Don Juan Nino de Tabora originally brought the image of our Lord of Peace and Good Voyage, which has become the Patron Saint of Barrio Antipolo, to Manila on board the ship “Almirante” which set sail on March 25, 1826 from Mexico. It was said that this ship had weathered many storms during its voyage. A small fire also broke near the hold of the ship. Through the walls were scorched the hold, however did not explode. This miracle, and the success and safety of the passengers were attributed to the loving care and protection of the Blessed Virgin, who is the advocate of travelers and seafarers.
The ship must have been wrecked after its arrival in Manila because the image was washed ashore on the southern coast of Catanduanes. It was found tied to a piece of wood believed to be the remnant of the most of a ship and bound at the foot of an “atipolo tree”. Since then, she has been called “Our Lady of Antipolo” and the sitio on the shores of which the image was found became the barrio of Antipolo.
A small hut was built to house the image near the “atipolo tree”. A plan was made later to transfer the Blessed Virgin to the church in Virac poblacion. It has been told from generation to generation that every time the image was removed for transfer from its site, it got lost; only to be found again among the branches of the “atipolo tree”. The people firmly believed that the Blessed Virgin wishes to remain in the barrio as long as the people love her and seek her loving care and guidance.
Several times in the past , the image was brought to the churches of neighboring towns of Bato and Baras for short visits that were celebrated with much rejoicing. Processions and other manifestations of religious favor were held in her honor. Each time she was always received with great affections and piety by the humble folks of Antipolo upon her return.
During the cholera epidemic of 1907, a farmer working in the field over heard a conversation between three strangers young men who were walking away from the barrio. They said that they could not enter because a woman was watching the path, which was filled with thorns. They spoke of cures for the raging disease, boiled manzanilla mixed with the bile of ‘elago’, a spice of python or boiled manzanilla into which was dipped a red hot bolo. The farmer brought the news to his neighbors and people were cured. Only three died in sickness in Antipolo while scores succumbed to it in the nearly barrios of Igang and Magnesia. Meanwhile the caretaker of the image discovered sand and amorsiko on the hem of the flowing garments of the Blessed Virgin. They came to believe that she was the beautiful woman among the thorns at the entrance to the barrios. The people thanked her for watching over them and preventing the disease from spreading and killing the residents.
Many had been committed to the Catholic faith and cured of their illness upon the intercession of the Blessed Virgin of Antipolo, but no records of these are available. Six (6) sealed bottle that contains much information about the image and the barrio is said to be buried close to the trunk of ‘atipolo tree’ under which the image of the Blessed Virgin was found. The tree had along since died after the passage of two centuries and over it was built the main altar of the present chapel.
The chapel was built with the assistance of carpenters and workers from other barrios of Virac. Suman and rice cakes were made sometimes pigs and chickens were slaughtered for the workers. At the end of the day when the work was done, there was always a little celebration marked by the drinking of local wine and tuba.
Unfortunately, for all the chapel was destroyed by typhoon ‘Sening’, which was devastated the entire barrio on October 13, 1970. It has since been reconstructed with everyone’s help. The barrio people gave a portion of their meager income. Those who have left the barrio to seek their fortune elsewhere and who have since become successful businesspersons and professionals have not forgotten to send their share too. Funds have been solicited from prominent citizens and public officials. The chapel now stands massive and strong to with stand the onslaught of the vicissitudes of nature and beautiful as a proper abode of the Blessed Virgin of Antipolo should be.
The feast day of the Virgin of Antipolo used to be a movable feast celebrated on the first week of May. It was fixed on May 7 only a few decades ago. Since then the fiesta has become a time for pilgrimage to Antipolo by people from neighboring towns to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin. Those who have left the barrio and live elsewhere always look forward to this occasion as a time of reunion with their families and relatives, friends and barrio mates. They come home to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin of Antipolo for unending affection and guidance. Many people would say that in their journey in this world, in their daily aspiration, the Lady of Antipolo has always served as a beacon, a continuing front of light and love.