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Peñafrancia: Memories and Musings

Crowds. An ocean of people. Busy and boisterous. Bands playing. It was always full of festive sounds. Fireworks were the ultimate main event, of course. However, the theme song of the feast would, definitely, be the last song syndrome, without a doubt. Yes, it starts with… Resuene vibrante, el himno de amor. A song about Our Ina, and that special bond. A song about love.

Toy balloons, uncanny guns, and the fluffy cloud-like cotton candy which was a staple in Carnivals. Children relished the vacation. They had a get-together with classmate and buddies and head on for the Fair rides; the Ferris wheel, the horror train, the caterpillar, the merry-go-round, and the many games where you could win a prize. If you shot the bullseye then you would have gone home with the biggest prize. Those were the days. Events that only happened during the Fiesta.

The gastronomic feast was a tradition. People visited family, relatives, friends, and neighbors. Seafoods were and are the best party food. Who could forget experiences when a grown hog would be slaughtered and would be cooked in a plethora of dishes and viands? Pork stew, dinuguan with puto or pig’s blood that looked like chocolate with traditional rice cake. Or, the whole pig roasted as Lechon? The crisp skin, the tender meat dipped in a special sauce, the rib parts that were nibbled on, or perhaps, at the end of the day, literally, when the pig’s head is prepared into Pork Sisig. Maybe, pork sinigang for some.

The sights to behold were aplenty. Parades were always blockbusters. There were the Military and the Civic editions. And, the floats were eye-candies. Pageants came in all colors, it was up to you which one was your cup of tea. Sport tournaments also were played during those times. Concerts of national to international stars were staged. It was a monumental celebration for everyone.

The two main churches during the Peñafrancia celebration are the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral and the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore. Now, these two main sites were always filled with people. There would be long lines leading up to the altars where pilgrims could kiss and could touch the Images of Ina and El Divino Rostro. There would be novenas and masses celebrated during the feast. All roads led to the City of Naga. Bicolanos, most especially, non-Bicolanos and devout Catholics journeyed near and far to profess their love to Ina and her Son.

Traslacion heralds the beginning of the Novenario at the Cathedral. From the Old Shrine of Peñafrancia, both images are transferred through a procession on roads and avenues of the City. The Fluvial procession is done in the Naga River, both Images are on board the Pagoda and navigates the river that runs through the City and leads back to land where the procession continues to the Basilica Minore. Then, the Feast Day itself is the culmination of the Religious phenomenon.

Why does it rain a lot during the end of August and the start of September? Well, the Naga river has to have enough water for the Pagoda to run smoothly along its course. Why is it that only men are allowed to be with Ina on board the Pagoda? The September fiesta had been designated for her sons only. There is a celebration held in a different month of the year called Peñafrancia de Mayo where women, Ina’s daughters, are the ones with her on board the Pagoda.

Why are there many devotees of the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia and El Divino Rostro? The dog was brought back to life. Yes, the one who shed its blood to cover the original image was among the early miracles. Answered prayers. Healing. Dreams came true. A sense of peace. Remember… the spell of Cholera Morbo ended because of the fervent devotion to El Divino Rostro. And, Covid-19, providentially, had been contained.

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