Of Hashtags and Hot Bodies

By Julma M. Narvadez


Unsurprisingly, #Penafrancia2022 is popular in social media this side of the world, this time of the year. But what are hashtags and what do they reveal about the content?


“We use hashtags typically to identify our posts as relating to a specific topic. Also, perhaps to keep ourselves in the loop with other related content. Hashtags intend to create a pool of all posts relating to a subject, which is usually the name of the hashtag. We use them on social media, particularly in microblogging platforms, so that our posts can join all the other posts relating to the same topic,” explains Dr. Ma. Filipinas “Pines” Bana, Chair, Media Studies Department of the Ateneo de Naga University.


“If we use, for instance, #Peñafrancia2022 in our posts, it implies that our post/information/content is about or is related to the Peñafrancia 2022 festivities. If we click the hashtag, we will be able to see all the other public posts on social media using the same hashtag, and we will normally expect that these are about the programs and activities relating to the relating to the Peñafrancia festival,” she adds.


Hashtags have made it easier for us to discern if our celebration is in keeping with the devotion to Ina.


With #Peñafrancia2022, we can evaluate if social media posts bearing this hashtag promote an authentic devotion. Take for example the numerous contents on Miss Bicolandia. True, its staging has been a local government/business-sponsored civic activity since as far as I can remember. But looking at photos of ladies in skimpy bikinis and glamourous gowns, captioned #Peñafrancia2022, the photos and hashtag contradict each other. It’s like a shoutout from Leni Robredo thanking Ferdinand Marcos Jr, for lending the presidential chopper so she can come home to Naga City any given day. Because we know who and what they are, such post would be absolutely unbelievable.


Dr. Bana warns netizens: “Some marketing strategies in social media would also use hashtags to get more social media presence. For example, promotional ads for a beverage product may capitalize on the fiesta and use #Peñafrancia2022 as a hashtag, to maximize exposure and to join in the information relating to the events.”


The commercialization of the fiesta does not end in rows upon rows of tarpaulins and banderitas along major thoroughfares. It can continue online, especially with livestreaming becoming the norm. See the ads flashing on your screens during processions and parades? That’s how the page administrators satisfy their sponsors to make money out of the event.


Another incident worth noting is the cancellation of the permit for Beer Plaza and Search for Sexy Hot Bodies 2022 supposedly set on September 10. The beer plaza and pageant were to happen in the flesh, but the uproar happened online on September 1.


According Fr. Wilmer S. Tria, parish priest of the St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Pili, Camarines Sur, he received a screenshot of a Facebook post promoting the event. “I was alerted by a concerned devotee. I forwarded the photo to Archbishop Roly and my brother priests,” Fr. Tria recalls. “I learned that the mayor was asked about it.”


On the same day, Naga City Mayor Nelson S. Legacion announced on Facebook that the event did not have prior permission from the city government nor was he allowing it. Mayor Legacion said the pageant runs counter with Presidential Proclamation No. 33 series of 2010. He also made public how Ateneo de Naga University President Fr. Robert N. Rivera, SJ, said that the university would help in the advocacy “if City does not cease in allowing such activities during fiesta.”


“An evangelized devotee should cringe,” Fr. Tria says when asked about how devotees should react upon learning about activities that are contrary to the true character of the fiesta.


Reportedly, there was misrepresentation when the barangay permit was secured. Go On Restobar did not reply when asked for comment. But as early as July 13, it has already posted on Facebook that the pageant’s final screening was on August 20, 2022; the Bikini Fashion Show, September 10 at 2:00 PM at the Restobar; and the Final Showdown, also on September 10 at 7:00PM at the Covered Court, Greenland, Concepcion Pequeña, Naga City.


This goes to show that long before the Archdiocese of Caceres and the City Government of Naga issued the Joint Statement announcing a return to the traditional fiesta activities, “sexy hot bodies” were already set to parade their stuff a day after the Traslacion.


This incident is a classic example of how devotees can nourish the devotion to Ina and eliminate factors that degenerate the Peñafrancia Fiesta. In order for Naga City to be true to its name Pilgrim City, an unadulterated political will is essential. In order for future generations to inherit an authentic devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, vigilance is key.