|SANTA MARIA MAGDALENA, patroness of the Philippine Revolution.|
The town of Kawit in Cavite is one of the country’s cradles of history, a town linked inseparably with Aguinaldo and the Philippine Revolution. Kawit is also home to a revered image of the repentant sinner-saint, Sta. Maria Magdalena, under whose patronage the town has been placed over 300 years ago, during the term of Manila Archbishop Miguel Garcia Serrano (1618-1629). The revered image of Sta. Maria is enshrined in her own altar at the age-old baroque Kawit Church, known as the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.
Over the years, devotion to the saint has become so widespread throughout the region and its most well-known devotee is no less than General Emilio Famy Aguinaldo, first president of the Philippine Republic. The Kawit-born revolutionary leader would ask for her protection every time he would venture out, and his safe delivery would always be attributed to the workings of the santa. Aguinaldo would even name his factionist movement after his patroness— "Magdalo". It is nowonder that Sta.Maria Magdalena has also earned the unofficial title as the “Patron Saint of the Philippine Revolution.”
The antique life-size image of Sta, Maria is of wood, carved in the round, including her hair and vestment drapings, painted pink, orange and gold. However, like many de bulto images, she is outfitted with real clothes—usually, a gold-embroidered red gown, matched with a golden yellow cape. Be-wigged and shod in silver shoes, the saint holds her iconographic attributes—a perfume jar on her right hand and a crucifix on the other.
There is a characteristic mark on her forehead, which others refer to as a mole (“nunal”) but it has been speculated that it is the symbolic mark left by Jesus's fingertip when He gently admonished her to “ touch me not” during their encounter three days after His death.
Devotion to Sta. Maria Magdalena is year-round, but it reaches its peak during her July 21 feast days. On the eve of the fiesta, at 7 in the morning, the caracol tradition of bringing the image out in her flower-trimmed anda to make the rounds of the town begins. The anda bearers and the thousands of pilgrim-followers dance their way from Binakayan to Alapan, while prayers are said and favors are requested. Fandango is the traditional dance step used to convey the image from town to town.
The santa is also brought on a riverine procession on a “casco” to bless the waters of Cavite and make them more bountiful.
On the fiesta day itself—July 22—a grand procession is held on the main streets of Kawit. The 7:00 pm. procession is led by light-bearing youngsters followed by the lavishly-decorated carozza of Sta. Maria Magdalena, and a retinue of townsfolk. Groups of devotees called “Maginoos” and “Ginangs” dressed in their finery are at the tail-end. The parade ends at 10 p.m. and is capped with a feast-for-all sponsored by the Hermanos and Hermanas of the fiesta.
The fiesta revelry continues at the church patio where carnival rides, games and sideshows provide added enjoyment to the people of Kawit whose devotion to theis Sta. Maria Magdalena knows no bound, through periods of strife, struggle and present-day prosperity.
ALL PHOTOS from DR. RAYMUND FELICIANO COLLECTION