The title of the post is taken from the line Lea Salonga sang in that 2003 music video of “Tara na, Biyahe Tayo!”. The title when roughly translated: “Have you been the Feast of Peñafrancia in Naga?”
February of this year, I found myself scouring the Cebu Pacific website for their promo fare. I was able to book 5 people for a trip to Manila. Little by little, I was about able to find a good deal to fly to Naga from Manila.
My friend was a Jesuit Volunteer and she was assigned in Naga for one year after graduating from college. She was the one who invited me to go with her in this trip. We stayed in her friend’s house so we saved on hotel bills. Her friend’s house was a mansion-in-the-making so it was like staying in a hotel. We had clean sheets and nice bathroom. The room was air-conditioned but the house was designed to be energy-efficient. The large windows when opened invited cool air in the evening.
Unlike my HK trip, I did no research for the trip because one of my friends who also joined this trip was a thorough researcher. Our itinerary was laid out complete with time and date. Our host also made a complementary itinerary to further enhance our Bicol experience.
There was so much to see in Camarines Sur. The trip was refresher course in geography for me. I have never been in this part of the country.
If I expand the map, one would find Mt. Isarog figured prominently in the frame.
Mt. Isarog National Park
We hired a jeepney for the whole day to reach the spots on our list. One of such destinations is the Mt. Isarog National Park. As the jeepney ascend to the area where our trek would commence, I heard my ear pop. I knew I was in an area with an elevation. After several minutes of walking uphill, this welcomed us.
I felt the muscle in my legs tighten as it received its much-needed toning. This is the beginning of an adventure going down to see Malabsay falls. The steps were tricky as we navigate the trail.
There was even an area where we had to crawl.
At this point, the sunglasses I hung in my neckline fell into a ravine. Our gracious host became my hero for the day. He climbed down the treacherous ravine to rescue my sunglasses even if I said he does not need to get it for me. I’d rather lose my father’s sunglasses than face the risk of him falling. He descended like Spider-Man. The few seconds he spent on the slope seemed like minutes as I was praying to high heavens. My stomach churned as the acrophobia in me kicked in. He handed me my sunglasses before I can even say ‘Amen’.
All the fear and anxiety vanished when I heard the water rushing down from the falls. Mist lightly clung into my camera’s lens but did not succeed into ruining my photos. Malabsay falls was breathtaking.
Emerald Grotto at Calvarrio Hill
A quick trip to Iriga City brought us to this Emerald Grotto overlooking Iriga City with Mt. Iriga at the background.
When I posted the photo above on Facebook, one of my friends remarked that the roofs in this place are nicely painted. Prominent in the photo is the roof of a convention center.
This is the reason we went to Iriga. (Side note: Nora Aunor is from Iriga)
It is a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Since it is in cave-like structure, there were bat poop in the floor in the crucifix area. When I looked up the ceiling, bats were sleeping ( lower left corner in the photo above).
Visita Iglesia is a Catholic practice during Holy Week to visit different churches and pray. It was not the holy week but by the number of churches we visited, we were church-hopping one after another. Bicol is full of beautiful churches. Although my city of Butuan was the site of the first mass in the Philippines, all that is left to us is the ruins of an old church. I guess Spaniards easily warmed up to the good-natured Bicolanos compared to the fierce Butuanons. I guess they did not come back to Butuan after the first mass.
This is the church in Bombon with a leaning bell tower.
We were allowed to climb up the bell tower.
The Peñafrancia church.
Miguel de Covarrubias brought the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia to Naga.
This is the Metropolitan Cathedral. It looks like any other old church in the Philippines.
What makes this special is that it has covered gazebo in the middle where can be used as a stage when there is a large gathering of people. An orchestra played music to the devotees who flocked to see the image of the Blessed Virgin.
This is the San Francisco Church right in middle of the busy streets of Naga. It looks like an old church but it was actually a newly-built church. I attended mass here in Bicolano and I did not understand a word. I tried to follow the mass by observing the rites. I think all Catholic masses had the same sequence.
Below is the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia.
In the ranks amongst churches, a basilica is a notch higher than a cathedral. I think the pope needs to proclaim it as such before it is called a basilica. I bet there are other requirements for such a classification.
The Basilica is the home of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. At the center of this ornate altar is the image of the Blessed Virgin. Devotees can touch the image by climbing up the steps on the side of the altar.