The first quarter of the year is probably the grandest and busiest time for the Ilonggos. After the Dinagyang Festival and the Chinese New Year celebration downtown, it’s now time to celebrate the Festival in Jaro. February is welcomed with fun and devotion as both fun-loving and devoted Ilonggos commemorate the annual Catholic Feast of Our Lady of Candles (Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria). It is one religious activity that Ilonggos look forward to every year. Tourists, local and foreign, all flock to Jaro to venerate the Patroness Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria.

Our Lady of Candles

Our Lady of Candles is a Marian title depicted by a Roman-Catholic image made of limestone of the Virgin Mary whom Catholics in Western Visayas revere. In 1972, Pope John Paul II declared Our Lady of Candles as the Patroness of Western Visayas. The image is displayed atop the balcony-façade of the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral. The Feast itself originated from the Virgin Mary’s rite of purification after giving birth to Jesus Christ. This event also commemorates the presentation of Christ at the Temple. The devotion to the Senora is very much apparent by the attendees of the Mass and the number of candles lit in her honor. The lit candles are said to provide protection in times of disasters.

In Jaro, Ilonggos’ devotion to the Candelaria dates back to the Spanish Colonial Era. As Jaro became the industrial and commercial center in the Visayas, the celebration became grander and grander every year. Today, the feast is bigger and better than it was before. It is considered to be a huge part of the Ilonggos’ rich culture and religious devotion.

Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair

The feast of the Candelaria is signalled by the opening of the Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair. Preparations for the feast begin weeks before February as the whole plaza is turned into a giant “tienda” or market place. In the plaza, you can find all sorts of things from potted plants and orchids, vases from Romblon, to second-hand apparel and even different kinds of accessories.

As any typical fiesta in the Philippines would have, you can enjoy yourselves by placing your bets on colourful kiosks in the “Perya” (Filipino-style Carnival). Some rides like the caterpillar and a Ferris-wheel are also put up inside the plaza.

Another part of the rich Ilonggo culture that is never left out during the fiesta is the tradition “Bulang” (Sabong in Tagalog) or Cock Fighting. It is held in the coliseum inside Jaro Plaza. This is not your usual cock fight because the bets placed on the games are huge sums of money. The rich and the poor all over the region all attend this annual event.