During my second visit to the island of Panay, I dropped by the Jaro Cathedral in Jaro District, about 10-minute drive from downtown Iloilo City. This cathedral is also known as the Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary. Built about 148 years ago (1864), it is one of the oldest churches in country and the first church to be built in Panay island. (Photo by Manny Cabasan)
It has been renovated many times after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1948. Its blend of Baroque and Gothic style is a result of these renovations.
When I took a closer look, I noticed a crowd of people in an elevated altar just above the main entrance. I went to see what was in there. (Photo by Manny Cabasan)
I learned from the people that this glass-encased statue is the 400-year old Lady of Candles otherwise known as the Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria. Oral traditions say that the statue is continuously 'growing' making it a miraculuous relic to the believers who flock to this shrine once in a while. The annual fiesta celebration is held in her honor, a highly-anticipated event every 2nd day of February.
I took a glimpse inside and found the church filled with church-goers practicing their Catholic faith. There are large statues installed on the huge pillars, about 15ft above the floor.
This beautiful church is where Graciano Lopez Jaena, one of our national heroes, was baptized. Every Ilonggo is proud to declare that this cathedral attracted Pope John Paul VI who celebrated a mass here in 1982, and declared the Lady of the Candles as the Patroness of the Western Visayas.
Standing ramrod straight just across the church is the belfry. It is intentionally separated from the main building to be used as a watch tower against armed attackers. It is also becoming one of the attractions here.