During The Peñafrancia Festival, Just Follow The Faithful
Gari Sy Rivera | September 26, 2019
Photos by the author
As a first-time attendee of Bicol region’s grandest festival, the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, being able to immerse in its various activities left a mark on my heart. If there was one thing that stood out, it was the devotion of the pilgrims, locals and visitors from all over the country and perhaps across the world, who traveled to Naga City to take part in Peñafrancia’s activities.
I found myself overwhelmed by the passion that the pilgrims have for their feast. The one-week fiesta included numerous masses dedicated to the different people in society, such as families, educators, government leaders and more. Night vigils were also held at the Cathedral, wherein attendees could take solemn time to be at one in worship, “an hour of prayer and silence” so to speak.
The first event of Peñafrancia that I took part in was a night mass held in the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, followed by the Marian Procession, and finally the session of Healing Prayer with the Manto. In a single night, I saw and felt the attendees’ sincerity and authenticity in their participation. The energy was overflowing with heart and it filled the entire cathedral. As the benches of the church and the area outside of its walls filled up, as the people eagerly marched along the perimeters of the cathedral in the lead of Ina, the image of the Virgin of Peñafrancia, and as they fell in long lines without hesitation to be prayed for by priests under the mantos, all I could think of was how amazing that love and faith could inspire a large number of people to spend long, late hours, some lasting until the next procession held at dawn, to express their appreciation and worship in their beliefs and truths. I wasn’t the only one who felt it. “Emotion all around the area as people come together,” shares Lyca Dela Cruz, a 22 year old teacher, describing her personal experience of the fiesta she attends annually.
The number of participants in the week’s festivities do not compare to the sheer volume during the Fluvial Procession on the final day, the time when the image of Ina is paraded throughout Naga City on her pagoda before she is transferred onto a boat to sail back to her home shrine at the Basilica. Approximately 1 million devotees were said to have watched and awaited this last part of the feast.
It was the first time that I experienced being in such a huge crowd, to think that I was a part of this large number still boggles my mind. This particular procession was truly overwhelming, there was so much passion. Shouts of “Viva La Virgen!” were repeatedly answered by “Viva!” Parents hoisted their children on their shoulders as they joined the crowded processions to catch a glimpse of Ina. Throngs of people held the area’s rosary in prayer while waiting for the arrival of Ina by the dock. Many clamored to touch the Image of the Virgin with their bare hands or pieces of cloth, even as she traveled throughout the city, some even attempting to break through police barricades for the chance.
As wild as their actions seem to be, these gave me an understanding of just how deep devotion can go, of how powerful belief can touch lives. Faith, it would seem, inspires millions of Filipinos to come together for a singular purpose of celebrating their faith in Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Viva!