Story By Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga
Photos By Meryl Molina
“Nuestra Señora de La Salud, itulot mong kami’y malayo sa karamdaman…”
The soothing melody and the pleading words of the Hymn to Nuestra Señora de La Salud echoed through the empty campus of Colegio de Sto. Tomas-Recoletos last July 16, 2021. The same hymn filled the Thomasian family with gentle anticipation for the blessing and dedication of the new image of the Blessed Virgin at the school’s iconic staircase now called the Escalera de La Salud.
Just as the golden rays of the setting sun bathed the 80-year old tropical Spanish school building in filtered light, Rev. Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno, arrived to lead the rites of blessing and dedication.
The solemn event, which also included lighting of candles for the Blessed Virgin and offering of flowers, was the first of a series of activities during the Prior Provincial’s Renewal Visit to the Augustinian Recollect community in San Carlos City. It was indeed a fitting welcome for the Prior Provincial.
Fr. Selma was with Rev. Fr. Ernil Almayo, OAR, Provincial Secretary. They have previously toured Augustinian Recollect communities in Luzon, Bacolod City and Talisay City.
CST-R’s escalera or staircase is the one located above the Principal’s Office at the St. Augustine Building. However, the Hispanic lattice windows, that framed an enclosed balcony, characteristic of colonial convents, had been off limits for a long time. The architectural feature had long gathered dust and cobwebs when Rev. Fr. Vicente Ramon, Jr., OAR, school treasurer, thought of refurbishing and relaunching it in dedication to La Salud.
The new image is made of molave harvested from Monteagudo Recoletos. Local sculptor Jesus Doroca carved the image. While Architect Dawn Arañez supervised and managed its coloring and the refurbishing of the escalera. The panes and wooden balustrades were re-painted and, on that afternoon, everything shined to the point of sparkling, in true homage to the beauty that is the Blessed Mother.
Based on La Salud’s brief history, the Augustinian Recollects who sailed from Spain made a stop in Mexico where they met with the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. The nuns gave them a dark image of the Blessed Mother holding an equally dark image of the Child Jesus. The nuns also admonished the prelates to petition the Mother of All in times of need. When sickness hit the galleon the ship, Nuestra Señora de La Salud’s intercessions saved the sailors and missionaries from peril.
La Salud first arrived in Manila with the missionaries and was turned over to the constant care and protection of the prior provincial.
And in CST-R, in keeping with tradition, it was the prior provincial, Fr. Selma, himself, La Salud’s protector, who blessed Her image at the iconic spot that witnessed the growth of many a Thomasians.
The devotion to La Salud was rekindled in 2017 through the effort of Rev. Fr. Rommel Rubia, OAR who conducted extensive research about Her story and devotees.