The Bikolanos’ deep devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia
is what makes the region’s faithful different and distinct from other devotees.
This was the impression shared by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, SVD in an interview with CBCPNews at the Archbishop‘s Chapel, a couple of hours before the traditional fluvial procession along the Bikol River yesterday.
“(The devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia) is something different and very unique,” he said.
Recalling his first visit to Naga City eight years ago while preparing for his assumption as co-adjutor bishop of the Diocese of Sorsogon, Bastes said Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP insisted then that he spent his first days in the Bikol region “to pay homage to Ina” before assuming his new appointment in Sorsogon.
Bastes said he was truly overwhelmed to see the fluvial procession and hear the Bikolanos’ shouts of joy and victory
For his part, Virac Bishop Manolo Delos Santos said his province of Catanduanes has its share of significant number of Peñafrancia devotees.
Asked of ways to further deepen the faith, Bishop Delos Santos said there should be renewal, education and evangelization.
Former Senator Francisco S. Tatad said that while the Bikolanos’ devotion to our Lady of Peñafrancia has reached various parts of the world, it has remained “basically identified with Bikol, (the Archdiocese of) Caceres as we sing in the hymn Patrona del Bicol.”
“On the 300th year anniversary of the Bikolanos’ devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, we’re seeing the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world,” Senator Tatad said.
The presence of overseas Filipinos who participated in the International Pilgrims Congress from September 16-17 showed that the devotion has spread across the world, he added.
He said the solemn Mass presided by Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP with several archbishops from various places even outside the country showed the “great fervor, which you don’t see in other places.”
The former lawmaker said a foreign bishop who saw the multitudes shouting ‘Viva La Virgen!’ almost broke down to tears because it was a moving experience.
Filipinos look at Our Lady of Peñafrancia as a source of hope, the former senator said.
“Inspite of all our problems, the moral difficulties of the times, marked by secularism and relativism spreading around the world, the faith seems to be strong,” he explained.
Legazpi City-based businessman Romeo Tan said he is a staunch devotee of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Interviewed after the briefing for the voyadores and other passengers of the barge bearing the region’s icon, Tan said he attributed his being able to overcome trials through Mama Mary’s intercession.
“I believe in her intercession and as a businessman that I am, I am calling on my colleagues to seriously consider becoming devotees in the near future,” Tan said.
Police Chief Supt. Cecilio Calleja said he appreciates the preparation and cooperation of Church leaders and local government units and national government agencies in keeping the Peñafrancia celebration peaceful and orderly.
Interviewed by CBCPNews, the Bicol police director said they have not monitored any untoward incident despite the influx of hundreds of thousands of devotees from all walks of life, the country and various parts of the world.
The Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams led the Catholic Church officials from other diocese and countries. He presided the concelebrated Mass at the Basilica Minore del Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia. (Melo M. Acuna)