Devotees seek daily access to Sta. Ana, Manila chapel well
There’s no questioning the depth of their faith.
Catholic devotees are petitioning a parish to restore daily access to what they believed to be a “miraculous well” right in the heart of Manila.
The clamor on Sunday raised tensions between local residents and church security guards, after the latter tried to tear down campaign streamers put up around the Our Lady of the Well chapel in Barangay 885, Zone 97, in the Sta. Ana area.
The petition was addressed to Fr. Andrew Litigio of The Our Lady of the Abandoned parish, also in Sta. Ana, which supervises the chapel. In a letter to the petitioners’ leader on Saturday, the priest said the restrictions were necessary for the “security and sacredness of the place.”
Housed in the chapel and considered a shrine in itself, the “healing” well located on Lamayan Street had actually been a pilgrimage site since the 1800s. It was closed to the public in the 1920s, and was only “revived” earlier this year after the chapel underwent a six-month renovation.
But after it officially reopened on Oct. 6, it was closed again the following day, much to the surprise and confusion of devotees who know the history of the chapel and the well.
Over the weekend, the parish administration reopened the chapel, but indicated it would only do so on Saturdays and Sundays. Pilgrims then came in droves, some carrying pails as though to hoard the water now that they could no longer go to the site everyday.
Sta. Ana resident and television director Louie Ignacio, who led the petition through a signature and streamer campaign, maintained that he and other devotees were not out to create trouble.
“We just want to be allowed to do our daily devotion again,” Ignacio said in an interview with the Inquirer at his shop, which sells religious items just across the chapel.
Ignacio said sheer faith had driven people, especially the sick, to flock to the chapel for its healing water—even during the period when it was officially closed.
He said he himself would draw from the well and bathe in its waters whenever he got sick—and he would get well soon afterwards. Some people also drank from the well and did not fall ill, he said.
“We just want them to return to the way things were, to what we were used to,” said another Sta. Ana resident and devotee, Malou Patina.
“(The daily devotion and trip to the well were) what my parents have grown up with, what I grew up with,” Patina added. “I haven’t personally experienced any miracle but the devotion is important to us.”
“All we could do now is to peek through the chapel gates. We look pitiful,” Patina said.
Both Patina and Ignacio said it was the first time in memory that access to the chapel was restricted.
The family of Elena Mariano, who had been serving as the well’s pro bono “caretakers,” was also surprised after the keys to the chapel were taken from them and handed over to newly hired security guards, Ignacio said.
Ignacio said the petition he started had since gathered about a thousand signatories, including devotees from other cities. It simply requested that the well be opened again daily for at least two hours, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., he said.
“This chapel should be opened to all because this is where we get our strength and solution to our problems through praying to the Our Lady of the Abandoned. It is not only the decision of one person that should be followed in running the chapel,” Ignacio said, quoting the petition.
In a letter he sent Ignacio on Oct. 22, Litigio explained in Filipino: “For starters, the chapel will be opened on Saturdays and Sundays, from 6 a.m. to 12 noon. This is to protect the security and sacredness of the place. We wish to avoid the vandalism that happens to other shrines.”
The Parish Pastoral Council executive committee was still drafting guidelines for the operation of the chapel and the appointment of the caretaker, “in preparation for the anticipated flocking of devotees from various places in the Philippines,” Litigio said in the letter.
The priest said the council was still studying whether to restore daily access to the well. He also belied rumors that water from the well would now be sold at P25 a bottle.
Ignacio also showed the Inquirer a text message supposedly sent to him on Friday by Litigio, in which the priest said: “I don’t make decisions just by the mandate of the signature. I got my appointment from my superior and from the bishop. If you want my decision, the status of the well is closed.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.