The reason we went to Naga was to experience the Peñafrancia Festival. My friend made a fair warning that there will be lots of people. We might experience a lot of shoving and pushing. I psyched myself up to just go with the flow. There were 6 of us braving the sea of people. I did not feel like I was a needle in a haystack.
Although I did not do much research on this celebration, we made a visit to the Peñafrancia Museum and I got a little more insight on the history of the festival.
The museum had dioramas depicting scenes on the history of the Peñafrancia.
We were supposed to attend mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral but with the traffic, we arrived late.
The procession started at around 3 p.m. so we had the time to eat lunch and roam around. The streets were in a festive mood.
There were so many people near the market area. Security was visible. My friends went souvenir shopping. Before 3 p.m. we started to find a good vantage point to view the procession. The ideal place for us would have been on the steps of the local mall but it seemed like everyone else thought of the same thing. We settled comfortably on the sidewalk. We sat on a garbage bag that our host brought. Clever. Oh, did I mention I wore a dress just like what I planned before? Yes. I sat on the sidewalk in my white dress. Only in Naga! I did not mind. I welcome new experiences. New experiences mean new anecdotes. Besides, there are others who also sat on the sidewalk.
I took a photo of the man’s shirt. Voyadores are street dancers or devotees who follow the procession. They surround the image as protection and pushed the cart that carried the image. Some of them are barefoot. The downside is that some of them were drunk. I could smell alcohol reeking from where some of them stood. Some can get a little rowdy.
From where I stood, I was drowned in a sea of people. As the voyadores pass by, they look for spaces where they can walk through easily. A mass of them passed through in front of us that we had to step back. For a few seconds, it felt like being suffocated by different aromas. I feel like I survived a stampede. Personal bubble spaces burst. It was an adventure for claustrophobic and agoraphobic people. Ha!
Our next stop was to check out the fluvial procession. The crowd has already settled in their positions that by the time we got there, I can no longer see the river. Taller people stood in front of me. No matter how I channeled my inner ballerina, my tiptoes could only lift me as high as the length of my foot. I only see the fluvial parade through the camera of people in front of me. No regrets though. God knew I tried.
The devotion of the Bicolanos to Ina was evident. Ina is Filipino for ‘mother’. Our Lady of Peñafrancia is called as such. To those who are not used to such adulation, it would seem like fanaticism. For me, it was devotion. I am a Catholic but I am not the religious type who follow feasts, rituals and novenas. I am prayerful but in the confines of my home. To show love of God in public with much conviction like these Bicolanos is love. It is love that made these people brave the crowd just to watch the image pass by. It is love that made some vow to follow the procession barefoot year after year. I might not experience Peñafrancia again since I live far. I felt blessed that I did.
Let me close this post with a prayer: