From CBCP News (http://www.cbcpnews.com/?q=node/13110)
The city of Naga and the province of Camarines Sur have been declared pilgrimage capitals of the Bicol region and recognized top tourist destinations in the country in a presidential proclamation by President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino, in Presidential Proclamation No. 33 released on Sept. 10, said Bicol’s Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia “is the only regional feast in the country [and] for the past three centuries has become an epic historical event that has become part of our cultural heritage.”
Aquino noted the contribution of the Peñafrancia celebrations to the local economy, and the sense of unity and religious fervor that bond all devotees who come from all over the world.
He said the festivities also “provide an environment conducive to tourism, a venue for appreciation of Bicol arts and culture, its indigenous and culinary arts, natural wonders and archaeological treasures.”
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock to Naga and Camarines Sur every year from September until middle of October to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia whom Bicolanos endearingly call “Ina”.
This year’s festivities also feature the tercentenary celebration of the Devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia highlighted by an International Pilgrims’ Congress (IPC) held yesterday until today at the Peñafrancia Basilica in Naga City.
The presidential proclamation stresses the government’s participation by providing assistance to maintain peace and order and preserve the solemnity of the occasion.
“The government shall ensure that the conduct of the observances essential to the feast, which include but are not limited to the Traslacion, the Fluvial and Dawn Processions and other cultural and historical remembrance activities, shall be respected, and that commercial exploitation during the pilgrimage period such as street parties that may become rambunctious, drinking sprees in plazas, street vending that obstruct passages towards the pilgrimage sites, and other similar activities, shall be discouraged,” part of the proclamation read.
The proclamation also mandates the local government units to partner with other government agencies and the Archdiocese of Caceres to put together “their technical and financial resources and participate in the conduct of trade fairs, job fairs, skills training and seminars on agriculture, aquaculture and crafts during the months of September and October.”
The decree likewise underscores the role of the Philippine National Police to maintain peace and order and provide security to all pilgrims during the celebrations.
The annual Penafrancia festival begins every second Friday of September with the traslacion, a procession from the Basilica Minore to the Metropolitan Cathedral where the nine-day novena is held.
Tomorrow, Sept. 18, the venerated image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and the icon of Divino Rostro will be carried in fluvial procession to the Bicol River with thousands of voyadores in small boats amid chants of Viva La Virgen. The procession will be capped with a 6 p.m. Pontifical Mass at the Basilica Minore led by Papal nuncio Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams. (Pinky Barrientos, FSP)