Transfer of Ina ushers in Peñafrancia fiestaBy Juan Escandor Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
NAGA CITY—With thousands of male devotees called voyadores bringing the image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia from its home, Basilica Minore, to Naga Metropolitan Cathedral in a 3-kilometer procession called traslacion, the nine-day religious fiesta of the Bicol patroness was ushered in on Friday to reenact a tradition that started 302 years ago.
Under overcast skies and pouring rain, the procession started to move out at 3:45 p.m. from Peñafrancia Church, the old shrine where the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, called “Ina” by her devotees, used to be kept before Basilica Minore was built in the 1970s.
The icon of the Divino Rostro preceded Ina for the slow journey going to Naga Metropolitan Cathedral with thousands of devotees shouting “Viva La Virgen.”
Earlier in the morning, the image of Bicol’s patroness was transferred to Peñafrancia Church in Barangay Peñafracia from Basilica Minore, just across the Naga River in Barangay Balatas, for the holy Mass that started 1 p.m. at Plaza de Covarrubias located at the Peñafrancia Church grounds.
Estimates of a police intelligence officer, who declined to be named, put the crowd at around 50,000, which he said was lower than last year’s crowd that reached 100,000. He blamed the rain for the lower turnout.
The tradition has been around since the 16th century when a cross-section of the people of the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (now Naga City) embraced the Our Lady of Peñafrancia devotion, which was originally introduced to the cimarrones by Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, the first ordained Spanish priest in Naga City, said Bicol historian Danilo Gerona.
Gerona said the cimarrones were the natives who trekked to the shoulders of Mt. Isarog and lived there to escape the taxes and Church dues imposed by the Spanish colonizers.
Research in the archives in Spain in the 1990s and a book “From Epic to History: A brief Introduction to Bicol History,” authored by Gerona related that Covarrubias was a devotee of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia who experienced healing because of this belief while still a seminarian at Universidad de Santo Tomas.
The legend goes that the cimarrones painted the original 302-year-old image of Ina with the blood of a dog whose dead body was supposedly thrown into the Naga River but it resurrected and swam back to the river banks to become the first miracle of Ina.
According to records of the Catholic Church here, the first celebration of the feast of the Ina was held in September 1710. From then on, miracles credited to the devotion to Ina were recorded.
In a letter to the Dominican Fathers of Salamanca, Spain, in 1712, Covarrubias reported many miracles through the intercession of the Ina. The devotees grew in number until they spread outside of Naga and to other countries.
But Gerona said there is a dearth of information when the tradition of traslacion started, where barefoot voyadores, mostly reeking with liquor, hustled and bustled to carry and touch the image of Ina as a religious vow of worship.
With only the male devotees bringing Ina to its altar for a nine-day novena at Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, women and children tagged behind the bulk of voyadores while others who awaited as it passed by on the streets waved their handkerchiefs and shouted “Viva La Virgen.”
On the ninth day of the novena, on Sept. 15, Ina will be brought back to its permanent shrine at Basilica Minore in a colorful fluvial procession at the Naga River to culminate the regional fiesta of the Bicol patroness.
With thousands of devotees expected to attend the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the police have augmented its over 200 regular forces with 514 police personnel from the regional office for the duration of the fiesta, said Senior Supt. Antonio Gardiola, chief of the Naga city police.