Peñafrancia Fiesta: 10-day gun ban in Naga

By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- A 10-day total gun ban will be carried out by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol as a security measure to ensure the safety of local devotees, as well as national and foreign visitors during this year’s observance of the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia that runs from Sept. 8 to 17 this year, a top official of the PNP in Bicol, said Tuesday, Sept. 5. Police Chief Supt. Antonio Gardiola Jr., Regional PNP Director, said all permits to carry firearms out of residence are suspended effective on Sunday until Sept. 17 this year, a measure that would form part of the security preparations mapped out for the upcoming Our Lady of Penafrancia celebration. Gardiola said “this would serve as a warning to any gun holder to refrain from carrying their firearms when in Naga City during the duration of the religious festivities.” The Bicol police chief said the ban would ensure that no firearm-related incident would occur and criminal elements would be prevented from creating trouble during the religious event. “Only members of the PNP, AFP and other law enforcement agencies who are on duty and are wearing the agency prescribe uniforms would be allowed to carry firearms,” he said. Gardiola said that aside from the gun ban it would also deploy hundreds of policemen from the Police Regional Public Safety Battalion and other units from other areas to assist in keeping safe the millions of devotees from all over the country who are expected to arrive in Naga City to pay homage to the “Ina” (Virgin of Penafrancia) the patroness of Bicolandia. The implementation of the gun ban is in compliance with the Naga City Council Resolution No. 2017-294 entitled “Resolution earnestly requesting the PNP to declare and implement a gun ban in the City of Naga for the duration of the Penafrancia Festival.” The PNP and the City Council as part of its security measure asked various telecommunication companies to suspend their cellular phone communication operations an hour before the start of the Traslacion procession on Friday (Sept 8) as well as the Fluvial procession of the “Ina” the Virgin of Penafrancia on Saturday (Sept. 16). Communication signal would be restored an hour after the religious event ends. Aside from the PNP checkpoints, the Department of Public Highways (DPWH), the Land Transportation Office (LTO) would also set up assistance desk in various major roads at the Maharlika Highway to assist motorist visiting and paying homage to the “Ina” in Naga City. The Penafrancia festivities begins with Traslacion, or the images of the Divino Rostro (Divine Face) and Our Lady of Penafrancia being transferred in the afternoon of Sept. 8 (second Friday of the month) from her home at old Penafrancia Church and Shrine to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral where the 9-day novena will start towards the feast day of Our Lady of Penafrancia on Sunday, Sept. 17. A fluvial procession down the Naga River at the end of the novena caps the feast. The image is carried in a pagoda (a flower-decked barge) pulled by a flotilla of oarsmen on its return journey to the basilica, where a Pontifical Mass is held. Along the route, people shout “Viva La Virgen!” and people wave their lighted candles and white handkerchiefs in a gesture of thanksgiving and praise. The image is escorted by a long fleet male devotee/oarsmen aboard their colorful paddle boats pulling the pagoda and which the two images of Divino Rostro and Our Lady of Penafrancia are borne, along with the Archbishop of Caceres, other bishops of Bicol, priests, seminarians, and representatives of designated sectors of the community (i.e. fishermen last year and transport workers on another year), and members of limited members of the media for each year so that each would have chance to board the pagoda in his lifetime.