MARY’S NATIVITY

CALBAYOG CITY - This coastal and bubbly city of 180,000 is celebrating the feast day marking the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mother - its patron saint - tomorrow, September 8.

(It is also my annual pilgrimage to dear old hometown.)

Since the religious event falls on a weekend, thousands of visitors from nearby islands and highway towns have started converging here beginning yesterday, the "ante-vesperas" day.

By Saturday, the feast day itself, the population here will swirl to over 200,000, city officials said.

Primarily, the fiesta being a religious event, there are a number of church-sponsored activities for devotees and visitors lined up.

The seat of bishopric in Western Samar, Calbayog is proud of its huge and spanking St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral. The edifice underwent a year-long renovation and refurbishing in time for the centenary celebration of the Diocese of Calbayog last April 2009.

Most Rev. Isabelo C. Abarquez, DD, is the Bishop of Calbayog. Rev. Fr. Julio O. Gaddi Jr. is the parish priest, Parish of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mother.

There are also numerous colorful civic and social events. Much-awaited are the civic and military parade, highlighted by street dancing with the participants in multi-colored costumes today in the afternoon. And the Concelebrated Pontifical Mass at 9 a.m. tomorrow, and the procession of the Patron Saint and "hermanas" late in the afternoon.

Charted in July, 1949, as a city, Calbayog, an enormously vote-rich political domain, is hometown of the biggest names in local and regional politics - the Gomezes, Avelinos, Rosales, Roños and Velosos.

Ronaldo P. Aquino is the city mayor. Rey James R. Uy is vice mayor.

Traditionally, the parish pastoral council names the annual sponsors - they are called "Hermanas Mayores" - of the religious festivities. Maria Myrna Querol-Emerson, Maria Oledan Querol, and Lucia Oledan Querol are the sponsors for 2012.

Also in the web of those frenzied activities is Ronald L. Ricafort, the dynamic city government's tourism and information officer.

Calbayog has a local hero of national prominence - Benedicto P. Nijaga - who was one of the famous "Trece Martires de Bagumbayan," executed in what is now Rizal Park in Manila in 1897. He was only 19 years old.

"Victoy" - his nickname - was born here in 1878. He had his early education under the tutelage of Spanish friars in "pueblo de Calbayog."

He went to Manila for further studies and later joined the Spanish military as a Navy officer. He was captured in Cavite City while on a fund-raising mission for the revolution, along with 12 other dissidents on January 11, 1887.

Meanwhile, the Pontifical High Mass at 9 a.m. tomorrow will be led by Msgr. Abarquez, and co-celebrated by some 30 priests from various parishes and religious communities in the diocese.

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