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IN NAGA CITY: Bicol celebrates Asia’s largest Marian festival

FAITH IN MOTION. A sea of voyadores escort the image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia on its annual journey from the Peñafrancia Shrine to the Naga Cathedral. JAM MADRID/PIA

By Keren Anne Bernadas and PaUlo DS. Papa

The City Government of Naga and the Archdiocese of Caceres are gearing up for an array of civic and religious events that will define this year’s fiesta as the Joint Operations Center for the Peñafrancia Festival 2023 announced that it is fully prepared for the upcoming civic and religious events that are about to take place in the remaining days of the current week.

Last Friday, September 8, commenced the festivities for Asia’s biggest Marian festival with the traslacion procession, drawing approximately 950,000 participants. It left behind an estimated 300 tons of garbage in Naga, according to Engr. Joel Martin, the head of the Solid Waste Management Office (SWMO).

Taking environmental responsibility seriously, the city and the church along with the Joint Operations Center signed an agreement on August 2, 2023, to reduce the use of single-use plastic materials during the fiesta.

The SWMO will address the plastic waste issue, especially with more expected during the upcoming civic parade and float competition on September 14, and the regional military parade on September 15. The grand fluvial procession of Ina will take place on September 16, featuring Papal Nuncio Charles Brown.

The city officials, the Philippine Coast Guard personnel and priests, recently held a press briefing to discuss preparations for these events.

City Administrator Elmer Baldemoro, chairman of the civic parade and float competition, revealed that 551 groups will participate, including 155 motorist and biker groups and 22 floats from various contingents.

City Councilor Melvin Ramon Buenafe, chairman of the military parade, said that 74 participants are expected, representing schools from Camarines Sur, Naga City, Albay, and Camarines Norte. The parade, commencing at 7:00 AM, is anticipated to conclude around 4:00 PM.

Rev. Fr. Juan Pablo Carpio, vice rector of the National Shrine of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, confirmed that 60 parish representatives will join the Lady on the Pagoda, with 275 invitees, including eight bishops, from the Basilica. The exact count of those aboard the pagoda will be determined during the fluvial procession.

Ensign Reynaldo Aringo Jr., PCG - Camarines Sur chief of staff, assured that over 140 participants, known as “parasagwan,” will row their boats to pull the pagoda during the fluvial procession. Strict regulations will be in place, ensuring participants are not under the influence of alcohol and minors are not allowed to partake.

The Joint Operation Center’s water cluster will deploy 25 floating assets on Naga River, carrying emergency responders during the event.

“Faith in Motion: A sea of believers joyfully escort the sacred image of the El Divino Rostro on its annual journey from the Peñafrancia Shrine to the Naga Cathedral, a cherished tradition on September 8, 2023.”

Objective: Zero Mishap

On September 16 the fluvial procession will reel off, allowing the public to see the images and icons of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and the beloved Divino Rostro returning to the Basilica Minore from the Metropolitan Cathedral Church via the Bicol River.

In a press briefing, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), serving as the chair of the marine security cluster, discussed its deployment plan and measures to ensure a report of zero incident, as well as a safe and smooth transfer of Ina.

Aringo said that exactly 200 individuals, including male catechists, religious teachers, captains, crews, and priests, will board the pagoda navigating the river. All participants will strictly adhere to wearing life jackets to prevent overloading.

A total of 25 floating assets will be available for responding units, and more than 140 voyadores have registered for the fluvial procession. He also mentioned that the PCG will assign two standby boats to specific areas on the river to guide the procession’s routes. Dredging concerns on the river have been addressed before the Saturday activity, and floodgates will close at 9 am to maintain a high water level.

Baldemoro said that the Philippine National Police has been directed to monitor and control the crowd of pilgrims on the bridges. The public will be allowed only pass through the bridges and not linger to prevent any bridge collapses.

Aringo emphasized that all participants in the fluvial procession must be 18 years old and above and should not be under the influence of alcohol.

Devotion to God

City Councilor Del Rosario, chair of the Scouts Parade Committee, said that following the traslacion procession on Friday, September 8, every parade competition organized by the City Government of Naga aims to deepen and enrich the participants’ devotion to God.

On September 12 (Tuesday), the Regional Majorettes, DBC, Band, and Drill Exhibition took place.

On September 13 (Wednesday), the Scouts Parade and DXMC Competition will begin at 7 am from Panganiban Drive to Plaza Quezon. In the afternoon, the first-ever Naga City Interschool Dance Competition, a mass field demonstration, will take place, involving elementary students from around 31 schools in Naga City, Iriga City, and other towns in the province of Cam Sur.

The mass dance competition will offer awards from the LGU Naga in support of the developmental projects of the winning schools.

On September 14 (Thursday), the committee identified an initial number of 500 contingents from every sector of Naga City, Pamplona, and Bula municipal governments. These include local government employees from neighboring towns, delegates from 10 bands and majorettes from schools in Naga City, 364 participants for the civic parade, and 155 riders and bikers.

Around 22 floats will compete in this year’s festival after judging competitions at Plaza Quezon. These numbers have surpassed last year’s participation.

On September 15 (Friday), 74 uniform agencies and different schools will conduct troops and marching performances for the Bicol Regional Military Parade Competition. Councilor Omar Buenafe, the committee chair for this event, mentioned that challenging groups come from Naga City and the provinces of Cam Sur, Cam Norte, Albay, and Sorsogon.

The judges will include regional directors of the Department of Education Bicol, PNP Bicol, commanding officers of the 9th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, and other area commanders.

Carpio urged the public to avoid violence during the fluvial procession and instead practice gentleness and ‘fraternal correction’ for any misconducts during the events.

Chancellor of Archdiocese of Caceres Fr. Darius Romualdo mentioned that there are extensive preparations for next year’s Peñafrancia Festival as it approaches its 100th year since Ina was crowned as the Queen of Bicol, something devotees should look forward to. (PIA5/Camarines Sur)


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