By MIKE DE LA RAMA
The mayor of Naga City has assured the security and safety of devotees of Our Lady of Peňafrancia and visitors in the city during the week-long celebration of the tercentenary of Bicolanos’ devotion to the Patroness of Bicolandia.
Naga City Mayor John Bongat said that an inter-agency task force has been formed composed of different agencies to ensure the safety of all devotees including local and foreign visitors.
Bongat said health and police personnel had be deployed in all areas during the “Traslacion” on Friday (Sept.10), and the fluvial procession on Saturday, Sept. 18.
“As we celebrate the tercentenary of devotion to Our Lady of Penafrancia we are expecting huge number of local and foreign visitors,” Bongat said.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims, devotees, tourists come to Naga City every September for the nine-day festivities in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly called by Bicolanos as “Ina” (mother).
The festivities start with the famous Traslacion procession during which the images of the Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are brought by barefooted male voyadores from the Penafrancia Shrine through the city main streets to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
This procession is participated in by thousands of devotees from all over Bicol and other parts of the country.
For the past three years, all the devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia, have been one in preparing for the grand celebration of the Tercentenary of Devotion to her. The preparation stretched to three years since it corresponds to three important moments or phases of the thanksgiving celebration.
The Archdiocese of Caceres has outlined a three-year preparation for the tercentenary with each year centered on a particular theme and objective.
Year 1 (September 2007 to September 2008) whose theme is, Remembering the Gift of the Devotion to Ina, was dedicated to revisiting the history of the devotion in view of a deeper understanding of the same devotion.
Year 2 (September 2008 to September 2009) whose theme is Renewing the Faith through Ina, was dedicated to appreciating the devotees’ giftedness towards a more vibrant and relevant faith life.
In Year 3 (September 2009 to September 2010) whose theme is Sharing the Future in Hope, is dedicated to envisioning the future with the intent of sharing the fruits of the devotion to the next generations.
Year 2010 (September 2010), the church in Bicol will celebrate in thanksgiving the grace of 300 Years of Devotion. The over-all theme of the celebration is “A Gift received, a Gift to share”.
In his message, rector of the Basilica Minore, Msgr. Romulo A. Vergara, H.P., said, “As we continuously call for her (Ina) may we aspires to follow the example she has set for us and live our Christian faith.”
“She is not just our Mother, Model and Queen but a co-pilgrim who guides us in our journey as we try to form another phase of history in the coming future. Sharing the Future in Hope, manifest our dependence to the guidance of Ina in discovering the mystery of time. Her love will give us the clear vision of the future – that is the continuous invitation to follow her Son Jesus who will give us the real meaning of life,” he said.
The devotion started three hundred years ago in 1710, when Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias had an image carved, a chapel built and processions held in honor of the miraculous image of the Virgin of Peñafrancia on account of the many favors he received through the help of the Virgin, especially pertaining to his health. Since then the devotion has grown and has even reached abroad.
Devotees’ accounts of healing and favors received through her intercession are a reason for the spread of the devotion. Many have come to Naga as curious visitors and left as devotees of the Virgin. In 2010, the devotion shall mark its 300th year.