By John Noel E. Herrera
More than a week after Ilonggos showed their veneration to Señor Sto. Niño, this time thousands of Marian devotees flocked to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles in Jaro, Iloilo City to celebrate the feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria on Thursday, Feb 2, 2023.
The Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMC) reported that around 4,500 to 5,000 devotees were at the Jaro Cathedral, with heavy traffic observed within the vicinity of the church.
Devotees gathered around the Cathedral grounds at the main entrance door holding Perdon candles for the blessing before the Solemn Pontifical Mass was held.
The Archdiocese of Jaro said that one of the tangible proofs of devotion to the Candelaria is the distribution and lighting of Perdon candles which are believed to be miraculous and must be lighted in times of calamities and other quandaries.
It has also become the devotees’ symbol of faith in times of distress and difficulties and a weapon to overcome the evil forces and negativity in their surroundings.
During the mass, Most Rev. Jose Romeo O. Lazo emphasized that the public should open their hearts for them to love others and welcome them into their lives through acceptance and moving on from the pain of the past.
“Kabay nga sa bulig sang aton mahal nga Birhen, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, ang kadulom sang aton tagipusu-on masudlan sang kapawa,” Archbishop Lazo said during the mass.
The night before the feast, devotees and pilgrims from all over the world also gathered at the Cathedral grounds to witness the traditional Solemn Coronation of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, led by Archbishop Lazo.
The occasion also reenacts the coronation of the image by the late Pope John Paul II in February 1981 during his Apostolic visit to the country.
The Candelaria is the only Marian image to be canonically crowned by a Pope and a Saint.
Some devotees said they always attend mass and pray at the Cathedral even on ordinary days, hoping that Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria will hear their prayers, just like what other devotees already experienced.
“Bisan hindi pyesta di, gasimba gid kami kay amu na amon pagtu-o kag wala gid na gadula nga kung ano ang para sa ikamayo namon, ihatag ya gid na sa pamilya ko,” “Chona”, a 53-year-old devotee, said.
“Basta ang faith mo sa iya strong lang kag hugot kag tuod ang imo pagpangamuyo, mabati-an gid na, matuman gid na… Nagapati kami da,” she added.
Another devotee from Zarraga, Iloilo said that she made time to attend the mass during the feast to thank Nuestra Seniora de la Candelaria for all the blessings her family received and the guidance she felt.
“Nagatingala sila kagina kung diin ako makadto, ang siling ko masimba lang ako sa Jaro kay Candelaria, bisan hindi lang ako ka-pamaskwa, makasimba lang ako kag makabakal sang mga kandila kag rosary,” the 77-year-old Zenaida Martinez said.
Archbishop Lazo said the devotion to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria was brought about by the people’s devotion to the Holy Child Jesus, while the miracles of Candelaria depend on the faith of her devotees.
The Jaro Fiesta is considered to be the biggest fiesta in the Western Visayas region, which also has different non-religious side activities such as the Miss Jaro pageant and the multi-million international cockfighting contest.