February 2 is the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, the Feast of Our Lady of Candle or Candelaria Festival in Jaro Iloilo City. Every year, Thousands of devotees gather at the Jaro Cathedral to celebrate the festival and this is the reason why Jaro is considered by many as the religious capital of Western Visayas.
During the celebration, devotees would always attend the mass held inside the church while some go to the Our Lady of Candle Shrine located on top of the church to light the “Perdon” candle.
Devotees believe the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria makes miracles in their lives. Others would pray for good health while some pray to bear a child or ask for some intentions.
Here is the schedule of this year’s religious festival:
Novena Masses will be celebrated daily in the Cathedral from January 24 to February 1 in preparation for the feast day of Our Lady.
On February 1 after the 5.30 p.m. Novena Mass, vespers will be celebrated to be followed by the Coronation of the image of Our Lady of Candles located in the balcony of the facade of the Cathedral.
On February 2, 11 Masses will be celebrated at the high altar of the Cathedral starting at 4.30 a.m., with two high Masses celebrated at 7 a.m. by Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and a 5.30 p.m. to be presided by Capiz Archbishop Jose Advincula.
The formal declaration of the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles will take place during the 7 a.m. Mass.
Housed inside the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral complex is the stone image of Our Lady of Candles. The origin of the image itself had been said miraculous. Folk stories say that the image was found in the shores of Iloilo River by a fisherman, and was about only a foot tall. It was so heavy that nobody can carry it; only when the people decided to bring the image to Jaro Church did one person was able to successfully lift it.
Strange happenings surround the image and many believe that the Senora is miraculous. In the olden days, people say that the she has a habit of disappearing early in the morning and was spotted as a beautiful lady with long flowing hair bathing her son in a well found in the middle of the plaza. At the same time, a mist would cover her niche in the cathedral.
Another well known story is that before the Pacific War, the Senora’s place in the cathedral was engulfed in total darkness for days. When it dissipated, the image had miraculously grown larger. Today, the size of the image is already about 5 feet tall and many believe that it is still growing.
Even her own niche, the Senora, people say is very selective. Based on stories, she wants to be close and reachable to her children as much as possible. Back in the 1870s, upon the completion of the new cathedral, the statue of the Virgin refused to be taken from her place in the old church. The parishioners suspected that transferring to another shrine does appeal to the Virgin. So they, led by Archbishop Mariano Cuartero, prayed and said Masses to convince her, even when the sky thundered and flashed. Moved by their supplication, the Virgin consented and was installed in her new home at the cathedral after a solemn procession.
Another story with the same theme, this one in the 1990s, when the Virgin refused to transfer from her niche to the balcony in front of the church. The parishioners tried to move the image but the chains holding her broke several times. Remembering the old stories, they asked the late Archbishop Msgr. Alberto J. Piamonte to oversee the operation. Upon the direction of the late archbishop, dressed in full regalia, the image was safely placed in her present place – a pediment to the balcony especially constructed for the visit of late Pope John Paul II.
On April 21, 1982, Blessed Pope John Paul II named Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria as Patroness of Western Visayas.
Both canonical coronation and the naming of the image as Patroness are official recognitions of what has already been a fact in the spiritual life not just of the people of Panay but also of the whole Western Visayas, and those who trace their roots to the locale.