Fluvial Procession: Devotion and Mission

By Myrna Bermudo


“Lalong nagtalubo asin nagrarom an sakong pagtubod, siring man an pagdebosyon ko ki Ina. Sa kinseng taon na paglingkod bilang paratukon, tinatabangan ako ni Ina na maotob an mga katongdan ko,” said Roger San Jose.


San Jose is the coordinator of the twenty (20) paratukon, or pole drivers, of the pagoda, the barge used during the fluvial procession that brings back the images of Divino Rostro and Our Lady of Penafrancia to the Basilica Minore. Since 2007, he considers this task a mission in life, and his panata or way of expressing his devotion to Ina. A lay minister at the Holy Cross Parish in Tabuco, he attributes to Our Lady his growth in faith.


He said in order for them to do their task as paratukon, they need to be coordinated and in harmony with one another. The tukon, a bamboo pole, is used to push the pagoda from the river bank and to steer the pagoda towards the river bank at the end of the procession. They also use it to keep the pagoda on-track or floating straight. When the pagoda is stranded due to low tide, all the paratukons muster their strength and skills to keep it afloat. They spend two days before the fluvial procession in mastering how to navigate the pagoda using their tukon.


“Smooth asin magayonon po si dalagan kan pagsakay. Naogma kami. Naabala lang po ta low tide,” San Jose explains.

From left to right: Sorsogon Bishop Allan Dialogo, Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, National Director of Caritas Philippines, Virac Bishop Manolo De los Santos, Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, Jose Cardinal Advincula, Archbishop of Manila, Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, OCD and Fr Tony Labia, NASSA Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines join the 114 medical frontliners who were invited to board the pagoda. They came from the parishes of the Archdiocese of Caceres and the six suffragan dioceses of Legazpi, Sorsogon, Masbate, Daet, Virac and Libmanan. (MSB) Photo by Jerwin Dumalasa


For him, the glitches experienced in this year’s “sakay,” the local term for fluvial procession, are signals that they need to evaluate, anticipate possible scenarios and make appropriate plans for next year’s Fluvial procession.


The twenty (20) paratukon are from the towns of Camaligan, Canaman, Calabanga, Pili, and from barangays Mabulo, Tabuco, Dayangdang, Peñafrancia, Concepcion Pequeña and Triangulo of Naga City.


Approaching the Colgante bridge, the pagoda stopped for a moment of prayer for the souls of the 138 persons who perished in the collapse of the Colgante bridge fifty years ago, on September 16, 1972. The bridge collapsed while he Fluvial procession was being held.


This year, a total of 161 small boats or bancas registered to pull the pagoda from the “Danlugan ni Ina” in a four- kilometer riverine journey from Tabuco to Balatas. Based on the signed registration papers from the Holy Cross Parish in Tabuco, the voyadores who participated during the Fluvial procession came from towns of Milaor (50 boats) Minalabac (7); Gainza (34); Camaligan (12); Magarao (5); Pamplona (11); Canaman (9); Libmanan (1); Cabusao (1) and from Naga City (19 boats).


Voyadores wearing colourful shirts, paddles in rhythmic pattern. Four lines of small boats, or baroto, pulls the pagoda. Each line of forty small boats is connected to each other with a rope.


CG CPO Efren Abanilla, who heads the Camaligan Coast Guard Substation said that most of the “parasagwan” or voyador paddlers come from nearby riverside barangays and towns.


“Pinagbawal namin ang mga naka-inom na sasama sa pagsagwan. To monitor the conduct of the voyadores who were in the bancas, they were grouped into four lines and were given number codes painted on their “baroto,” said Abanilla.


Abanilla considers himself a devotee of Ina. He is delighted in being able to assist in the smooth and safe conduct of the fluvial procession. He said that he has been doing this for ten years together with the Water Cluster team.


“This is our mission. Masaya kami sa cluster na maihatid si Ina sa kanyang tahanan sa Basilica na maayos, safe and smooth, “ enthused Abanilla.


A month before the Fluvial procession, each “baroto “ registered the name of the “kapitan” or leader and the list of members of the “parasagwan” or paddlers. They registered at the Parish of Holy Cross in Tabuco.


“Trentang taon na po ako nagboboya bilang parasagwan ni Ina. Ini an sakong misyon asin pagdebosyon. Sadit pa, iniiba na ako kan sakuyang ama sa pagsakay. Ini man po an sakuyang panata habang igwa pa buhay bagsik,” said Floren Algamon, owner and leader of a “baroto.”


Algamon said three small boats joined the fluvial procession from Mangayawan, a riverside barangay of Canaman. The “kapitans” or leaders of the three bancas were: Agosto Abarientos (with 12 parasagwan), Floren Algamon (12 parasagwan) and Rogelio Morales (25 parasagwan).


“Taon-taon, pigtatawan mi talaga ini nin panahon asin oras sa pag-andam. Tarabang kami. Pigpinturahan mi po an baroto asin an mga sagwan. Igwa po akong walong sagwan na naka-tagama para lang sa pagsakay para ki Ina,” Algamon shared.


A “paratukon”, a coast guard and a “parasagwan.” Three ways of participation. Three various missions and roles during the fluvial procession, all for the love and devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia. They said the service they render is a thanksgiving to the favours received from God, through the intercession of Ina.