Shiena M. Barrameda and Paul John F. Barrosa, Inquirer Southern Luzon / Philippine Daily Inquirer
NAGA CITY, Philippines –About three million devotees, pilgrims and tourists converged on the main streets of this city to celebrate 300 years of devotion to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, in a procession called “traslacion” here on Friday.
The traslacion traditionally marks the start of the Peñafrancia novenary. Starting this Monday until Sept. 19, Masses will be said at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
Throngs of people surrounded the image of the Virgin, called Ina (Mother) by Bicolanos, as she journeyed from the Basilica Shrine to the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Among the guests were Rev. Fr. Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, archbishop of Manila, and Bicol-born Rev. Fr. Adolfo Tito Yllana, Nuncio to Pakistan.
“This year’s celebration is grander than the years before,” Sorsogon Archbishop Arturo Bastes, a regular attendee of the feast, commented. “But the faith and devotion to Ina is still the same.”
This year’s theme, “Balaog na Inako, Balaog na Itao (Gift Received, Gift Shared),” centers on the gift of devotion to the Bicol Patroness that dates back 300 years ago from Fr. Miguel de Cobarrubias of Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (old name of Naga City).
Cobarrubias founded the Basilica Minore in commemoration of the Virgin to whom he owed his second life after a miraculous healing when he was a young seminarian.
A group of Polish Theology teachers based in Albay came to the city to see the much-awaited tercentenary celebrations. Although they refused to divulge their names, the Catholic foreign visitors admitted that they believe in the miraculous patroness.
“We have a lot of petitions ourselves,” they said.
Balikbayans also come to Naga to witness the once-in-a-lifetime tercentenary Peñafrancia celebration after many years of absence.
“Well, I came home to show Ina how much I appreciate the blessings I have received from Her through the years,” Pilar Barrameda, an overseas worker who has made the rounds of Taiwan
, South Korea, and now, Cyprus in almost 11 years, said, “I can’t deny Her presence in my life as a Bicolana. I attribute much of what my family and I have now to Her.”
The Virgin of Peñafrancia has been noted for miracles attributed to Her, the latest of which is the reported complete healing of Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legazpi from lung cancer.
“I believe that She really is the one who healed the archbishop,” Bastes said.
During the Homily of the Pontifical Mass said after the traslacion this year, the now-healthy Legazpi discussed the bond of Ina with the Bicolanos.
“It is almost impossible to speak of Bicol without referring to Ina,” Legazpi told the devotees gathered in the Metropolitan Cathedral Patio. “To be a Bicolano is to be Her son or daughter.”