Filipino Catholics brave rain to celebrate Mary's birthday

Philippines marks first national working holiday in honor of the Blessed Mother
Filipino Catholics brave rain to celebrate Mary's birthday

Devotees of the "Our Lady of Penafrancia" brave the rain as they carry an image of the Virgin Mary, covered with a plastic sheet, during a religious procession in Manila on Sept. 8. (Photo by Maria Tan)

Hundreds of Filipino Catholics braved the rain as they joined a religious procession in Manila to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on Sept. 8.

Oblivious to the heavy downpour, devotees of the "Our Lady of Penafrancia" held what was described as a "visitation" or the visit of the Panafrancia image at the cathedral in Manila.

"Today a blessing came from heaven with the heavy rain," said lawyer Ed Castelo, president of the Penfarancia Devotees Association of Manila.

He said the rain was "holy water for us" as they celebrate the Blessed Mother’s birthday.

Castelo has been a Marian devotee since he was young, when his mother established the association.

"Filipinos consider Mary as a true mother who really takes care of us and who is always there to intercede for us," he said.

The lawyer described as a "miracle" the disappearance of a cyst from the face of his wife after a "miraculous oil" from the "Our Lady of Penafrancia" was applied.

Paul Dizon, another devotee, said he witnessed miracles that brought him closer to the Blessed Virgin.

Every year, he travels to the Bicol region, an eight-hour drive south of Manila, to attend the feast of the "Our Lady of Penafrancia."

Every year, millions of Filipino devotees show their devotion to her in a festival that dates back to the 1700s in the Bicol region.

Barefoot men called voyadores carry the image of the Virgin in a religious procession, which has become an annual ritual of piety and religious fervor.

Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law declaring Sept. 8 of each year, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a national special working holiday.

Although there were no exact accounts of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Protoevangelium of James, written in the 2nd century, provided the historical accounts and paved the way for the evolution of the Christian belief.

In 2017, Duterte signed another law declaring Dec. 8 of every year a special non-working holiday to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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