Viva La Virgen de Peñafrancia: Seeing "Ina" For The First Time
Mapee Singson | Sep 21, 2015
Twelve years in cultural work, I have experienced quite a number of festivals around the country. From secular celebrations, religious fiestas and even festivals invented to draw tourists to visit a town, a city or a province. Inventing festivals and traditions became widespread due to tourism demands and booming industry of tourism worldwide. In the Philippines, festivals even exceeded the number of islands and everyday new celebration is conceived. Filipinos in nature love to celebrate and find reasons to revel every blessing and achievement they receive. But then again, most of these festivals dwell on the aspect of spectacle, tourism and economic gain rather than surfacing the true essence and meaning of such phenomena. I am not saying that these are all wrong, but these are just my curious observations.
September 18, a group of eight friends including myself braved the 12 hour butt-aching and back-cracking trip to Naga to experience Peñafrancia Festival. It is a religious celebration dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia known to Nagueños as “Ina,” a local term for mother. The image is patterned after the Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia in Spain. The feast is celebrated on the third Saturday & Sunday of September starting with a nine-day novena to Divino Rostro or the Holy Image followed by the traslacion or the transfer of image of the Virgin from the basilica Minore to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral and it will be culminated with mass and a fluvial procession back to its home.
Today, we experienced the fluvial procession following Ina from the cathedral to the river back to Basilica Minore. We attended the mass, and witnessed the image atop a huge steel orb carried by voyadores to a pagoda that channeled the river. For me, it was a dream come true to see Ina in real close vantage point.
Pilgrims composed of locals from Naga and different neighboring towns joined the chorus shouting “Viva La Virgen! Viva!” waving white handkerchiefs to receive Ina’s blessing as she passed by. It was an overwhelming experience seeing ordinary people turned devotees cheering in exaltation. I felt a ‘kilabot’ factor filled with devotion every time the image of the Virgen hit my vista. We traversed the parallel road to the river towards the basilica hoping to have a glance of the fluvial procession. I tried my best to get a good spot at the bridge where the procession will pass and luckily I did.
A lady standing on my left was tearing up unconsciously and a middle age man in front of me was screaming “Nakita ko na si Ina!” as the image aboard the pagoda was approaching. I realized something and it struck me, that above all these spectacle and hype, devotees and pilgrims always tapped their inner core of religiosity, a core value of each and every Filipino. That amidst the hardships, everyday struggle, devastating calamities and conflicted thoughts, this is a day to be thankful for all those simple blessings we receive most importantly the blessing of life. My personal devotion was reinforced and strengthened with these experiences.
Tomorrow, we will have a chance to touch the image of Ina and hoping my intentions will also be heard. Hoping to be back next year to experience traslacion and to see Ina once again.
Viva La Virgen de Peñafrancia! Viva!