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 Senora de Penafrancia 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. Our resilience to hardships and our tradition of 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 is highly revered and her feast is always done in astounding revelry.
Penafrancia Festival 2017 runs on September 8-17.
Bicolanos from all over the world come home to Naga City every September to pay homage and celebrate the 9-day festival. Everyone endearingly call her Ina whose miracles have touched the lives of many Bicolanos. This devotion to the Blessed Mother is immeasurable. She is venerated by millions of devotees all around the world & celebrated in a tradition lasting for more than 300 years.
The religious festivities start with Traslacion or when she is transferred from her Basilica to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Millions of devotees walk in a slow procession on the streets of Naga. 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, chanting in unison, all praying for intercession, shouting to the high heavens, Viva La Virgen!
Following the Traslacion are the various non-religious activities. Various schools from all over Bicol take the streets of Naga on a civic-military parade, perhaps the longest I have ever witnessed. This is the extravaganza of baton-twirling majorettes and choreographed marching bands. For tourists, shopping for “something Bicol” is made easy through the Gainza Trade Fair and some other smaller agro-trade fair booths around town.
Bicol is home to some of the country’s beauty queens & the annual search for Ms. Bicolandia is another crowd-drawing event. 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 the heart pounding drumbeats and colorful 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 and pop music.
Penfrancia Festival ends in a fluvial parade as Ina is brought back to her Basilica afloat a flatboat along the Bicol River. Voyadores paddle on long canoes as they escort her on this long fluvial procession. Devotees with lighted candles squeeze themselves by the riverbanks along the procession route. 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 its jubilation. Her presence is never overpowered by the loud techno beats of fiesta parties that we mostly know. People tightly adhere to the spiritual reason of the celebration and that is truly felt without compromise.
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.
Viva La Virgen!
To find out more about Penafrancia Festival, click here.