This 1930s Home in Nueva Ecija is a House of Prayer Dedicated to the Burial Cloth of Jesus Christ

Things are looking up for the little town of Nampicuan in the western nook of Nueva Ecija.

The small agricultural community of Nampicuan in Nueva Ecija has been described, over the last few decades, “a bit like the neglected child of Nueva Ecija and the adopted child of Tarlac.”

But on December 8, the Sanctuary of the Holy Face of Jesus of Manoppello in the Immaculate Conception Parish was declared a Shrine by the Catholic Church.

Immaculate Conception Church

Three-piece Altar Retablo carved by Artist Rolando Flores; exact Replica of Holy Veil of Manoppello

Ongsiako-Alzate Heritage House

The Holy Veil of Manoppello is believed to be the long-lost Sudarium of Jesus. In Jewish tradition, a burial cloth is put on the face of the dead person, just as the body is wrapped in a shroud. The image on this burial cloth (sudarium), now called the Holy Veil, is honored today as the Holy Face of the Risen Jesus. The Holy Veil in Nampicuan is an exact replica of the original in the Basilica di Volto Santo in Manoppello, Italy. It was gifted to Nampicuan by the Rector of the Basilica and Guardian of the Relic, Capuchin Friar Carmine Cuchinelli, in 2014 after its Philippine tour.


From the Gospel of John 20: 3-8:
“Then Peter and the other disciple went to the tomb. The two of them were running, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and saw the linen cloths, but he did not go in. Behind him came Simon Peter, and he went straight into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there and the cloth which had been around Jesus’ head. It was not lying with the linen cloths but was rolled up by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.”


The Holy Veil is 17 by 24 centimeters, the cloth made of a rare, sheer fiber called sea silk, made from mollusk fibers or byssus. Byssus was the most expensive material in the ancient Mediterranean world, found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and mentioned in the Rosetta Stone. The material is so fine and shines like gold under the sun, yet sturdy enough to last thousands of years. Today, there is but one remaining person who can harvest and weave sea silk–Chiara Vigo in Sardinia, Italy.

 Heritage House "Torre" with 360-degree view

Ambassador and Assemblyman Manuel Alzate Exhibit

Gowns of Miss Philippines 1929 Pacita Ongsiako de los Reyes

In 1978, when Sister Blandina Schloemer, who spent 20 years of her life studying the Veil, superimposed the Countenance from the Turin Shroud with the Countenance of Manoppello, she found a perfect match. The negative of the Dead Christ was fixed on the Turin Shroud, while the positive of the Resurrected Christ was imprinted on the Veil.

In a 1999 press conference in Rome, Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer, Jesuit professor of the Gregorian University, announced that the Veil in Manoppello is none other than the historic and legendary Veronica. In 2005, German historian and journalist Paul Badde wrote his book The Face of God, which documented his lifelong research on the relic in Manoppello, and sent it to Pope Benedict XVI. On September 1, 2006, Pope Benedict visited the shrine and proclaimed that year as the Year of the Great Jubilee of the Divine Countenance Sanctuary in Manoppello.


Antique hardwood kitchen stairway

HOPE Reception Area

In May of this year, His Eminence Cardinal Luis Tagle visited Manoppello. In his May 20, 2017 interview with Antonio Bini, after he encountered the Holy Face, he said:

“I saw the Holy Face under the changing of the light, not only a face of tenderness but of welcoming…as if He would say, “Welcome Luis Antonio!’ It is a face that speaks, it lives, yes. And the message, the word, is the face. It is a face that turns toward me but I did not feel any fear, fear in front of a judge or of a face that condemns. 

“It is a face of truth. And the truth is love. And the love conquers. It also conquers fear. I do not want to hide from pure love. It does not make sense to hide myself. Here it only makes sense to open up my heart in front of this open face, open out of love, open for the welcome, open, also to forgive all my mistakes. For me, it is an experience of liberation and thus a religious experience…”


HOPE & Heritage Museum

On October 13 this year, the Catholic Church also inaugurated in Nampicuan, the House Of Prayer & Evangelization (HOPE) “where life is made different.” This initiative was led by Bishop Roberto Mallari of the Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and YOUCAT/DOCAT Philippines Foundation, part of a global organization aimed at helping the youth reconnect with their Catholic Faith. 


Pope Francis, in the DOCAT foreword:

“When I invite you all now really to get to know the social doctrine of the Church, I am dreaming not just about groups that sit under trees and discuss it. That is good! Do that! My dream is of something greater: I wish I had a million young Christians or, even better, a whole generation who are for their contemporaries “walking, talking social doctrine.”

The HOPE & Heritage Museum in Nampicuan has a distinguished history. It was built in the early 1930s by Emilia Ongsiaco and her husband Manuel Alzate as their country home. It was from there that they managed their over 600-hectare hacienda and entertained guests and prominent people. Manuel Alzate was the 1st Assemblyman of the 1st District of Nueva Ecija, the 1st Philippine Ambassador to Rome and India, and the 1st Philippine Consul General in Australia and Hawaii. His wife Emilia played a pivotal role in supporting his public career and in raising their three sons, Ismael, Antonio, and Eddie.

Hacienda Alzate, as it was called then, is a grandchild of the vast Hacienda Esperanza, the largest landholding bestowed by Spain’s Queen Isabella as a royal land grant to a private individual. In 1893, Hacienda No. 3 of the Hacienda Esperanza, which included the Nampicuan area, was sold to Marcelino de Santos and Lucio Ongsiaco. It was sometime after, during the American period, that the De Santos-Ongsiaco-Lim Corporation of Manila was formed. According to a Supreme Court document from March 1925, their portion of Hacienda Esperanza was about 15,700 hectares.


Today, all that remains of this haciendero era is the house, which was donated to the Catholic Diocese of San Jose by Dr. Antonio Alzate in the 1990s. It still has a torre on the fourth level, an octagon structure from which the landholdings can be viewed 360 degrees. To reach this torre one must climb the beautifully carved mahogany winding staircase. Details of the house include persiana-style mouldings and "spiderweb” bespoke grillworks from Felix Huertas that were popular at the time.

Both the Shrine and the HOPE & Heritage Museum may be visited. Please call Fr. Christian Magtalas at 09176242840. For directions, click here

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Violeta Gallego
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