A grand procession of more than 15 images of the Virgin Mary, various saints and the Blessed John Paul II’s “Pope Mobile” cap the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima in Barangay Marulas, Valenzuela City.
Following a concelebrated High Mass officiated by His Excellency, Most Reverend Jose Francisco Oliveros, Bishop of the Diocese of Malolos, together with priests from the different vicariates of the diocese, the carrozas (carriages) lined up along Fatima Avenue from its holding area in the Museo Valenzuela grounds.
Adorned with flowers and lighting instruments, the carrozas were accompanied by their respective image owners and sponsors, as well, as sagalas in colorful gowns flanked by Pastoral Council officers and members of religious organizations. Monsignor Bartolome Santos, Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, blessed and incensed the images passing in front of a platform built across the church.
After the ciriales (the processional cross flanked by candle holders) made its way past the line of hermanos and hermanas of the fiesta, the visiting “Pope Mobile” was the first to awe the throng of faithful and spectators joining the procession. The Pope Mobile was nicknamed such because it was the original vehicle that the Blessed John Paul II mounted on during his visit in Manila in 1995. Now, the vehicle features a second class relic of the late pope – a zuccheto (skullcap) – which the Pope gave to a layman as a souvenir.
Lando Cruz, caretaker of the Pope Mobile said that he has been driving it for about 16 years now.“Kahit medyo naluma na ang sasakyan, hindi pa rin nagbabago ang pagtangkilik ng mga tao dahil na rin sa pagmamahal nila sa yumaong Santo Papa. (Though it has somewhat deteriorated, the people has not changed in the way they appreciate the vehicle maybe because of their love for the late Pontiff)” He said.
Believers say that the inclusion of the Pope Mobile in this year’s Marian Procession was due to Pope John Paul II’s special ties to the Fatima devotion. It was on the 13th of May in 1981 when he suffered and survived an assassination attempt at the Piazza San Pietro of the Vatican City perpetrated by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish extremist. The Pope was also responsible for the beatification of the first two seers, Francisco and Jacinta Marto in May 13, 2000. Ultimately, he died in 2005, the same year that the third and last seer, Lucia Dos Santos, passed away.
The Pope Mobile has been on active tour in Valenzuela after the beloved Pope was declared “Blessed” by the Catholic Church, an initial step towards sainthood. It was first stationed at the Holy Family Parish in Barangay Karuhatan, then at the Parish of the Holy Cross in Barangay Gen. T. De Leon before being brought to the Museo Valenzuela in time for the procession.
Other images on the parade are famous depictions or pasos related to the life and several apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the country and throughout the world. Most prominent are the images of the Inmaculada Concepcion de Malolos, Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia de Manila, Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje de Antipolo, and the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, Patroness of Cavite. Said images have numerous devotees and miracles attributed to them in their particular localities. Many of the image owners are prominent Valenzuelano families.
The final paso in the procession was the carroza of the patrona, the Virgin of Fatima, whose feast day the faithful celebrates that day. Since 2004, the feast day has been celebrated on the 13th of May from the previous celebration of October 13 as declared by the Vatican. The Fatima image mounted on the carroza was the National Pilgrim Image, a gift from Pope Paul VI to the Filipino devotees of the Virgin of Fatima. It was also the same image hoisted by then Chief of the Philippine Constabulary Fidel V. Ramos and Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile at the EDSA revolution in 1986 thwarting dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos.
A grand fireworks display concluded thefiesta procession upon its return to the Shrine.
Jilson Tio, Chairman of the National Shrine’s Golden Anniversary celebration, lauded Mayor WIN’s help in promoting the celebration. The Mayor sent the Valenzuela City Band to accompany the carroza of the Virgin of Fatima. The fiesta’s premiere event, the Grand Marian Exhibit, was hosted by the Museo Valenzuela.
“I’m glad that the Mayor sent people not only to support but also to cover the entire event,” said Mr. Tio upon noting the presence of staff from the City Cultural and Tourism Office (CTO) and the Public Information Office (PIO).
Ms. Malou Cobarrubias, Executive Director of the Fatima for Peace Apostolate, was chosen as Hermana Mayor of this year’s fiesta while Carlo Verdadero was Hermano Mayor of the Grand Marian Exhibit and Procession.