Tatler Deep Dive: A Glimpse Into Marian Devotion in the Philippines
Growing up in the Philippines means one of many things: there's a high chance you've been raised Catholic.
Interestingly, the Philippines is the only Christian nation in the entirety of Asia, where over 80 per cent of its population is Catholic. Though the country is home to many believers from other Christian sects, majority of its citizens practice Catholicism and many of its schools (both public and private) teach Catholicism to young students.
With regard to this, one distinctive aspect of Catholicism lies in its Marian devotion. Catholics hold Mary in high esteem and despite very few Biblical passages describing such, believe in her perpetual virginity and her Assumption into Heaven. (Protestants, for example, reject this.) Many Catholic schools also celebrate September 8 as Mary’s birthday; many Filipinos often find themselves heading to Mass on this day.
Though the Bible doesn’t mention a specific day for Mary’s birth, scholars chose the date as it is nine months before her Immaculate Concepcion on December 8.
The Filipino devotion to Mary is an incredibly powerful belief. She goes under many names; some of local variations include the Virgin of Antipolo, the Virgin of Peñafrancia of Naga, the Virgin of Visitation in Piat, and the Virgin of the Rule (Virgen de la Regla) in Visayas. Mary has also been credited to have performed miracles for Filipinos. There have also been alleged sightings of Mary at Cabra in Occidental Mindoro and at Lipa in Batangas.
Aside from those, Mary is also a central figure in many parades and festivals held around the Philippines. For example, the Tapusan Festival in Batangas sees a Marian procession alongside floats carrying the Cross and decorated with flowers. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is famously held every year in Manila is among the grandest parades as well, with multiple statues and images of the Virgin Mother carried out unto procession. Of course, there's also the Peñafrancia Festival held in Naga, which honours their patroness, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. It's one of the most important markers of the pilgrim city, which celebrates with multiple activities that include beauty contests, dog shows, concerts, competitions, dance events, and of course, processions featuring the Lady herself.
Though it would be difficult, and perhaps a little unfair, to comment on these miracles of Mary, no one can discount the role that faith plays in the lives of those who believe. Especially during these difficult times, faith and prayer have become the cornerstones to some people's lives. While not everyone may feel the same way about Marian devotion, there's no doubt that her story and influence has had a great effect on many Filipinos' lives today—so to that we say, belated happy birthday, Mother Mary!