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MANILA, Philippines – Chuck Kelly, a 68-year-old American, stood in awe at the Manila Cathedral on Friday, December 8, as he listened to the choir and adored “the magnificence of the building and the spirit of the people here.”
“The hair on my arms stood up,” Kelly told Rappler after the 12:15 pm Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the Manila Cathedral on Friday.
Kelly, who attended Mass with his Filipino wife Desy, said he prayed for “the coming together of people.”
“The world has become too polarized and we need to look for the similarities among people, not the differences,” said Kelly, noting the conflicts in the Middle East and other places.
“Let’s face it, the worst things that man has ever done to man have been in the name of a God who said ‘Love thy neighbor,’” said Kelly. “I think that’s what we need to listen to. God created all the people, not just one group, not just another group. He never said ‘Hate thy neighbor.’ He never said that.”
His wife Desy Kelly, 68, who helps church-run media such as TV Maria, said she prayed for their mother, who is “having difficulty, having to do with breast cancer.” With tears welling up in her eyes, she told Rappler, “I cried, and (she) is particularly parallel to Mama Mary.”
Like Chuck and Dessy Kelly, around 3,000 people packed the 2,000-seater Manila Cathedral on Friday to attend Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a public holiday in the Philippines and a day when Catholics are required to attend the Holy Eucharist.
Filipinos brought with them prayers for their families, finances, and world peace during the Mass led by Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula and concelebrated by the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, and 21 other priests.
On this day, Catholics celebrate how Mary was conceived without original sin in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne. Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception is the principal patroness of the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country that is called “pueblo amante de Maria,” “a people in love with Mary.”
Signs of this devotion abounded in the metro and on social media feeds on Friday. In an LRT2 station in Quezon City, the popular Marian song “Mariang Ina Ko (Mary My Mother),” composed and written by the teacher-and-student tandem of Onofre Pagsanghan and Manoling Francisco when the latter was in first year high school, played from one of the loudspeakers.
‘Para sa kagalingan ng nanay ko’
Marc Daniel Amuyot, who was seated alone in one of the front pews after the Mass the Manila Cathedral, said he was praying “para sa kagalingan ng nanay ko (for my mother’s healing).”
He added, “Para unti-unting makabangon ako sa pagkakautang (So that I can slowly recover from debt).”
Mae Pidlaoan said she was thanking God for all the blessings, good health, and the work that she continued to have.
“Pine-pray ko po ang thesis defense ko next week (I am praying for my thesis defense next week),” said Christine Maliwat, a 21-year-old student from Saint Paul University Manila.
Maria Cohon, a 74-year-old secular Carmelite who walked with a cane, said she was praying “for our country and for my family.”
One of the oldest massgoers on Friday, Virginia Zamora, is turning 94 on January 19, 2024.
Zamora – who wore at least three kinds of Catholic scapulars and medals, each promising blessings at the hour of one’s death – used her umbrella as a cane and was escorted by her daughter Evelyn and grandson Kyle Aldrich.
“Good health, peace on earth, goodwill to all mankind,” said Zamora, when asked what her prayer on Friday was.
When asked why she still went to the Manila Cathedral despite the difficulties of old age, Zamora told Rappler, “Deboto kami ng Immaculate Conception eh (We’re devotees of the Immaculate Conception).”
In his homily on Friday, the archbishop of Manila explained why Catholics celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Advincula said Mary, by saying “yes” to bearing Jesus in her womb, “allowed herself to be God’s instrument” and was “a bearer of God’s presence.” He also extolled Mary for her virtues, such as sincerity and integrity, as a “woman of hope.”
“Indeed Mary trusted in the Providence of God who chose her,” said Advincula.
“Like our Immaculate Mother, may we also imbibe and practice these virtues,” the Manila archbishop said. – Rappler.com