FIESTA OFICIAL. There are two dates in December that were assigned by the Catholic Church as holy days of obligation, one is the birthday of Jesus on the 25th and the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion on the 8th. I remember back in grade school when the 8th of December was declared as fiesta oficial and our teacher would remind students to go to mass on that day.
In the Spanish colonial days, everyone attended the solemn
Te Deum at the Cathedral in Intramuros. In the evening, the Walled City was illuminated by candles from carrozas carrying images of the Blessed Mother and from every window hung the blue and white colors of the Virgin.
GRAND MARIAN PROCESSION. The tradition continues to this day in Intramuros as the Grand Marian Procession that is usually held on the Sunday closest to December 8. Venerated images of the Blessed Virgin from Piat to Zamboanga are brought out from the church’s altar and from private homes to Intramuros for this annual congress of magnificent carrozas and images of the Virgin Mary dressed in extravagant embroidery studded with gold thread and gemstones and ostentatiously accessorized with gold and silver fittings.
The procession is the longest and most flamboyant religious parade of different representations of the Mother of God in country. Images are accompanied by joyful marching bands and colorful folk dancers complete with fiesta props.
MARY LAND. The Marian cult in the Philippines began with the finding of the image of the Lady on top of a pandan bush. According to the legend, when Magellan arrived in Cebu, he presented to the wife of Rajah Humabon the images of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The converted queen chose to keep the Child Jesus. The image had become the venerated image known as the Sto. Niño de Cebu. In 1571, the a member of the Legaspi Expedition found the image of the Virgin Mary enshrined on a screw pine on a beach in the village of Lagyo. It is believe that this is the same image that Magellan presented to the queen years earlier. This image is enshrined in Ermita Church as the Nuestra Señora de Guia.
From the Nuestra Señora de Guia, a Marian cult multiplied in different parts of the country as the Nuestra Señora de la: Inmaculada Concepcion, Consolacion y Correa, Paz y Buen Viaje, Santo Rosario, Medalla Milagrosa, Dolores de Turumba, Soledad de Porta Vaga, Piat, Pronto Socorro, Perpetuo Socorro, Buensuceso, Regla, Desamparados, Divina Pastora, Porteria, Carmen, O (La O of Pangil), los Remedios, Pilar, Peñafrancia, Manaoag, Casaysay, Salambao, Aranzazu, Montserrat, Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Estrella, Angeles, Gracia, Rosa, Candelaria, Caridad and so on.
OUR LADY OF THE AETAS. In Zambales, there is legend about the image of the Blessed Mother that antedates the arrival of the Spaniards. According to the legend, an Aeta chieftain named Djagig was resting after an unsuccessful hunt when he heard a woman’s voice calling Djagig take me home. Turning around, he found an image of a woman perched on a rock. The chieftain took it home but his disappointed wife threw it into the fire but the image did not burn. Djagig announced the the miracle to his tribe. When the first Recollect friars came to Zambales in 1607, they went to the Aeta village to see the famous wooden icon. The friars were surprised upon seeing the image of the Blessed Mother that came before them.
The image was brought to the parish church. It stayed there until the Philippine Revolution when a group of katipuneros killed the parish priest Fray Julian Gimenez and brought the image to an Aglipay Church. In 1976, a Columbian priest commissioned famous santorero Maximo Vicente to sculpt a replica of the
Ina Poon Bato.
EPILOGUE. As we have seen in the Intramuros Grand Marian Procession, there are hundreds of icons of the Blessed Mother all over the country that are enshrined and venerated in churches and are in custody of families and private individuals. Each are surrounded with legends and stories of miracles like Pakil’s Turumba, Quezon City’s Santo Rosario de La Naval, San Mateo’s Virgen de Aranzazu, Antipolo’s Virgen dela Paz y Buenviaje and so much more.
But more than the many ways we call the Blessed Mother and the several ways we celebrate her fiesta, it would seem of the several wishes and pleas from the people described as pueblo amante de Maria many have been granted in the mysterious workings of prayer to the first follower of Jesus Christ.
8 December 2015
Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion