Pilgrims Flock to Northern Philippines for Mary Apparition
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Thousands of pilgrims converged Friday on a northern town to wait for an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
The mayor of Agoo, Pablo Olarte, said the town has been inundated by pilgrims following reports that an image of Mary owned by a family began shedding tears of blood last month.
Reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary are widely believed in the Philippines, where about 85 percent of the people are Roman Catholic.
The Catholic hierarchy has not commented on the latest report. But the Rev. Salvador Lazo, bishop of La Union province, formed a committee last month to study the case and report to the Vatican.
A 12-year-old boy, Judiel Nieva, claims Mary has been appearing in Agoo, 120 miles north of Manila, on the first Saturday of every month and on special religious feasts since 1989.
Others in the tobacco-growing town of 42,000 people said they began seeing the apparition, and word spread throughout Luzon, the main Philippine island.
Olarte said hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were expected to arrive Saturday in hopes of witnessing the apparition. Church groups in Manila and other cities chartered dozens of buses to take believers to the town.
On Friday, Manila radio stations reported highways to Agoo were jammed, and that many motorists were carrying images of the Virgin Mary.
The country’s largest newspaper, The Manila Bulletin, said hotels as far away as 20 miles were booked.
Meanwhile, the owner of another image in the nearby town of San Fernando said it also had begun shedding tears.
Delia Zamoranos said in a telephone interview that the statue of Mary began crying Tuesday and had done so two times since then.
″At first we kept the story about the miracle a secret from neighbors for fear that they would take us for fools because we have been talking with the image,″ Mrs. Zamoranos said.
″But when the neighbors saw that the image was shedding tears, which later on turn blood red, then they became believers,″ she said.