DAGUPAN CITY – Pangasinan's tourism industry took a beating in February last year, following a false report on an alleged “flesh-eating disease” spreading in certain places in the province.
The report said two persons were suffering from a “mysterious” disease that is eating the flesh of its victims.
The hoax story went viral on social media which actually led to the hashtag #PrayForPangasinan. People were terrified and panic spread among locals all the way to Pangasinenses abroad.
This prompted the provincial government to act swiftly on the matter and conducted an investigation which belied the report on the false disease.
It turned out that the two cases of flesh-eating disease reported by ABS-CBN’s late night news program “Bandila” was actually caused by leprosy while the second one was a case of psoriasis.
Bandila has released its official statement and apology for their "mysterious flesh-eating disease" report on Pangasinan which caused unintended mass hysteria to viewers especially in Pangasinan.
Former Health Secretary Enrique Ona also clarified that “there is no reported case of 'flesh-eating' skin disease in the country yet. Absolutely no reason for the public to panic.”
Despite this controversy, Pangasinan remains a top tourism destination in the region and one of the great spiritual destinations for millions of pilgrims being the home of the Our Lady of Manaoag.
On October 13 last year, Pope Francis has given the title “minor basilica” to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag.
The newly-declared Minor Basilica houses the image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, which according to most Catholics is “miraculous.”
According to a post by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the shrine is also a parish church of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. It added that the shrine is an affiliate of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
This means the spiritual benefits that one gains by visiting the papal basilicas will also be received by those visiting the Shrine of Manaoag.
The devotion to Our Lady of Manaoag has helped deepen the piety of many Catholics not only in Pangasinan but throughout the country. (MCA/AMM/PIA-1, Pangasinan)