History and Culture

Our Lady of Candles Shines a Beacon of Hope as the Patroness of Western Visayas!


Lory Joyce Andagan
Lory Joyce Andagan | Mar 18, 2020

Today, there is a worldwide due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across nations everywhere. With all the news that is happening, people are paralyzed with uncertainty, scared about not knowing what to do in the face of such an unprecedented problem. In times like this, offering everything to the Almighty is the best. Prayer is a powerful weapon in every battle that we are facing. Catholics have many ways to communicate with God, like offering petitions through their preferred saints. In Western Visayas, the Nuestra Sra. Dela Candelaria or Our Lady of Candles is one of the saints that the locals turn to for hope and guidance.

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The shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located at Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral- the only cathedral in the province of Iloilo. Many believe that the 16th century 5ft old image of the Blessed Mother is miraculous, as detailed by the numerous testimonies of those who experienced it. History tells us that the image was first seen floating in one of the rivers in Jaro, Iloilo. It was brought to the house of one of the prominent families in the area then brought to the cathedral. “It was attended by many people and during that time, you can just imagine how they carried the image from the cathedral to put it in the niche at the very top of the church. This shows the faith of Ilonggo to the blessed Virgin Mary,” says Rev. Fr. Julius Almeria, liturgist.

On 21 February 1981, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to the cathedral and declared Our Lady of Candles as the Patroness of Western Visayas, crowning the image himself. To commemorate such a historical event, the image was taken down from its niche and was placed inside a crystal cage atop the balcony of the cathedral so that her devotees can catch a better glimpse of their patroness.

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During the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, many devotees line up just to venerate in front of the image. “True devotion is the fruit of faith of every person, which is gradually developed through time. Since the people have devoted themselves and put their trust in the Blessed Mother, their prayers were answered. Because of that, they have vowed to come back every feast of the Lady,” explained Fr. Almeria.

As a symbol of devotion to the Lady, many light candles at the chapel and offer prayers. Others bring flowers to show their love and devotion. “In the liturgy, the candle symbolizes Christ as the light. If you look at the image of the Lady, She is holding a candle. It means the Blessed Mary is the bearer of the light who is Jesus Christ. That is why, the perdon candle symbolizes light – light who is Christ, and Mary as the bearer of that light," he adds, "Perdon or 'Pardon' in Spanish means forgiveness; this candle was lit during prayers, during calamities, and also when asking for forgiveness for our sins. “Perdon is very significant. You can’t have any perdon not associated with the devotion of Our Lady of Candles.” 

Given the current situation where mass gatherings are prohibited because of the threat of COVID-19, you can still communicate with God within the comfort of your homes. Gather your families, light a candle in your altar, and pray for the Blessed Mother for she is listening. With faith, devotion, the light that the candle brings will also be the light that will help everyone surpass the frightening threat of COVID-19.

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