By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 9) - One year to the day after Supertyphoon Pongsona released its wrath on Guam, forcing the cancellation of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, thousands of Catholics showed their continuing devotion to their patron saint by participating in yesterday's procession.

Many of those who attended the special Mass for the feast day, followed by the procession of Santa Marian Kamalen, or Our Lady of Camarin, said they noticed a much higher turnout at the event than in years past.

Some speculated that the higher turnout had to do with the belief held by some of Guam's Catholics that the typhoon was an act of God, used to punish Guam because of an attempt to cancel the annual government of Guam holiday, and the Catholic Church's choice to move the celebration of the feast last year from it's traditional day, Sunday, Dec. 8 to Monday, Dec. 9.

Shortly before the typhoon, the Legislature passed a law returning Dec. 8 -- which also happens to be the anniversary of the day the Japanese invaded Guam in 1941-- to a GovGuam holiday. The law also changed the name of the holiday from Our Lady of Camarin Day to Remembrance Day, in acknowledgment of the Japanese invasion of Guam.

"Many of the manamko' believe the typhoon had to do with the cancellation, that it was an act of God because he was angry that the holiday was dismissed," said Anna Sablan, 19, of Sinajana. "Part of me thinks that and part of me thinks it could have been a coincidence."

Dededo resident Conchita Pamintuan, 63, who wore a white veil to the ceremony yesterday, said she counts among those who believe the typhoon was not a coincidence.

"Because a typhoon didn't happen this year," she said, pointing to the thousands of people singing in front of her. "Because when they canceled the feast and changed the holiday, then there it was -- we had punishment."

Religious Sister of Mercy Marie Pierre, said the novena yesterday, black rosary beads dangling from her hand.

Pierre said she has been attending the annual procession since she was a little girl, "long before the war."

The procession is not too much changed from then, she said. There were fewer attendants, and the procession was held not through paved streets lined with cars and multistory buildings, but rather on brick roads through what then was the small, but bustling capital of the island, she said.

The procession began in front of the Cathedral, as it does now, she said, and the wooden statue of Mary would be held on a karosa, or carriage, and the devotees would head toward Marine Drive.

"Of course, then it wasn't Marine Drive," she said. "We didn't have any third-story buildings at the time - even the Cathedral was much smaller. ... But the procession had the same significance."

Pierre said though the procession had to stop during the Japanese occupation in World War II, people did not stop praying to Mother Mary.

"I lived through the war, and Mary was always the name we called upon," she said, noting she was a teenager during the war. "During the war, the Mass was pretty much taken away from us because there were no more priests, so we depended on our rosary and our devotion to Mary."

The statue symbolizes the spiritual mother and protector of the island, said Pierre.

"I believe personally that she has protected me and my family in times of crisis," she said. "And the island as well. I mean, there have been so many disasters -- how many earthquakes, how many typhoons - but we have had so few deaths. I attribute that to Mary's protection of us."

December 9, 2003

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