The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated Dec. 8, but Filipinos traditionally start the festivity on the first Sunday of December when hundreds of images of the Virgin Mary are paraded inside the old walled city of Manila. Organized by the Confradia de la Immaculada Concepcion
, the religious procession this year featured some 90 images of the Blessed Mother from different parts of the country in what has been dubbed as the "grand Marian procession." A military brass marching band accompanies the procession of devotees who are mostly dressed in white as they parade around the old walled city of Intramuros
. The first Marian procession, held in Manila on Dec. 8, 1619, lasted for 15 days. During the Spanish colonial rule that lasted for 300 years, the annual procession, which was supposed to promote catechism, varied between the days when the procession was held. Today, the procession has become a showcase of the most prominent Marian images in the country.
Images of the Blessed Virgin Mary are paraded around the old walled city of Manila during the annual religious procession to mark the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission of Family and Life, warned that the procession is not about the beautiful dress or the carrozas
of the image. A carroza
is the carriage, usually bedecked with flowers and candles, that carries the image of the Virgin Mary. "We see [the procession] as very grand because of the carrozas
, the band and so on, but it's not about that," said Castro. "Its about the devotion to the Blessed Mother," added the priest. Father Castro explained that the elaborate procession is the Filipino devotees "way of expressing their love to the Blessed Mother." "That's why you see the image dressed beautifully and adorned with a crown," the priest said, adding that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "very simple." He also warned that while the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary have different names, there should be no contest as to what image is the most beautiful or miraculous "because they are all the same." The annual feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation, meaning observing Catholics should attend Mass and avoid any nonessential work, to commemorate the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
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