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Mother Figured

Marian Apparitions and the Making of a Filipino Universal

Mother Figured

Marian Apparitions and the Making of a Filipino Universal

There is no female religious figure so widely known and revered as the Virgin Mary. Mary has inspired in cultures around the world a deep devotion, a desire to emulate her virtue, and a strong belief in her power. Perhaps no population has been so deeply affected by this maternal figure as Filipino Catholics, whose apparitions of Mary have increased in response to recent events, drawing from a broad repertoire of the Catholic supernatural and pulling attention to new articulations of Christianity in the Global South.
In Mother Figured, historical anthropologist Deirdre de la Cruz offers a detailed examination of several appearances and miracles of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines from materials and sites ranging from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. By analyzing the effects of the mass media on the perception and proliferation of apparition phenomena, de la Cruz charts the intriguing emergence of new voices in the Philippines that are broadcasting Marian discourse globally. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork and hitherto unexplored archives in the Philippines, the United States, and Spain, Mother Figured documents the conditions of Marian devotion’s modern development and tracks how it has transformed Filipinos’ social and political role within the greater Catholic world.

320 pages | 20 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Religion: Christianity


"Mother Figured combines history and anthropology in a study of Marian devotion and reported apparitions of the Virgin in the Philippines since the mid-19th century. It considers how the mass media has shaped perceptions of the phenomenon."


"An ambitious endeavor to bridge history and anthropology."

American Anthropologist

Mother Figured is a major feat of imagination rooted in impressive scholarship and historical research that is relevant, multi-layered, and certainly original—both theoretically and through its combination of subjects, time periods, and modes of analysis. This creative and informative book represents a major step in the ethnography of religion in the Philippines.”

Katherine Wiegele, Northern Illinois University

“In Mother Figured, de la Cruz offers a historical ethnography of Christian orthodoxy, miraculous apparitions and public piety in the colonial and post-colonial Philippines. She excavates the roots of Marian devotion in the Spanish missionary deployment of the figure of Mary as the touchstone for conversion and translation. She then traces its subsequent transformation into the simulacrum for the nationalist body, into a post-war mediatrix of miraculous events, into the televisual mother-figure for the Cold War era, and into the depoliticized avatar of the Filipino diaspora. In her varied techniques for inciting faith, de la Cruz uncovers in Marian devotion the workings of modernizing impulses that lead to the emergence less of “folk religion” as to what she calls a “Filipino universal.” In its theoretical capaciousness and attention to archival details, Mother Figured marks a singular contribution to the fields of postcolonial religious studies and the history and anthropology of Christianity.”

Vicente L. Rafael, University of Washington

“This scholarly and richly contextualized book draws our attention to visions and voices, so often overlooked in the study of religion—and so poorly understood. De la Cruz shows us not only the way humans reach out to touch the divine here on earth, but how those moments show us what is particular to that local human world.”

Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford University

“De la Cruz offers a complex and detailed set of arguments about a topic which has been a blind spot in studies of Philippine Catholicism up until now. With Mother Figured, she addresses two major gaps in this subject  to date. First, she offers a fascinating ethnographic account of elite and middle class religious practice to compare with existing work on rural Catholicism; second, and simultaneously,  she provides the first major study of the cult of Mary in its Philippine forms, to compare with the rich literature on Marianism in Europe, Latin America, and beyond. It is an accomplished, theoretically sophisticated, and carefully nuanced book that represents tremendous scholarly labor, against the odds of destroyed archives and uncooperative visionaries. It combines both ethnographic and historical approaches throughout—an important strength. Original, imaginative, elegantly written, and clearly structured, and full of fascinating case study material, Mother Figured is a timely book and clearly a major contribution to the field.”

Fenella Cannell, London School of Economics and Political Science

"With her study Mother Figured [De la Cruz] puts with one major scholarly stroke the Philippines (and Southeast Asia) on the global map of Marian (apparitional) studies. With an ethnological approach, combining the theory and methods of anthropology and history, and with an eloquent style, De la Cruz convincingly portrays the importance of Mother Mary for the Filipino community in the postcolonial era."

The Catholic Historical Review

Table of Contents

Note on Spelling


Part One: Images

Chapter One: The Authority of Appearances
Chapter Two: First Filipino Apparition

Part Two: Visions

Chapter Three: Mary, Mediatrix
Chapter Four: Petals for the Public

Part Three: Mass Movements

Chapter Five: Of Crusaders and Crowds
Chapter Six: Coincidence and Consequence



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