September 15 is the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. On this day we pay homage to our Blessed Mother's supreme sacrifice of giving up her only Son for the redemption of the world. The feast was originally stricken off the Roman Catholic Calendar as its celebration was quite close to the Virgin Mary's birthday which is celebrated on the 8th of September; a week before the Seven Sorrows feast day. Eventually, the feast was brought back into the catholic calendar and is now widely celebrated particularly here in the Philippines.
During this time, we commemorate the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin upon seeing her Son suffer and die at the Cross in atonement for man's sins. Her sorrows include the following: 1) the prophecy of Simeon that Jesus would die fr man's sins, 2) the flight to Egypt when they were warned of the impending massacre of innocents by Herod, 3) when Jesus was lost in the Temple, 4) Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary, 5) Jesus dies on the Cross, 6) Mary receives His dead body, 7) Jesus is buried in the tomb. These Seven Sorrows have had a great impact on the interpretation of Mary in religious art particularly in images and icons that we venerate.
In The Our Lady of Sorrows church in Pasay City, festivities are held in Her honor on this particular day. However, the commemoration of our Lady's sufferings are carried out for the most part of the year. In Cavite, for instance, the holy image of the Nuestra Senora dela Porta Vaga is carried in a procession by barefoot women in black after three in the afternoon on Good Friday. This was stopped for a while by the bishop of Cavite because it was considered a non-ecclesiastical celebration. However, the practice was once again continued as it has become tradition of the local folk.
In the tranquil town of Pakil, Laguna is one of the longest and best known church celebrations of the Sorrowful Mother. The Nuestra Senora Virgen de las Dolores de Turumba is honored with the longest celebrations in catholic lore. The feast begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and processions are carried out in the streets of Pakil after every nine days for nine weeks so the celebrations lasts way until after Easter. The festivities end in the freshwater pool in Pakil where the sick and those requesting for petitions from our Lady of Turumba are blessed.
The image of Our Lady of Turumba is in itself a mystery. According to local lore, the small icon was seen by two women floating in Laguna de Bay. With the aid of fishermen they tried to fish it out of the water and bring it to another town. Either way they went, the image would not allow the boat to go elsewhere but in Pakil. The 8x11 wooden icon was so heavy the locals could not lift it. They called the aid of the parish priest who said mass on the shore of the lake and they were able to lift the icon and carry it to the church. Along the way, the locals were singing songs of praise and dancing for joy with accompaniment using the clacking of their wooden clogs (bakya). Thus the image was named Turumba (after the Spanish word turum meaning rapture/ecstacy).
To this day, the image is venerated in the church of Pakil. The holy image is ensconced in her own chapel on the second floor of the convento. The drive 85 miles south of Manila is worth the effort if only to see the town and pay homage to our Lady's great suffering...