The Shrine of Our Lady

The last full day of our trip had a pretty simple game plan: attend mass one more time and shop for "pasalubong" (regional delicacies to bring home to family & friends). To do this, we drove 20 minutes to Manaoag. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to a farmer, atop a cloud-veiled tree, and told him where to build her church. The original ivory image of Mary (not the fountain, pictured right) has an elaborately bejeweled crown, dress, and regalia. It's said to have healing powers, and many make the pilgrimage to Manaoag to attend mass in the beautifully decorated church and to pray to the shrine.

I found the candle gallery to be one of the most stunning aspects of this church. Here, different colored votives float in stone basins, and white taper candles stand in iron racks. The flames reflect off of all the stone, and with the morning sun shining through the ironwork of the open windows, the gallery creates such an enchanting parade of lights.

My mom and I were able to buy rosaries and prayer bracelets for ourselves and my sister. The shop next to the church has a plethora to choose from, as well as santo niƱos and carved images of The Last Supper.

After leaving the church, we made our way to Romana. The small house acted as a shop, where you could pick from shelf after shelf of tasty treats and delicacies. Their biggest seller is the salty and sweet peanut brittle. For myself, I bought the special chocolate needed to make champorado (a sweet rice pudding) and grabbed plenty of bags of banana brittle!

My sister also requested polvoron (a crumbly shortbread cookie), so I made sure to grab a few packs of those as well.

Other treats we bought included Pastillas de Leche (creamy, sweet milk candies), tupig (coconut and sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf, cooked over hot coals), hopia (flaky pastry filled with sweet bean paste), and ube (jam made from purple yams).

After all of the shopping, the only thing left to do was to pack them in boxes...and not eat them all before we even left for the airport. :D