Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral
Housing the Nuestra Señora de la Purificación y la Candelaria in the historic balcony of the church. The Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral takes pride in being the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jaro. It is hailed as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Candles, or Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, as declared by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippine in 2012. It is the second national shrine in both Visayas and Mindanao, after the Basilica del Santo Nino in Cebu. The devotion to the Candelaria of Jaro is derived from the original Virgin of Candelaria (Our Lady of Candles) enshrined in the Basilica of Candelaria in Canarias, Spain. Pope John Paul II personally performed a canonical coronation of the venerate image in Iloilo on February 21, 1981. It is the sole Marian image in Asia crowned by a pontiff in personam (by a papal saint). The limestone figure was discovered during the 16th century by fishermen and the Bishop then declared that the image should be placed on Jaro Church. The statue depicts Mary and the Child Jesus with tapers in their right hands as a symbol of light and purification. Vested in gold cloth, the Child Jesus holds a ‘globus cruciger’ symbolizing Christ’s reign over the earth. The yearly tradition recounts the statue’s first appearance in 1587. “The start of any history is always anchored in the love of God . . . a love that permeates and surrounds every moment of unfolding in temporal space here on earth. The act of looking back, grasping the present, and straining to the future, though distinct, is actually one fluid continuum; it is a singular movement of the heart fully conscious that its past, present, and future is embraced by love,” excerpts from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jaro website. “It is through this prism that we look at the story of our salvation in Jaro, or maybe, it is better to say, that this is our looking at “HIS story” of loving us through the years. Although we can never fathom its depth, and despite the limitations of our human language, let us nonetheless attempt to express in words the history of Jaro,” another excerpt from the same website. The shrine, constructed in the Romanesque Revival style, highlights a bell tower nestled across the church, separated by a road. Usually, belfries are constructed next to churches, but a massive earthquake destroyed the former church, leaving the belfry behind. The façade features a stairway leading to the shrine of Our Lady of Candles. Inside lines an all-male ensemble of saints. It is in contrast to Molo Church’s all-female saints. Moreover, on cathedral grounds are several archdiocesan and parish offices, as well as an adoration chapel. Other institutions such as the St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary and Archbishop’s Palace are just nearby. The National Historical Institute marker, found at the entrance of the cathedral, reads, “Itinayo noong 1874 sa utos ng Kgg. Mariano Cuartero, O.P., unang Obispo ng Jaro; napinsala ng lindol noong Enero, 1948 at ipinaayos s autos ng Kgg. Jose Ma. Cuenco, unang Arsobispo ng Jaro, 1956. Dito bininyagan si Graciano Lopez Jaena, makabayan at mananalumpati, noong Disyembre 20, 1856.” Jaro, cited as the ‘center of faith’, became a base for Catholic missionaries in evangelization initiatives in Panay and Western Visayas. Back then, Jaro was not an independent parish but was a ‘visita’ of La Villa de Jaro. It was later declared an independent parish in 1587.
Jaro is a district in Iloilo City and is the largest in terms of area and population. Once a separate city, Jaro was reincorporated in the 1940s during the American administration. Dubbed as ‘mestizo town’, Jaro is home to a number of prominent Spanish-Filipino families. Apart from that, Jaro is home to institutions founded by religious sects – the Seminario de San Vicente Ferrer, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles, the Jaro Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Jaro, Central Philippine University – Iloilo Mission Hospital, Jaro Evangelical Church, Jaro Adventist Center, and the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.