Three Kings Parish, Delos Reyes Street, 3105 Gapan City , Nueva Ecija province -Philippines
The Divina Pastora’s two centuries of existence has given rise to legends on the origin of the image – that it was found floating on a river, or discovered under a tree. The fact is the image did not have a supernatural but rather historical origin.
The exterior of the church is plain while its interior formerly has a central retablo with niches dedicated to the Epiphany of the Lord and to the Virgen La Divina Pastora.
National Shrine of La Virgen de Divina Pastora
Near the end of the 1700s in Gapan, there lived a woman named Doña Juana Valmonte, one of the eight children of Don Bartolome dela Cruz Valmonte, said to be Gapan’s first gobernadorcillo in 1747, and Doña Eulalia Fernandez — the couple from whom all the Valmontes descended.
The Parish Church of the Three Kings in Gapan is considered the oldest and biggest colonial church in Nueva Ecija. In 1986, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines declared this church as the National Shrine of Virgen La Divina Pastora.
A spinster, Dona Juana was a woman who could be considered much ahead of the ladies of her era. She lived in the family farm, serving as its overseer, in Barrio Callos, named after a tree species that abounds in the place that, at that time, was a part of Gapan but is now within the jurisdiction of the adjacent town of Peñaranda.
This central retablo however was torn down in the 1970s due to infestation of termites. It was replaced with a modern style sanctuary dominated by a huge image of the Crucifixion, arguably the largest in the province of Nueva Ecija. Only the two side retablo are maintained to this day. Prominently displayed on the left retablo is the original miniature image of the Virgen Divina Pastora which was donated by the Valmonte Family in 1986. The right retablo enshrines the Adoration of the Magi.
Described as a stocky woman, she was said to possess such physical prowess that she could wrestle cattle to the ground when it was time to brand them.
While the palitada of the walls was stripped, the grand painting of the Holy Trinity on the church’s dome has been preserved. Local artist, Isidoro Samonte painted this image in the early 1900s.
We were led up to the church belfry and we saw some bats living
life sized statue
collection of rosaries from different countries
Located within the church is an old house which also served as private quarters of the current head of the shrine. We were allowed an exclusive access to the chapel.