FOR 317 years now, we, Bicolanos, have never tired of expressing and nurturing our undying devotion to Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia, patroness of Bicolandia, whose home is the City of Naga.
It was in 1710 that our forefathers, including the cimarrones (or wild people living in Mt. Isarog), welcomed our Mary Mother of God and since then our history has been replete with such piety and devotion, as in fact, as many correctly infer, Naga’s history will never be complete without mentioning the Blessed Mother, whom we fondly call our “Ina” because she keeps us Bicolanos and her devotees from all over the world under her maternal care.
The celebration, especially since we marked her tercentennial (300th) year in Bicol in 2010, has become bigger and grander every year, with more people from far and away coming to join us in prayer and thanksgiving every September for the good tidings and graces that we received. All these, despite the various crisis, disturbances and human excesses that came our way but resiliently hurdled with relatively lesser pain because there was Ina’s intercession and loving care. Such triumphs that come over trials and challenges are more felt when all roads lead to our city every September as more pilgrims, devotees and guests would gather in celebration of deep appreciation and praise. Indeed, the depth and dimension of our Marian festival, with its resonating celebration in many other countries around the globe wherever Bicolano communities can be found, are unmatched by any other place in the country, if not throughout the world.
In the meantime, our City of Naga -- that both the Archdiocese of Caceres and the City Government of Naga have fittingly declared as a ‘Pilgrim City’ -- continues to grow as a one of the most dynamic centers of commerce, finance and industry in the country with its people performing both as drivers and stakeholders in its march to progress and development. It is therefore heartening to note that one of its new signs of progress is for the city to have improved and rehabilitated the banks of the once decaying Naga River. The river – once the chamber of life and commerce in Bicolandia -- is the traditional route of the fluvial procession when the miraculous image of Ina is brought back in a spectacular manner to her home at the Basilica Minore after the 9-day novena at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Much has to be done, however, for each of us to keep the river clean and free from human and industrial wastes and toxic elements throughout the year.
Indeed, our distinct mix of rich religious history, cultural heritage and people’s strong demand for good governance has kept us proud and moving forward. More importantly, we never forget that whatever good blessings that we have now are a reciprocation of our unwavering devotion to Ina. And September month should be our appropriate time, too, to come to a deeper knowledge of ourselves and discover whether our devotion has indeed made us better persons and citizens, not only to our city but to our nation, as well.
On this note, we wish to welcome our guests, pilgrims and devotees to our city and celebrate the best of what we can offer, not only in this month, but in any given time because we are always ready to make you feel our warmth and hospitality as you come to visit our ‘Ina’.
Viva la Virgen! Viva Bicolandia!