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Thousands to march in Hagatna for annual procession

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - She's the patron saint credited for protecting the island through war, earthquakes, and typhoons, and today, thousands of Catholics gathered in the village of Hagatna in her honor.

"Today is really the Feast of the Immaculate Conception," said Archbishop Anthony Apuron. "It's worldwide observed. December 8 is normally the day but because it fell on a Sunday, yesterday, and it's the second Sunday of advent, it could not be placed that second Sunday of advent so the church asked us to move it one day ahead or one day after."

Here at home, it's the Feast of Our Lady of Camarin, better known as Santa Marian Kamalen - a holy day of obligation that the archbishop anticipates will draw an estimated 9,000 faithful to the Cathedral today. "The statue that you see up there will be in the karosa this afternoon we will process around the streets of Agana of our lady. It's really the oldest religious artifact that we have on Guam in terms of it coming with the missionaries so 345 years ago with Blessed Diego Luis De San Vitores, the founder of the Catholic religion here on Guam," he explained.

Scientifically speaking, Apuron says the statue came to Guam from the Nuestra Senora Del Pilar ship that sunk off Cocos Island. Keeping in mind that Portuguese sailors are famous for carrying a religious statue on board for protection and guidance, when the ship sank, so did the patron saint, which remained underwater for years. "The legend is that she was accompanied by crabs holding two lighted candles. Now, people can question how can crabs hold lighted candles? But that's the story surrounding it. But the real fact is that this is the statue that really came to us from the southern shores of Guam," he said

Specifically, off the waters of the southern village of Merizo. From there, she was first put in a barracks, or kamalen, in Spanish. She carried her name all the way to Hagatna when she was gifted to the governor, who in turn gifted the statue to the church where it's remained in Hagatna since.

For residents like 77-year-old Lillian Dizon of Mongmong, Kamalen holds a special place in her family, who celebrate the feast with a 9-day novena. "It's a tradition in the family. It goes on even in our faith that we have to celebrate and honor our blessed mother," she said. "I remember I was five years old when we had that war and I was in the church. I was a little angel. And we had gone through all this and the blessed mother has always been there for us."

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