By virtue of House Bill 5241, December 8 could be declared as a special non-working holiday in the Philippines to commemorate the Feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary, the country’s principal patroness.
The Blessed Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) is also our patroness, so the 8th of December was traditionally a holiday in Antipolo City.
Many years back, Antipolo City fiesta was confined to only four barangays in the poblacion namely San Roque, San Jose, San Isidro and Dela Paz. Now, if I’m not mistaken, it’s a city-wide celebration.
Poblacion is a Spanish term for central, old town or downtown.
Having lived in Brgy. San Isidro all my life, I always looked forward to the first week of December. Everyone I know gets into the festive mood at least a week before especially when the neighbors start to set up colorful buntings and the dancing higantes start to pass by our street.
Our household was usually busy during the day (when I was younger) because of the guests. Our house was one of the usual stops and people would visit us for the desserts. Every year, there’s this Manong from Laguna who would sell us macapuno, kaong, etc. My mother prepared these sweetened, to our guests’ delight.
My siblings (actually my sister) and I are free to roam the town proper. The festivities were concentrated on Gitna (central), which is a few blocks away from our house. There was one activity that I watch every year when I was still single–the drum and lyre competition. It was held on the afternoon of December 7. The champion would be the one to perform the next morning, during the Grand Parade.
I was able to experience playing color games and other things that are already forbidden now (i.e., colored chicks) and watching dance contests and Binibining Antipolo coronation night (which was later changed to Mr. and Ms. Antipolo then to Mutya ng Antipolo).
But I wasn’t able to witness Palarong Bayan and Serenata ng mga Banda (band serenade competition). The folks did, and my mother would describe how it would be like. She was single then. 😉
I only get to see the parade where the city band plays.
Amidst the abundance of colorful festivities, one thing I made sure of every year is attending the mass. December 8 is a day of obligation, requiring the Catholics to participate in mass. It’s only right to give thanks for all the blessings you receive throughout the years as well as the Blessed Virgin’s perpetual guidance to the city and its people.
Mass is celebrated every hour at the Cathedral. My sister and I always choose the mass between 3 and 5 pm to avoid the crowd. Even then, however, the Cathedral would be teeming with patrons.
In the evening, a procession of the image of the Blessed Virgin will be held within the city proper. A firework display usually follows after the procession, when the image was on the way to the church (or inside the church; I’m not so sure).
It never seizes to amaze me how some Antipoleños are so naive of the meaning behind the feast. It’s Immaculate Conception, so it refers to the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not that of Jesus Christ.
While she was conceived through conventional biological means, God acted upon Saint Anne’s soul to keep it (the conception of Mary) ‘immaculate.’ God did this because she was going to bear Jesus Christ later on in her life.
Saint Anne is the mother of Virgin Mary.
After nine months (September 8), Mary was born. Of course, I know you know that. 🙂
[Image credit: Xavier Daniel Photography]