Since then the church has never been closed, not even when curfew was declared during martial law under President Ferdinand Marcos. Three shifts of private security guards ensure good order and there has never been a single case of vandalism.
Fr. Echano said it is hard to explain what keeps people coming to visit Our Mother of Perpetual Help every.
"Evidently, the love of God and the intercession of Our Mother of Perpetual is truly experienced by the devotees, in spite of all the pains and struggles they go through in life," he said.
Devotees and pilgrims from far across the country bring traditional offering of flowers and lighted candles. They recite novena prayers, pray the Holy Rosary, sing hymns and participate in the evening processions to honor and thank the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. John Paul II was a visitor to the shrine in 1981 on his apostolic visit to Philippines.
The shrine celebrated its annual patron feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on June 27 and marked the 150th anniversary of the icon.
The Redemptorist communities in Baclaran have launched a series of environmental projects including one called "Greening the Shrine." The Redemptorist community is now adopting solar power as a safe and clean alternative to conventional energy sources.
With an estimated installation costs of $192,000, it will generate power peaking near 86 kilowatts. The Redemptorists will be able to sell any surplus power generated.
Fr. Joseph said that the solar project will have high initial costs. In the long run, he said, this investment will be recovered as the shrine and the rectory will pay much less for electricity. The project will help the shrine reduce its carbon footprint.
He said the shrine must embody what Catholics preach, including "sustainable living, sustainable relationships with Mother Nature, with God's creation."
The shrine has begun to recycle plastic bottles and other recyclable materials disposed of by visitors.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Fr. Joseph said that the plastic bottles are now being reused for vertical gardening in the shrine. He said they add to the beauty of the place and show that growing vegetables is feasible even in the city.
"Besides adding beauty to the place, vertical gardening aims to show that growing vegetables even in the city is feasible," the priest added. "This will hopefully encourage the devotees to grow food right in their own backyard so that they do not have to buy everything they need."
The shrine's website helps people on the internet connect to prayer at the shrine. Novenas and live Masses are streamed online.
"This is essential as we would like to reach out to the millions of devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, especially Filipinos, who are spread in almost every country of the world," Fr. Joseph said.
This article was originally published on CNA July 2, 2016.