( Speech delivered by then Councilor Irene E. Luansing in 2004 )
Your honor, I rise on the question of privilege to lay attention on a very important matter concerning our city’s historical heritage.
On July 16, which is 3 days from now, we will be celebrating our 56th City Charter Anniversary, which also coincides with the feast of our Birhen sa Cotta, the subject for veneration of Catholic faithful, particularly the Marian Devotees.
My dear colleagues, through the passage of time, this has become a religious phenomenon, whereby every July 16th the shrine of the Blessed Virgin, situated at the southern wall of the Fort, has been the pilgrimage site for devotees.
Therefore, it is essential for us to restore, preserve and conserve whatever relic found in this site, so that we and the future generation that may follow, will also experience the physical connections of our past. Your Honors, I rise not merely to remind each and every one of that fact, which I understand we are all knowledgeable about; but rather , I would like to emphasize that as a premise for your concern as to what I should wish to drive your interest into.
Let me cite some historical accounts. Unknown to most of us, there were actually two images of the Blessed Virgin in the Fort; one of which is what we presently known as the Virgen sa Cotta. According to the Jesuit Historian Fr. Miguel Bernad, the image that we come to known as our Virgen sa Cotta was hang over the postern gate of the fort; but then, the gate was walled up and the image was placed on the southern wall of the fort. Further, Fr. Bernad revealed that the other image of the Blessed Virgin was ensconced in the wooden chapel inside the fort.
When the Americans took over the garrison, the fort became their sole domain, thus the Chapel was destroyed. The Catholic faithful then transferred the Blessed Virgin’s image to the town church.
According to Fr. Bernad, during his visits here since the 1970’s onward, the image had been gone. Probably, it could have ended up in the hands of antique collectors, Fr. Bernad sought the help of them Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, Fidel Ramos to assist in the search of the image of the Blessed Virgin but nothing ever surfaced. This year, the fort shall celebrate its 248 years since its contractions in 1756.
It is my simple hope, that as we commemorate the 248th years of the Fort’s existence, what has been left in the Fort, whatever relics there may be shall be gathered intact; more so, that we find the image of the Blessed Virgin.
Although the image can be accounted as the property of the Catholic Church; nevertheless, it has very significant value to our city’s long history, hence, our involvement in finding it is called for.
Let us spearhead the search now. Your Honors, this humble representation is thinking of a measure to urge the National Historical Institute and the National Bureau of Investigation to search the missing image of the Blessed Virgin; and we might as well involve the Department of Foreign Affairs for this might have been stolen and sold abroad.
Let us then task a special body in the LGU for this effort. I am asking for your support in this measure as soon as I move for its passage at the appropriate time during this session. Thank you.