(Manila, Philippines) – Filipino religious traditions and devotional practices around this predominantly Catholic country are increasingly attracting international and domestic tourists, according to the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (PDOT).
This was demonstrated recently when over 7,000 Catholic faithful joined the 4-kilometer procession from the Quirino Grandstand to San Sebastian Basilica to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel de Sebastian arrival to the Philippines.
During Friday’s celebration, Marian devotee Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo welcomed the image of Mt. Carmel which arrived at 5:00 am on Friday at the Manila Bay.
The traslacion started at 8:30 am from Quirino Grandstand and passed through Quiapo Church before it was greeted with fireworks as it arrived at San Sebastian Basilica at 11:00 am.
The image was a gift from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns from San Jose Monastery in Mexico City and was brought to the Philippines by the third group of Augustinian Recollect Missionaries on May 4, 1618.
The image was first enshrined at the Recollect Church of San Juan de Bagumbayan. Later, in 1621, it was enshrined at San Sebastian Basilica.
According to Teo, the Marian celebration is a good indication that faith-based tourism destination contribute significantly in the country’s tourism industry.
“Filipinos find comfort to the image of Mt. Carmel and it is a beautiful scene to witness. In addition to the scenic sites of centuries-old churches all over the country, our devotional practices are attracting more and more faith-based tourists,” Teo added.
Rev. Fr. Robin Plata, one of the event organizers, said that Filipinos must be reminded that we have a Mother, under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, who always guide us under her maternal protection.
“As a mother, she intercedes for her children and even gave a promise that whoever wears the brown scapular will not suffer hell at the hour of death,” said Fr. Plata.
Lolei Omongos, a devotee from Iligan City said she traveled 36 hours by sea to get to Manila to witness the celebration.
“Iba ang pakiramdam ng makita ang imahe ng mahal na ina, nararamdaman ko yung peace sa puso ko. Di ko alintana yung mahabang byahe at gastos,” she said.
Meanwhile, Plata thanked the DOT for promoting the faith-based tourism in the country.
“It is a good avenue to promote our rich religious culture. Our faith as Christians really gave us the iconic places and memorials that we have that will attract pilgrims and tourists,” he said.