President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has issued Proclamation No. 33 on Sept. 10 “Declaring the City of Naga and the Province of Camarines Sur as Pilgrimage Capitals of the Bicol Region and Recognized Top Tourist Destinations of the Philippines.”
The presidential proclamation was requested by Congressman Luis R. Villafuerte (3rd District, Camarines Sur) who stated that the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia “is the only regional feast in the country that welcomes millions of pilgrims from different parts of the country and the world who participate in the celebration of the said festival.”
In a memorandum for the President, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. said that the Department of Tourism and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines interposed no objection to the proposed proclamation.
In the proclamation, President Aquino noted that the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia “for the past 300 years has become an epic historical event that has become part of our cultural heritage.”
The document further stated that “the City of Naga, the Heart of Bicol, where the 300-year-old image is enshrined, has long been recognized and considered as the pilgrimage capital of the Bicol region.”
The President said that “the programs and activities instituted during the Peñafrancia festival must be conducted in an atmosphere of peace and order that must be assisted and maintained by the government, and that the solemnity and sensitivity of the nature and character of the festivities must be preserved.
“Towards this end, the government shall ensure that the conduct of the observances essential to the feast, which include but are not limited to the Traslacion, the Fluvial and Dawn Processions and other cultural and historical remembrances activities, shall be respected, and that commercial exploitation during the pilgrimage period such as street parties that may become rambunctious, drinking sprees in plazas, street vending that obstruct passages towards the pilgrimage sites and other similar activities, shall be discouraged.
“Accordingly, the local government units within the area are thereby enjoined to ensure that the nature and character of the Peñafrancia Festival shall not be unduly breached and that such commercial undertakings shall not be conducted in public places so as not to disturb and disrupt the activities.”
The President then enjoined government agencies to be in partnership with the Archdiocese of Caceres, to put together their technical and financial resources and to participate in the conduct of trade fairs, job fairs and the like during the months of September and October. Likewise he ordered the Philippine National Police to provide security assistance to the pilgrims and maintain peace and order during the period of celebrations and festivities.
Three days after Executive Proclamation No. 33 was issued by Malacanang, and following a similar train of thought, Naga Mayor John G. Bongat approved Monday (Sept. 13) Resolution No. 2010-280 adopted on Aug. 24 by the Sanggunian Panlungsod “Declaring Naga City As Pilgrimage City This September 2010 And Every Year Thereafter” .
The Resolution was sponsored by Hon. Joaquin “Chito” F. Perez, Jr. and co-sponsored by Hon. Cecilia V. de Asis.
The resolution had to count some days as it underwent styling, provided by Vice-Mayor Gabriel Hidalgo Bordado, a writer himself, before it was submitted to Bongat for his approval.
A part of the resolution reads: “Whereas, the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicolandia, has been part of the history of the City of Naga;
“Whereas, the devotion started three hundred years ago, in 1710, when Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias has an image carved and chapel built, and procession 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 with regard to his health. Since then the devotion has grown, and has spread abroad. Devotees’ accounts of miraculous healings, and favors received through her intercession have been undeniable reasons for the spread of the devotion;
“Whereas the tercentenary celebration of our devotion in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly addressed by Bicolanos as INA (mother) is a celebration of our gratitude and immortal devotion to our Ina;
“Be it resolved as it is hereby resolved to declare Naga city as Pilgrimage City in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly addressed by Bicolanos as INA (mother) from September 2010 and the year thereafter.”
The resolution is a 180-degree turn-around of the city government’s action on a similar petition submitted two years ago by the Caceres Council of the Laity to then Mayor Jesse M. Robredo who in turn submitted the same for comment to, and who adopted the stand of, City Legal Officer Angel Ojastro who virtually rejected the petition.