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NAGA CITY, Philippines – Devotees converged in this city on Saturday, September 16, for the feast of Bicol’s patroness, Our Lady of Peñafrancia (Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia).
The event, graced by Apostolic Nuncio Charles John Brown, was held for the first time since the annual event had to be canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, devotees were encouraged to celebrate at home, in their parishes, or in their basic ecclesial communities.
The wooden image of the Virgin Mary, believed by devotees to be miraculous, has been venerated in Naga City since the 1700s.
Every year, pilgrims pass through an 11-meter high arch dedicated to Our Lady of Peñafrancia to affirm their devotion.
Voyadores – barefoot men from all walks of life – carry the image in a procession and bring it alongside the Divino Rostro from a shrine to the river for the hours-long fluvial procession, until it reaches a dock near the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia.
The voyadores race against each other to carry the palanquin, believing that doing so would cleanse them of their sins and heal their illnesses.
Women are not allowed to board the main pagoda as no other woman except Our Lady of Peñafrancia should be the center of the celebration. This belief spawned the superstition that if a woman boards the pagoda, it would sink.
Politicians are also not allowed to get on the pagoda.
The Philippine National Police in Bicol deployed 2,316 personnel for the feast and related activities throughout September, according to Bicol police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Maria Luisa Calubaquib.
“They will be assigned to manage traffic flow, conduct intensive police presence and mobile patrols in key tourist areas, establish strategic checkpoints, and respond swiftly to any unforeseen incidents or emergencies that may arise,” Calubaquib said.
Calubaquib said that police personnel will augment the Philippine Army and other law enforcers assisting the security of the pilgrims. – Rappler.com