facade is a four-level hexagonal tower, while the right bell tower is a bell gable in its form. The confessional and the ceiling has a similar architecture. One is in front of the stained glass window of the Crucifixion of Jesus with the two thieves.
The reredos of the altar has eight wooden panels with intricately carved floral design focused on its center. At the top center of the panel hangs a large crucifix. Above the panel is where the foot-high Our Lady of Charity statue is enshrined under large canopy supported by four twisted columns. Her feet rest on an urn-shaped pedestal with the same floral design as the reredos. Two angels flanked her sides behind a silvery backdrop.
A pipe organ in the choir loft watches the craved chandeliers dotting the middle aisle, 2-tiered and carved or made of Filipino mahogany, demonstrating the rich heritage and vast culture of Agoo.
The Basilica has preserved stone blocks dragged from the original church amid its charming garden, an old wishing well and the interior mural, “The Second Coming of Christ” (by Rey Gimeno).
The 17th-century wooden statue of Our Lady of Charity was first venerated and enthroned in Bantay Ilocos Sur and brought to Agoo by an Augustinian priest. It was Maximo Vicente of Manila who refurbished it after it survived the massive earthquake of 1892.
The crowned head of the original statue is made of baked clay covered with a polished coat of fine white powder. The child Jesus raises his right hand as in a blessing, and holding a golden globe on his left hand.
Bishop Victorino C. Ligot of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Fernando de La Union filed the ecclesiastical petition to the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in Rome for the canonical coronation of the statue, with the collaboration of Jose D. Aspiras who helped restored the belfry.
The Marian image, locally called as “Apo Caridad”, was granted a Canonical Coronation on May 1, 1971 by Apostolic Nuncio Carmine Rocco, the appointed Apostolic Nunciature of the Philippines Later, the statue was desecrated by local bandits with the theft of its previous jewel-studded ivory head.
The innumerable miraculous accounts attributed to Apo Caridad in the Basilica’s altar, which includes the quick recovery of Agoo from the destruction of the July 1990 massive quake, has made Agoo a major religious center in northern Luzon. Our Lady of Charity’s feast day is celebrated every May 4, on the feast of Saint Monica, in whose honor both the Basilica Parish and Museum are dedicated.
Photo was my own shot during my short trip to Agoo, La Union (10.22.17)
More photo here: https://web.facebook.com/bhing.comiso/media_set?set=a.1121951481161870.1073741998.100000410857493&type=3