Festival is an integral part of Philippine culture. It displays celebration, devotion, passion, values and heritage. In the Philippines, there are numerous festivals being held every year. And fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to witness some of those.
Seeing how grandeur and celebrated festivals that I’ve been made me interested to experience more of my country’s festivity. After attending a major festival few years’ back, I made a pact to myself that I must witness at least one each year. Two years had passed, and I had able to fulfill my promise. In fact, just September of this year, I’ve got the opportunity to experience another great festivity. I was able to see the most celebrated festivity in the Bicol Region, the Peñafrancia Festival.
Peñafrancia Festival is one of the biggest religious festivals in the Philippines honoring the feast day of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Patroness of the Bicol Region. It is one of the country’s greatest displays of religious devotion, uniting Bicolanos of all ages and from all places in devoutness to their dear ‘Ina’.
The festivity, which started from a weeklong event and now a month-long event, includes procession, parades, charity shows, trade fair, caravan, expo and other happenings. The highlights of the festival are traslacion and fluvial procession.
The traslacion procession is the transferring of the miraculous Image of the Virgin, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, also locally known as ‘Ina’, and of the Divino Rostro to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Naga City for a Novena and Holy Masses. It happens on the second Friday of September. The fluvial procession is the return of the Image of the Virgin from the Metropolitan Cathedral to her home shrine at the Basilica. The image is carried in a pagoda on its return journey to the Basilica, where a Pontifical Mass is held. Along the course, people shout ‘Viva La Virgen!’ This procession happens on the third Saturday of September.
It was only the fluvial procession that I was able to see when I went to Naga City for the festivity. My cousins, who are devotees of this event, accompanied me. The procession starts at 3:00 PM. We were able to arrive at the city proper of Naga at around lunchtime. We attended a mass first at the Cathedral, and then went to Basilica to pay a visit.
It was already past 3:00 PM when we were able to come back to the Cathedral area. The procession had already started, and there were already huge numbers of people. We went around to find a good spot. After walking back and forth, we settled in front of a famous fast food restaurant. The area was jammed. It was packed of people waiting for the beloved ‘Ina’ to pass by. When the Image of the Virgin passed by our spot, things got intense. Our place got tightly packed. People were pushing one another. Good thing, I was on a higher level of the road and there was a man in front of us safeguarding us not to be pushed back.
The fluvial procession was different from any other procession that I had witnessed. It was intense. It was extreme but it was remarkable. It surprised me to see how adoring devotees of this festival were. I just felt glad to experience this one of a kind moment.
When it had already completely passed by our area, we hurriedly went to the riverside to witness the transport of the Image of the Virgin to the Basilica. Part of the route of the procession is to transport the Image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia to her shrine by passing by the Naga River. We went back and forth again to find a nice spot but we were unfortunate to find one. Nevertheless, I had still able to see it from afar.
The procession finished before dark. My cousins told me it was so early for it to be finished since usually it was already nighttime when the Image of the Virgin passes by the river.
Thousands of devotees joined and witnessed the holy fluvial procession. It was astounding to witness how passionate my fellow Bicolanos were in observing their devotion. I’ve already been to Peñafrancia Festival before when I was still a kid but I don’t have a clear vision of my experience but this recent experience that I had gave me an unforgettable recollection. Experiencing the celebrated festival of Peñafrancia made me more interested to continue witnessing colorful festivals and religious festivity in the country. Festivals make me enjoy the crowd and be part of it. It gave me more desire not only to travel but to experience festivity. So, what festival to witness next?