Our Lady of Hope, icon of post-Yolanda faith
TACLOBAN City – Nov. 8 this year marks the 4th anniversary of the most devastating typhoon that ever hit the lands of Eastern Visayas, but for many Catholics in the Archdiocese of Palo, it is the feast day of Our Lady of Hope of Palo.
“The image and the devotion, peculiar to the archdiocese, calls to mind the devastation suffered by the people in the local communities of Leyte due to super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Nov. 8, 2013,” said Fr. Ivo Acebedo Velasquez, former dean of studies in Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, in a recent social media post.
The priest added, “It is also representative of the spirit of faith and hope that continued to be present in the heart of the people, and the charity that was evident in the outpouring of support from the world over.”
Sign of solidarity
Commencing on Oct. 30, novena prayers in honor of Our Lady of Hope are said before a particular Mass in all parishes in the Diocese of Palo.
Velasquez, who is now the priest-in-charge of the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Mission Station of Brgy. Dapdap, Alangalang town, was among the local priests who played key roles during the visit of Pope Francis to Palo and Tacloban City on Jan. 17, 2015.
It can be remembered that the Holy Father’s visit was a sign of his solidarity with and compassion for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda, which struck the region in November 2013.
During the papal Mass at the apron of DZR Airport in this city, amid a typhoon, Pope Francis blessed the image of Our Lady of Hope of Palo.
Willy Layug, a Presidential Merit Awardee for Ecclesiastical Art based in northern Luzon, donated to the Archdiocese of Palo the original seven-foot tall image of a modified Our Lady of Hope in time for the papal visit.
Palo Archbishop John Du gave Pope Francis a mini replica of the image at the Palo Cathedral as a token of gratitude for his visit to the diocese.
This image is now enthroned at the Palo Cathedral and smaller replicas manufactured exclusively under Layug’s 50-year copyright were distributed to all parishes in the Archdiocese of Palo. This was upon instruction of Archbishop Du.
Created by Layug himself, the image which was enthroned on the improvised altar for the papal Mass shows the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying the Child Jesus. The Child Jesus is seen extending a rosary to a young survivor of the storm.
“It keeps in mind the thousands who perished, the majority [of whom died] due to the storm surges that ravaged the coastal communities of Tacloban, Palo, and Tanauan,” said Velasquez.
The priest added: “The task of [picking] up the pieces and rebuilding our communities is also represented in this devotion to Our Lady, and this we keep in mind as we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the basilica of St. John Lateran the day after the feast.”
‘Resurgence of hope’
Fr. Ronel Taboso, parish priest of the sea-side parish worst hit by the super typhoon Yolanda and where the most number of deaths were accounted for, said in an earlier interview, “The devotion to Our Lady of Hope of Palo is meant to both remember the deaths of those who perished in the super typhoon Yolanda and to commemorate the resurgence of hope among the survivors by their faith in the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The devotion to Our Lady of Hope of Palo was launched at the Sto. Niño Parish Church last year.
This year through the collaboration of now Naval Bishop-elect and then Palo Archdiocese Vicar-General Msgr. Rex Ramirez and Fr. Gilbert Urbina, the newly-installed rector of the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral at Our Lord’s Transfiguration Parish, the nine-day devotional prayer has been formulated and approved to be recited in parishes.
Taboso, however, stressed that the devotion to Our Lady of Hope of Palo is not exclusive to believers in Palo but could be adopted by people elsewhere in the country and in the world.
Presently, preparations for the 4th year commemoration of Super Typhoon Yolanda of the local government units of Tacloban City, Palo, Tanauan, and other affected towns are underway. CBCPNews