As of the moment, looking outside from our conference hall, I could see dark clouds in the gloomy sky. This the reason why I was jolted to go down suddenly a few minutes back and proceed to the photo exhibit of Doc Bob Mendoza that features images of the Penafrancia festivities which the photographer has been covering for ten years now as his own way of expressing devotion to the Patroness of Bicol. You see, there is a picture there showing voyadores on the top of the pagoda carrying the image of "Ina", and behind them are the same dark clouds that are present now. And the caption asks: "Are those rain-clouds, or are they human hearts heavy with her Return?"
My heart is heavy now. I could feel something that I could not contend. It is taking over; overpowering. I 'succumb'.
She is near.
On my way here as I walked together with a Tito from my pad west of Magsaysay Avenue, we passed by jeepneys with signages indicating that they came from the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon. We saw people inside them, and on top of the vehicles' roofs or taplod. The people look tired, perhaps due to the long travel from their hometowns; and have weary eyes. But it dawned on me that they look at peace and assured of their purpose.
And I could not look long into their eyes.
My Tito blurted: "Ang malungkot nito marami sa ating mga taga-Naga, hindi na tulad nila. Masyado nang nag-eenjoy e. Ang iba puro na lang business. Nakakalimutan na si "Ina"."
I thought of saying something, but ended up just making a few nods.
True enough, a lot of us, every year, become star-struck with all the personalities and celebrities that come to visit and perform here in Naga City. And then we focused more on the business/commercial side of the festivities. And so we ask, how many of us, Catholics, are still into the Central Reason of the occasion?
I once asked a visiting friend from Manila what he felt after witnessing the Traslacion and the fluvial procession, and he said:
"Napaiyak ako. Na-star-struck ako kay "Ina" at saka sa mga pangyayari. Hindi ko nga maintindihan talaga, pero may naramdaman akong kakaiba, napakaganda, at -- tunay"
The riverside is now filled with people and candlelights.
I must go.
Ina calls me "home"...towards HIM.
Viva la Virgen!
Ina journeys back to Basilica
Voyadores to escort her back in a regal fluvial procession
Bicol Mail (http://www.bicolmail.com/)
13 September 2007
NAGA CITY -- Once again on Saturday, barefooted voyadores will trek back to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown Naga where the miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin of Penafrancia begins her journey back to her home at the Basilica via a fluvial procession.
At about 1:30 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 15, throngs of burly voyadores will once again bear on their brawny shoulders Bicol’s most revered icon in a foot procession that winds up at the foot of Tabuco bridge where the flower-decked pagoda waits for her over two-kilometer long journey upstream the Naga River, where on both banks of the river will swell an immense crowd, with lighted candles held on one hand and the other waving white handkerchiefs to witness the passing image amidst shouts of “Viva la Virgen!”
The whole spectacle which has been captured by camera lenses so many times is “one that is sublime, poetic, and enchanting portrait, difficult and almost impossible to describe” unless your heart and soul are there to personally witness the passing of a religious event.
At about 5:30 p.m. when the pagoda reaches the arrival berth in Bgy Balatas that leads to the Basilica, a mass will be concelebrated by bishops from the different dioceses in Bicol amidst thousands of devotees, pilgrims and fiesta visitors who came from as far as Ilocos in the north and Mindanao in the south who will honor her, thank her for the blessings received, and ask for her intercessions as they pray for safer and better days ahead.
The deep seated faith and devotion of the Bicolanos to the Virgin, whom they fondly call “Ina” can best be felt in the pageantry witnessed in Naga every September.
A historian wrote that how solemnly the feast is celebrated is better described by those who could pass as mere observers, like one seated in a modern-day cultural center witnessing an opera or a stage production.
The big difference, according to him, is that the latter is stage-managed while the former is welled up by the spontaneity of human emotion borne out of centuries-old tradition of faith and love.
The culmination of this year’s festivities begin with the Sunday mass the following day at the stately home of the Virgin of Penafrancia who would now be safely installed in her precious temple, the Basilica.
CREDITS: Photos by Ric Perez (first photo showing the culmination - accentuated with a fireworks display - of last week's 'Traslacion' where the Church also launched its 3-year preparation for the 300th year celebration of the Bicolanos' devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia in 2010 ) and Fr. Louie Occiano (second photo showing the fluvial procession where the miraculous image of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia is brought back to the Basilica after a 9-day novena at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral) from the the Bicol Mail website.