A fluvial procession of Marian images, devotees in Taal LakeBy Marrah Erika Lesaba
Thousands of devotees flocked to San Nicolas town in Batangas early Saturday to join the first ever Taal Lake Marian Peace Regatta as a birthday tribute to the Blessed Mother.
Various Marian images were displayed in the four-hour fluvial procession, which aimed to promote “peace, family and life.”
Some 2,500 people in 200 motorboats participated in the event, carrying images of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Nuestra Señora dela Soledad, Immaculate Concepcion, Our Lady of Caysasay, Nuestra Señora del Mirador, Our Lady of San Juan delos Lagos, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
They came from the towns of Agoncillo, Balete, Mataas na Kahoy, Tanauan, Talisay, Laurel, Sta. Teresita, San Nicolas, Cuenca and Alitagtag, and the cities of Lipa and Tanauan.
Maria Maligaya, 52, of Laurel town, waved a white handkerchief and sang “Ave Maria” as the fluvial procession went by. She said she was excited when she first heard of the regatta from her parish church.
Maligaya and her friends hired two jeeps to reach San Nicolas as early as 4 a.m.
Offering of prayers
Macaria Atienza, 61, of Barangay (village) Kalookan in Talisay, prayed for good health and continuous happiness for her family. She said she used to celebrate the birthday of the Virgin Mary by going to church and offering flowers to her image.
“I prayed to the Virgin Mary that there won’t be an eruption of Taal Volcano as many would die and be affected,” said Maria Aguila, 72, of Barangay Muzon, Alitagtag.
She wanted to join the regatta but the priests did not allow the elderly woman to take the dizzying ride. Instead, she patiently waited from 8 a.m. for all the Marian images to arrive and joined the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles at the cathedral.
Arguelles also prayed that Taal “will not do what the other bigger volcanoes did because (when an eruption happens) that would be more destructive.”
He joked that thousands of people had offered prayers to the Virgin Mary so that the Lord would take “possession of the lake.”
“Those declaring ownership of the lake seem to be the Chinese and Koreans,” he said, referring to reports that most of the fish-cage operators in the lake were being financed by Chinese nationals and the controversial Korean-owned lakeshore resort that was recently ordered closed due to environmental violations.
The prelate said he prayed for the polluted Taal Lake to become clean again and for the fish cages to go offshore to fishponds in order to protect the lake.
“We joined to pray for prosperity in the lake,” said Aquiles Arriaga, a member of the Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance Inc.
The group, along with Feedmix and other fish cage operators and harvesters, provided almost 80 percent of the boats used in the regatta.
Arguelles stressed that behind the success of the event is the Blessed Mary. “When people learned that this is about the Blessed Mother, they were very enthusiastic, especially those from the coastal towns,” he said.
Some 300 policemen were deployed to give assistance and provide security in the area, according to Superintendent Manuel Abrugena, police chief for provincial operations and plans.
Supt. Rajo Opelania, Batangas maritime chief, said two security boats were sent, carrying a diver each and equipped with complete scuba gear. He said 21 personnel were fielded in strategic areas along the route.
Eighty Coast Guard divers and members of the K-9 team and medical team were present. Capt. JCV Marvin Lim, Coast Guard station commander in the province, said he had directed the 53rd Auxiliary Coast Guard to provide assistance, six rubber boats and one motorboat.
Arguelles said San Nicolas was chosen as first host of the regatta as its fiesta falls on Sept. 10. The town is also known as Lumang Taal and is the first parish town in Batangas, Laguna and Cavite.