By Herman M. Lagon
THE FEAST of Our Lady of Candles in Jaro, Iloilo, embodies faith and tradition deeply cherished in the Ilonggo Catholic community. Celebrated today, February 2, this annual festival marks the Presentation of Jesus Christ and reflects Jaro’s rich cultural heritage dating back more than four centuries ago. The bustling Jaro district comes alive with devotion as thousands gather at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral to honor Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, the patroness of Western Visayas. Here, the ritual of candle blessing symbolizes light and hope, echoing the belief in their protective power.
This feast holds a unique significance, as Pope John Paul II canonically crowned the image of Our Lady of Candles in 1981, distinguishing it as the only Marian image in Asia to receive such honor directly from a Pontiff and now a Saint. This event deepened its spiritual significance and embedded it further into the hearts of the Catholic community. The devotion originated in 1587 when the image of the Blessed Mother with the Infant Jesus was miraculously found by fishermen in Iloilo, leading to centuries of veneration.
The Feast of Our Lady of Candles aligns with the Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas Day, intertwining the light of Christ with the guiding light of Mary. Across the country, churches commemorate this day with candle blessings, reinforcing the belief in Jesus as the light dispelling darkness. The cultural richness of the feast is further highlighted by various activities, including processions and the selection of a Fiesta Queen, adding elegance and pageantry to the celebration.
As devotees gather around Jaro Cathedral, a sense of unity and communal strength prevails. This gathering is more than a religious event; it is a powerful expression of faith and trust in the divine. The celebration is a tapestry of faith, culture, and history, embodying the enduring devotion of the Filipino people. The lighting of candles and the heartfelt prayers are a poignant reminder to the devotees of Mary’s enduring role as a guiding light.
Participating in the feast at Jaro Cathedral is a timeless ritual that connects the faithful to their spiritual heritage. The cathedral, a symbol of the enduring Catholic faith, enhances the spiritual experience, linking past and present devotion. This feast is a religious observance and a time for reflection and renewal, inspiring the community to embody Christ’s light in spreading love, peace, and compassion. This celebration is a reminder of Mary’s enduring presence as a beacon of hope and guidance, making it a shining example of how spirituality can unite a community in unity and love.
Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.
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