Yesterday was the feast day of the Nuestra Senyora de la Candelaria. It was the feast day of the whole Jaro District. Perhaps, among all the feast days in the island of Panay, this is the most spectacular and the most glamorous of them all. The feast is complete with the traditional Jaro Agro-Industrial Fair and Carnival, which starts as early as December and occupies the whole Jaro Plaza grounds. There are plant sales, booths, kiosks, and a carnival in the fair. The Jaro Fiesta also features a grand parade of beauties and the coronation of both the Jaro Fiesta Little Queen during the Grand Children Fantasy Ball, and the Jaro Fiesta Queen. Becoming the Jaro Fiesta Queen is a much coveted distinction for the families and scions of Jaro, and many a great daughters have become Jaro's Shining Flame and Beacon of Pride and Beauty for the night, counting among them, daughters from the Lopezes, Sen. Villar's own daughter, and this year, Jose Mari Chan's daughter. The coronation night is also a well attended event, with politicians, scions of rich families and what not's in attendance during the lavish and spectacular event.
Taking Center stage of course is the icon of the miraculous Nuestra Senyora de la Candelaria, housed in the front niche, in a shrine atop a balcony in front of the cathedral. Pope John Paul II has crowned the image himself, and proclaimed her as the patroness of the Whole Western Visayas, which in effect, makes February 2 the feast day of the whole Western Visayas for that matter.
The image was said to be found by a native fisherman on the banks of Iloilo River, and was only the size of an 8oz bottle but was very very heavy, but according to stories and personal account, continued to grow bigger and bigger, until it could not fit in its main altar on the front retablo inside the church, and had to be placed outside in a shrine where it is located to date. Miraculous cures were also reported, as well as the apparition of a mysterious lady bathing a child was also reported. Henceforth, a spring spewed forth gushing waters that have been said to have curative properties. At such times when the lady is said to have bee seen, the image in front of the Church pediment would disappear and a thick gof would cover the area. The spot is within the Jaro Plaza grounds and is now fenced in, and considered a pilgrimage shrine, neglected, and very very dirty, as it is used by some people who roam the plaza's at night as a spot to do drugs and what not's or to do carnal activities. The last time I went to the plaza for the agro-industrial fair, I was with a friend, and I pointed out the spot to her. Much to my shame and humiliation, I had to warn her not to go there because it was dangerous, and very very dirty. To date, the image of Our LAdy of Candles has grown from barely a feet tall to a whooping 6feet, and is said to still be growing. If you ascend the steps to the image, you would be able to see the original frame where the statue was first placed.
As a personal devotion to the great Goddess in her form as Our Lady Of Candles, I too visit the miraculous virgin and was one with the faithfulls. I had dinner and good talk with EC's dad in their home. Remember EC? My special guest during the opening of the Nude Photo Exhibit? His dad was a wonderfull and gracious old chum. He is a great businessman, and a wonderful teacher. After that, I headed back to the plaza for the fireworks. It was a great day, and more importantly, a meaningful one for me. After all, Candlemas, (catcholic) or Imbolc (Wiccan) as was celebrated yesterday was a day to celebrate light. A day for illumination and elnightenment, and indeed, it was for me. I will post more on Imbolc and enlightenment during the later part of this three part blogpost. Meanwhile, VIVA LA VIRGEN DE LA CANDELARIA!