A grand Marian tradition lives again–and howBy Anne A. Jambora |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Thousands of devotees are expected to converge in Manila on Dec. 2, 4 p.m., when the Grand Marian Procession starts off at the Manila Cathedral, where the festivities have been celebrated for hundreds of years. The annual visual spectacle of carrozas adorned with colorful blooms will bring together close to 100 images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from all over the country.
Expected images of the Blessed Virgin that will be part of the event include the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba from Pakil, Laguna; Virgen Milagrosa del Santissimo Rosario from Orani, Bataan; Nuestra Señora de Visitacion de Piat from Cagayan; Virgen La Divina Pastora from Gapan, Nueva Ecija; Nuestra Señora de la Consolacio y Correa from San Agustin Church, Intramuros; and Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepcion Mater Purisima under the care of the Intramuros Administration (IA).
Organized by the Cofradia de la Inmaculada Concepcion Foundation and the Intramuros Administration, the Grand Marian Procession, now on its 33rd year, aims to revive the tradition that began in Intramuros on Dec. 8, 1619. The 15-day event then had bullfights, carnivals, parades, masquerades, band and choral concerts, stage shows and even fireworks to kick off the revelry.
Today (Sunday), the national celebration of the Immaculate Conception will be replete with the participation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, just like it was during the processions of old. The procession draws more and more people each year, said IA administrator José A. Capistrano Jr., because of its unique combination of spirituality, pageantry, solemnity and festivity.
The celebration will now also get the full support of the Department of Tourism, and DOT Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. has expressed his desire to join in the festivities, said IA chief of tourism marketing and promotions Sandra M. Martinez.
For the ordinary tourist, the festivities will be still be captivating with the sight of praying, dancing and chanting devotees around carrozas carrying images garbed with the most exquisite dresses, Martinez said.
The modern annual Grand Marian Procession was first revived in 1980, when the IA was headed by Jaime C. Laya, who sought the help of Cofradia de Damas y Caballeros de la Inmaculada Concepcion, now known as the Cofradia de la Inmaculada Concepcion Foundation, led by its founding chair, philanthropist Imelda O. Cojuangco.
Laya had initially asked the support of Cojuangco’s sister, Marinduque Gov. Carmencita Ongsiako Reyes, who told him to ask Cojuangco instead. At that time, Cojuangco recalled, Laya was more familiar with her sister’s work.
A devotee since she was a toddler, Cojuangco, dressed in regal white designed by Roy Gonzales, said it was her mother who introduced her to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since then, she said she unburdens her soul to the Blessed Virgin, seeking her help even with trivial little worries.
The greatest miracle the Blessed Virgin brought into her life, however, was seven years ago when she was diagnosed with dissecting aortic aneurysm. Doctors had already informed her that she was in the throes of death and proposed an operation as soon as possible. She was going to die, she was told; it was just a matter of time. But instead of getting an operation, Cojuangco chose to pray to the Blessed Virgin.
“I’m still around. I never had an operation. This devotion to our Mother is something I will maintain all my life. I cannot remember a time when she didn’t gift me with something. I feel I am so loved,” Cojuangco said.
With her immune system at an all-time low, Cojuangco confines herself to her home these days. She limits her interaction with people lest she catch a disease. She hears Mass at home, and to this day continues to dress in all white as a symbol of her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The procession will wind through the streets of Intramuros, and will end in front of the Manila Cathedral-Basilica. Images will be assembled around Plaza Roma. Andres Soriano Jr. Ave. (Aduana) will be closed from 1 to 9 p.m. Motorists are advised to take alternate routes on P. Burgos Drive and Bonifacio Drive.