Our Lady of Covadonga
by jericho andrade
(365 purok 1 PNR Sucat Muntinlupa City)
the battle is recorded from 711 to 722 a.d
The story of Our Lady of Covadonga begins with King Pelayo and his small army of three hundred men. They lived together as free men in the Cantabrian Mountains shortly after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. His was a tiny kingdom that extended for only ten miles in any direction, but it was a summit that stood clear above the tide that had submerged the rest of Spain. His defiance of Muslim rule must have seemed almost futile and insignificant, but the Muslims eventually learned of it and sent a large army to crush the Christian resistance.
It was the spring of the year 722 when the Muslims finally appeared in the valley to dislodge Pelayo from his lofty peak. Thousands upon thousands of Muslim warriors scaled the steep slopes toward the cave in which Pelayo awaited them.
Amid the mountainous crags of Pelayo’s realm there is a cave that is now known as St Mary of Covadonga. There, Pelayo and his men prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her assistance and intercession before God as the power of Islam was about to be unleashed against them. Her favor they obtained, in a very remarkable way.
The following day the Moors advanced to kill Pelayo and destroy any last vestige of resistance to their rule in Spain. As soon as they were within range, the Moors began to fire arrows and other projectiles at Pelayo and his men. The arrows and stones turned, however, and came crashing down upon the ones who fired them. Pelayo’s men sent boulders down upon their enemy, and started avalanches that swept many of them away. Although they initially fled, the Muslims were not to be easily overcome, and soon regrouped for another attack.
As the Moors advanced a second time, again they were treated to a shower of rocks and boulders while the sky darkened at the approach of a thunderstorm bursting with lightning and heavy rain. At first the rain made the rocks treacherous and slippery, but as it continued it loosened the stones and cast them down upon the ill-fated Moors. Still, for every one who fell there were two to take his place.
Suddenly a strange light appeared in the cave of Covadonga, and in its midst the Mother of God appeared to Pelayo and his beleaguered men. She bore a red shield with a white cross, with the holy name of “Jesus” upon it. Speaking to Pelayo, she said, “Take courage. The Moors are wavering. Go out now and attack them in the name of Jesus Christ and you shall conquer.”
Having delivered her message, the Mother of God, Our Lady of Covadonga, disappeared and the supernatural illumination faded. When Pelayo emerged from the darkness of the cave a moment later, his eyes blazed with resolve. Filled with newfound confidence, his men swept out from the cave to hurl the Moors from the slopes.
Thwarted by the fury of the thunder storm, their precarious hold on the mountain fast giving way beneath their feet, the Moors fled for their lives as they perceived their approaching doom. Pelayo’s men rushed upon them, and with renewed conviction sent down more arrows and boulders after them, and many more were carried away to their death. When the survivors reached the floor of the valley below, the River Deva had been turned into a raging torrent that swept still more away.
Thanks to Our Lady of Covadonga, Pelayo’s victory was such that the Moors were completely driven from the mountain, although enough survived to tell the tale of their defeat. Their general, Alqama, had been slain, and governor Munuza - he who had sent Pelayo to Cordoba in chains - had been uprooted. Never again did the Moors dare to enter Pelayo’s domain to contest with him.
This victory marked the first time that the Moors were defeated, and was the beginning of what is now called the Reconquista, or Reconquest of Spain, which lasted well over 700 years.
When Our Lady appeared to Dom Pelayo she did not say a word but left a statue in the cave.
Miracles, Cures, and Signs
The Christians defeated the Moors at the battle of Covadonga against incredible odds.
The apparition story of Our Lady of Covadonga is legendary and receives traditional approval from the Church. A Basilica stands at the spot of the apparition to honor Our Lady.
The feast of Our Lady of Covadonga is September 7.
IN THE PHILIPPINES
The Galleon Trade and Our Lady of Covadonga
During the Spanish conquest of the East in the 1500's, the Galleon trade was established between the Philippines and Spain ushering the Spanish colonization of the Philippine Islands. It became a common practice that each Galleon that sailed to the East carried an image of the Blessed Mother carved in hard wood fashioned after the medieval queens of the time. This was a part of the Christianization effort of Spain. Each image was brought into land and a church or fortress was built in her name. Because of the vast trade and commerce all around the Philippine Islands, there came to be numerous shrines scattered all over the archipelago in honor of Our Blessed Mother. Some of the more popular ones are Our Lady of La Naval in Manila, Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan, Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo, Our Lady of De Guia in Malate, Our Lady of Piat in Cagayan Valley, and Our Lady of Covadonga in La Trinidad, Benguet.
It is believed that the image of Our Lady of Covadonga was carried by a Galleon that docked in the ports of La Union. Later her image was brought up the mountains of the Cordilleras by the Spanish conquistadores who wished to Christianize the mountainous regions of North of Luzon, the Cordilleras. It is said that the conquistadores carried her image and ascended by foot through the mountainous paths on the boundaries of La Union and Benguet into a beautiful flat valley surrounded by mountains. They named the place La Trinidad and built a stone chapel to house the image and started the devotion to Our Lady of Covadonga.
A clear evidence that the Spaniards stayed there is the name of the place, La Trinidad valley, which is the only Spanish-named town in the entire province of Benguet. The Spaniards also founded the Parish of San Jose there but, unfortunately, due to the large indigenous pagan population, the devotion to Our Lady did not prosper. In the meantime, lowlanders from the neighboring Ilocano regions slowly migrated to the town of La Trinidad and they were the first Roman Catholics to live in the area. The natives remained strong in their culture and pagan beliefs.
The Roman Catholic faith gradually flourished in La Trinidad. In the 18th century, the stone church was ravaged by a fire by still unknown reasons. But the image of Our Lady of Covadonga was saved by the religious townsfolks who painstakingly built a wooden Church in the turn of the century. This wooden church grew and became the earliest center of the Catholic faith in La Trinidad, with mostly local Ilocano migrants as parishioners and some natives gradually embracing the faith.
But the Church got burned again after the Second World War, in 1948, and all records and historical data about the parish was lost in that fire. The centuries-old Image was saved once more and it was later moved in one of the homes in the Poblacion area, residing for a time in the Sales’s family home. In the 1950's a small wooden chapel was built on the same site and the image was placed at the right side of the altar, unmarked and without any adornments or garments for many years.
In 1979, a new replica of the image of Our Lady of Covadonga was donated from Spain to the San Jose Parish Church by devoted Asturians led by the Cacho family. This replica was received by the then Parish priest, Rev. Fr. Camilo Declercq, with the Most Rev. Bishop William Brasseur, Vicar Apostolic to Benguet and the Mountain Provinces, in attendance. The centuries-old statue was removed from the right side of altar to give way to the replica. The original image was transferred to a smaller chapel of the Sacred Heart in the same town only to be to be forgotten and left in utter neglect.