The feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, in Naga City, in Bicol, is a grand celebration. Popularly referred to by Bicolanos as the Ina (Mother), the Patroness of the entire Bicol region attracts thousands of devotees and pilgrims from all over the Philippines. Staunch devotees who are now based abroad also make it a point to be home for the celebration which happens during the month of September.
When I was young and still living in Donsol, our family would also religiously participate in the celebration, enduring the then 5-hour drive to Naga. I remember we will wake up really early in the morning, usually as early as 3:00 am, so we will be on the road by 5:00 am, complete with our packed food.
The city would be really jampacked with devotees (it can get crazy, that’s my memory of it) so it was hard to find a place to dine. We will just eat our lunch in our car and wait until the Fluvial Procession starts, usually at around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. We would then position ourselves in one of the bridges in Naga, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ina.
But I also remember other visits where we would forever fall in line just so we could touch Ina, lit our candles, and offer our prayers. The lines were really long but I never heard anyone complain. I guess it’s too little a sacrifice for all the blessings that Ina showers her people with.
I also remember growing up witnessing little versions of the fluvial procession in Donsol. I could imagine every little town in Bicol celebrating this. That’s how devout we, Bicolanos, are to our Patroness.
The feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia is a nine-day celebration which begins with Translacion (Spanish for transfer) that sees the procession of Ina from its home at the Basilica Minore del Penafrancia to the Naga Cathedral. Barefooted males wearing colorful headbands, locally called as voyadores, carry the image through the main streets of the city. The culmination of these activities, the Fluvial Procession, is observed every third Saturday of September.
Devotees chant “Viva La Virgen” (Long Live the Virgin!) as the image of Ina is brought back to the Basilica during the Fluvial Procession. Bicolano men escort Ina which is transported in a pagoda. This year, the Translacion happened on September 8, while the Fluvial procession will take place this Saturday, September 15. Expect a lot of people to crowd Naga City this weekend.
Anyway, our visits became lesser when I got to high school, and in all honesty, I do not recall anymore the last time I took part in the celebration. I guess the last time I saw Ina was when we were in first year high school while on a field trip in Naga.
So when my friends and I went on a grand Bicol tour last March, I made sure we dropped by the Basilica, where Ina can be found. You can tell the visit brought back memories of yesteryears and I couldn’t helped but be nostalgic about it.
But Basicila today is a far cry from the Basilica that I remember. Stained glasses that have the image of Ina can be found in almost every corner.
While the ceiling is an interesting touch to the church. I can endure staring at it while waiting in line to get to Ina.
Times have changed already and while my religious affiliation brought me somewhere now (well, I was a Christian during my last religious life), I still recall with fondness all the trips that we made to Naga just to see Ina. I can actually go on and on about it but I will end here lest I turn this into a tearjerker post. You see, those trips to Naga were all possible because of Papa who would religiously drive us to the city. He is bedridden now and certainly can’t do that anymore.
This Saturday, I may not be in Naga to celebrate with Her, but I will certainly pray to Ina to grant Papa (and of course, Mama, as well) more years so we could take care of him the way he has been taking care of us while he was stronger. 🙂
There. Am going now. Love and light, everyone.
With M, during my last visit to Naga in March 2012.
- All photographs taken with a Canon 550d in March 2012.