The pagoda carrying the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia traverses the Naga River on its way to the Basilica Menor de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia during Saturday's fluvial procession. – Pic by DANNY PATA
By SHIENA M BARRAMEDA
NAGA CITY: Around 200 devotees bearing flowers rode the pagoda of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, Bicol’s Patroness, in a fluvial procession on the Naga River Friday evening, May 24.
As a tribute to the role of women in the family and the society in general, the Archdiocese of Caceres organized the fluvial procession as one of the major activities of Peñafrancia de Mayo, a month-long celebration of the Bicolano faith on the Region’s Patroness different from the annual Peñafrancia Festivities in September, Rev Fr Louie Occiano, Caceres Communications Commision (CCOM) Director, said.
The 12-year-old event started in 2001 to give women devotees of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, locally known as Ina, the chance to physically carry the image to the Danlugan (Port) near Naga People’s Mall in the city center where the pagoda and boats are waiting to ferry it back to its official home the Basilica Minore through the 3.8km long stretch of Naga River, he said.
Apart from those who were given the opportunity to be with the image on the pagoda, Occiano estimated that there were also some 2,000-3,000 men and women devotees who rode boats and waited on the banks of Naga River with lighted candles.
There were around 30 boats that joined the procession on the river, he said.
Among those who were given the opportunity to ride the flower-laden pagoda, which is exclusively reserved for male devotees only during the September celebrations, was Naga City Mayor John Bongat’s wife Farah Bongat.
Gem Enriquez, a devotee of Peñafrancia, joined the May fluvial procession for the first time with the Mayor’s wife and said that the experience was very much different from her regular devotion of joining the women voyadores (devotees) every September.
“It felt so beautiful, like I am so close to Ina,” she said. “No word could possibly describe it enough.”
Peñafrancia de Mayo started in May 4 this year with an Archdiocesan Pilgrimage and Flores de Mayo which welcomed pilgrims from different Camarines Sur districts.
There was also a search for Reyna Elena 2013 and her court, Naga City’s version of the Philippine Sagala.
May 18 was the Run for INA III – Takbo Para Sa Museo, a 5k benefit run for the completion of Museo de Nuestra Señora de Penafrancia.
The image of Ina also visited the Naga People’s Mall last May 20 to give chance to vendors and businessmen there to pay homage to the Patroness, an act which they fail to observe during the September festivities due to busy schedules, Occiano said. – Bicol Mail