Jaro Fiesta, also called Fiesta de Jaro, La Candelaria, and Grand Jaro Fiesta, is an annual religious festival in Jaro in Iloilo City in the province of Iloilo, Philippines from January 24 to February 2. It is held in honor of Our Lady of Candles and it is considered one of the biggest yearly Marian festivals in the Philippines along with Peñafrancia Festival in Naga City, Camarines Sur.
History of Jaro Fiesta
Jaro Fiesta is the feast day of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Jaro (Our Lady of Candles), the patroness of Jaro district of Iloilo City and also of Western Visayas region which comprises the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental. The fiesta is a yearly expression of fervent devotion of Catholics in the miraculous patroness whose image is enshrined in Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral. Such devotion is said to have begun as early as 1587.
Devotees from other places in the Philippines and abroad would travel to Iloilo to join the festival. Doing so is a fulfillment of their vow to be participate in the annual feast of the patroness.
At the height of coronavirus pandemic in 2021 and 2022, a few of the activities of the fiesta were not observed such as the procession, carnival, and the selection of fiesta queen and her court.
Devotion to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Jaro
The devotion to the patroness, who is called Mahal nga Iloy (translated to Beloved Mother) has its beginnings in Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in one of the Canary islands in Spain enthroned in Royal Basilica Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Candelaria. She was discovered by one of the folks who were herding goats in Guimar, and she was initially kept in a cave towards the end of the 14th century. In 1497, the image was honored with a mass that was heard in a chapel.
During the Spanish conquest, Jaro was one of the first few settlements in the island of Panay that were established by the Augustinians including Dumangas, Oton, Tigbauan, Janiuay, and Arevalo. The stone statue of the patroness was found by a fisherman in Iloilo River in 1587, the year that the parish in Jaro was established. Townsfolk attempted to bring the image out of the water, but it was so heavy that they could not lift it. Only when they made a vow to install the image in the church that they were able to successfully take her out from where she was.
Stories of her performing miracles are plenty and they have deepened the faith of her devotees. When Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral was built in 1874, plans were made to move her there from the old church. For some reason, she could not be lifted from her place. People prayed hard, and in time of the consecration of the new cathedral she finally allowed her transfer. She is also said to be growing, and that is she is gaining height over the years.
Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Jaro was canonically crowned by Pope John Paull II on February 21, 1981. She is the only image being crowned personally by a pope, and she is the second Marian image to be accorded such honor after Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Then on April 21, 1982, she was declared the patroness of Western Visayas.
Jaro Fiesta Religious Activities
The schedule of religious activities of Jaro Fiesta is organized by the church authorities, and it includes the following:
Daily novena and novenario mass. It starts with novena prayers and mass heard daily from January 24 to February 1. The masses are celebrated in the main altar as well as in the grotto in the cathedral grounds.
Coronation of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. It takes place in the last day of novena which is in February 1.
Pontifical Masses. The pontifical masses occur on the feast day. The first one is conducted in Hiligaynon language and in the morning. It marks the blessing of candles that the faithful bring to the cathedral and a solemn concelebrated mass. The second one is in the evening and in English lanaguage.
Discurso sa Mahal nga Iloy. February 2 is the feast day. It is marked with two liturgical events: the presentation of the Child and the purification of Mary. According to tradition, every first-born child must be presented in the temple and redeemed by the parents with an offering. Additionally, every who woman who gave birth is considered impure, a circumstance that befell on Mary when Jesus was born. So she performs a purification rite such as going to the temple and making offerings to God.
In Jaro, the fast day is marked with Discurso sa Mahal nga Iloy or simply referred to as Discurso. It is characterized by a young person who offers songs and prayers, a practice that is called binalaybay, extolling the virtues of the patroness.
Procession. The patroness is brought out from the cathedral and led along the major thoroughfares of Jaro. She is followed by the fiesta queen and court, schools, institutions, representatives of barangays of Jaro district, St. Joseph Regional seminary, clergy, and organizations.
Jaro Fiesta Secular Activities
On the other hand, secular activities are conducted by Association of Barangay Captains of Jaro. These include the following:
Jaro-Agro Industrial and Charity Fair. Also called carnival, it is a trade fair participated by the local government units comprising the Jaro District. It is an opprotunity to showcase the local products of Jareños.
Jaro Fiesta Queen. The Jaro Fiesta Queen, alternatively called Queen of Jaro Fiesta, has a long and proud tradition. She is chosen among the prominent families of Jaro. Her court will also be chosen: the male consort, princes, and princesses. She makes an appearance three times in the duration of the festivity. The first is in the last week of January where she and her court leads a float parade marking the kick-off activities of the fiesta. The next one is the religious procession that falls on the feast day as described above. Then she appears in the coronation night.
How to reach Jaro, Iloilo City
Buy a plane ticket to Iloilo International airport and take a cab to Jaro, which is about 16 kilometers away and the trip will take about half an hour.
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