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On INA’s Feast: Keep safe and solemn

By Julma M. Narvadez

Peaceful and orderly, prayerful and Pilgrim City – these are the three essential P’s in this year’s Peñafrancia Fiesta, says Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, DD.

In a press conference on August 18, he said that while there would be religious and civic activities, the fiesta is “not a celebration for enjoyment but a celebration to challenge us para maisabuhay nyato an mga katukduan ni Kristo espesyalmente an pagigin andam na tabangan an satong mga tugang na pobre (not a celebration for enjoyment but a celebration to challenge us to practice Christ’s teachings most especially our readiness to help our poor brothers and sisters.)

“Let us not forget that a Marian celebration is not only to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is to remind us what she has been saying: that we are all members of the Church and that we ought to give attention to those in the peripheries of society” the Archbishop exhorted as he called for a “celebration (that is) not just memorable, but pleasing in the eyes of God and the Church.”

The press conference was held to announce the Joint Statement of the Archdiocese of Caceres and the City Government of Naga, particularly the change of plans for the Traslacion and Fluvial Processions. On June 8, Circular No. 12 Series of 2022 of the Office of the Archbishop said the images of Our Lady of Penafrancia and Divino Rostro would be mounted on vehicles due to the continuing pandemic. On July 28, Bicol Mail published the Archdiocese’s preparations for prayer caravans instead of foot processions. On August 11, Naga City Mayor Nelson S. Legacion posted on Facebook that the traditional Traslacion and Fluvial Processions would be held.

According to Fr. Juan Pablo Z. Carpio, Vice Rector of the Penafrancia Basilica Minore, the turnaround was made after city officials said foot processions were allowed under the current alert level. “When we met as the Fiesta Committee in April or May, in deference to the city’s protocols, the decision was to hold both Traslacion and Fluvial Processions via motorcade. But when the city officials informed us that foot processions are already allowed, we welcomed it with great joy and decided to hold foot processions.”

According to the statement, devotees who wish to join the Penafrancia festivities “must have completed the city’s vaccination requirement. Those 50 years old and above should have received their second booster shots. Those 18 to 49 years old should have received the first booster. And those who are 5 to 11 years old must be fully vaccinated.”

In addition, “facemasks must be worn at all times for the duration of the processions and all other religious and civic activities.”

The statement also laid down the requirement for male devotees who intend to carry the andas. “They must join the Cofradia de San Jose and register in the Parish most convenient to them. They must attend the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) conducted by the Cofradia’s Formation Teams.”

“The registration is open until September 4. The members will be issued Security ID’s to ensure proper identification,” Fr. Carpio said.

“Let us make this year’s Fiesta celebration safe and solemn,” Fr. Carpio urged. “Join our crusade: Traslacion pahusayon, Prusisyon pasolemnihon. The devotees and pilgrims can line up along the processional route with their rosaries, white handkerchiefs, lighted candles and flowers. Priests will bless the faithful and their religious articles as they pass by,” he added.

Schools and organizations joining the Traslacion must register with the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission headed by Fr. Glenn Ruiz. Melody Ojeda, office secretary, said the registration is open until September 4 and those joining must be vaccinated. She advised devotees to bring their vaccination cards, in case such will be required by local enforcers.

During the press conference, Renne F. Gumba, Director of the Naga City Public Safety Office, admitted the physical impossibility of requiring all devotees to present their vaccination cards. He said random checks would be conducted instead.

City Health Officer Dr. Vito “Butch” C. Borja said Naga City has few Covid19 cases and patients were usually back to work after five days. He added that Covid19 patients at the Bicol Medical Center (BMC) have co-morbidities. He reiterated that symptomatic devotees must isolate immediately. “Grabe po an mode of infection kani, madalion lang. Magkataid lang kamo, nag-ulay-ulay, halangkaw an risk kaiyan. Kaya quarantine o isolation an (sinasabi) mi.”

In a separate interview, Dr. Mary Jane Guazon-Uy, BMC’s Chief of Medical Professional Staff Division, said she “does not see any reason not to proceed with religious festivities,” as political rallies during the campaign period earlier this year already gathered massive crowds.

“Standard precautions still apply such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. This has been proven effective during the rallies. If antigen test can be provided during special events, so much the better,” Dr. Guazon-Uy added.

However, she notes the practice and behavior of the voyadores. “We should do away with the body slamming of the voyadores until we are sure of safety. Unless all voyadores can be swabbed or screened right before the event, it will be unsafe. Although we have very few severe cases and very few mortality as of now, the risks are still there.”

City Ordinance No. 2020-29 requires the mandatory wearing of facemasks at all times in public places. The first offense will warrant a reprimand; the second, a penalty of One Thousand Pesos; and the third, a penalty of Five Thousand Pesos or imprisonment of not more than 30 days or both.

In case of failure to present a vaccination card, a person will be denied access to the activity, Gumba said.


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