Penafrancia Festival | Viva La Virgen!
My experience of the Penafrancia Festival still amazes me. It was a moving encounter with the miraculous patroness of Bicol, the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia. Truly, it sent chills as the overwhelming sea of devotees shouting “Viva La Virgen” paraded her around the city.
It was an inexplicable feeling to watch the crowd of barefoot pilgrims ushering the carriage of the blessed Marian image. Was it the radiating chants of the faithful? Was it the unfathomable “something” in the depth of reverence? Whatever it was, this experience of the religious kind is something unforgettable.
In a world full of seemingly endless miseries, Filipinos find strength in God. Indeed, our resilience to hardships & our being God-fearing are what makes the Filipino character. In a Roman Catholic way of life, intercessors to God like the Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia are highly revered.
And yes, her feast is always done with astounding revelry.
Penafrancia Festival 2019 runs on September 13-29
Bicolanos from all over the world come home to Naga City every September to pay homage. Everyone endearingly call her Ina whose miracles touched the lives of many Bicolanos. This devotion to the Blessed Mother is immeasurable. She is venerated by millions of devotees & celebrated in a tradition lasting for more than 300 years.
The religious festivities start with Traslacion from the Basilica to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Millions of devotees walk in a slow procession on the streets of Naga. Then, the barefooted voyadores or the guardians of Ina take turns in ushering her throughout the parade.
Her carriage floats in an unimaginable horde of pilgrims waving white cloth as well as chanting in unison. They all pray for intercession, shouting to the high heavens, Viva La Virgen!
Following the Traslacion are the various non-religious activities. Many schools from all over Bicol take the streets of Naga in a civic-military parade. In fact, the longest I ever witnessed. This is the extravaganza of baton-twirling majorettes & choreographed marching bands.
For tourists, shopping for something Bicol is fun & easy at the Gainza Trade Fair & some other booths around town.
Moreover, Bicol is home to some of the country’s beauty queens & the annual search for Ms. Bicolandia is another crowd-drawing event. Yes, the Bicolanos’ love for beauty never fails to fill the huge Coliseum.
Just like any other Philippine fiestas, street dancing always wow the people with heart pounding drumbeats & colourful costumes. The Voyadores street dancing competition is just one of those. At night, the bars in Naga never run out of party gimmicks with endless flow of booze & music.
Penafrancia Festival ends in a fluvial parade afloat a flatboat along the Bicol River. Voyadores paddle on long canoes as they escort her on this long fluvial procession. The exultant shouting of Viva La Virgen echoes around Naga until she rests back in her altar in the Basilica Minore.
What makes the Penafrancia Festival distinct is its devotees’ overwhelming show of faith. Amidst the frenzy of modern-day ways of celebrations, the Bicolanos still put Ina as the center of their jubilation.
The Penafrancia Festival is one of the most spellbinding religious celebrations in the Philippines. It is a joyous display of faith in God through His mother, the blessed Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia. It is a long held tradition of spirituality that blesses the faithful.