Naga misses a beloved ‘voyador’By Jonas Cabiles Soltes
As devotees praying the rosary wound up in Plaza de Covarrubias at the Shrine of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City on Friday, Andrew Zaño, 29, slouched on the ground, dressed up as a voyador as how the menfolk participating in the procession of the Virgin Mary are called.
Zaño wore a yellow shirt and white band tied around his forehead. “Viva La Virgen (Long Live the Virgin)” was written on his attire.
The yearly traslacion, which transfers the Marian image from the shrine in Barangay (village) Peñafrancia to the larger Naga City Metropolitan Cathedral, was about to start. For the past six years, Zaño has been serving as one of the thousands of voyadores of Ina, as most Bicol folk call the Virgin Mary.
The procession could not have been different from past ones if not for one thing, he said.
“We lost a fellow voyador in Jesse Robredo,” he said. “We miss him.”
Zaño has lived in the same neighborhood in Barangay Dayangdang as Robredo did.
The late interior secretary and Naga mayor had been a Peñafrancia devotee and served as a voyador for years before the plane crash that killed him and two others in Masbate Pass on August 18.
Zaño could still remember how Robredo stood as one of the voyadores.
“He would dress like us despite his being the secretary of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and the former mayor of the city. He never asked for special treatment although fellow voyadores would give him such voluntarily,” Zaño said.
Whenever Robredo would attempt to touch the image of Mary, other voyadores would give way, saying, “si Mayor, si Mayor,” he recounted.
On Friday, Zaño and the rest of his friends, along with hundreds of others, including some of the women who just trailed the men during the procession, wore a shirt with an image of Robredo.
Zaño said they intentionally wore the shirts in keeping up with the legacy of the late public servant as a voyador. “We would be voyadores of Ina in his place. It is like he would still be a voyador forever through us,” he said.
Despite the sad thought that Robredo is now gone, Zaño said their will to continue what he had done every second week of September somehow lightened their grief. “Through this, it is like he remains here with us,” he said.
The traslacion on Friday was unusually rainy, leading several people, especially on social networking sites, to speculate that even the heavens were crying during the first foot procession Robredo was not around.
The line slithered through Peñafrancia Avenue and Elias Angeles Street, the city’s main thoroughfares, toward the city proper. As in past years, women were not allowed to join the men in carrying the andas or the metallic pedestal on which was perched the image of the Virgin Mary.
The distance from the shrine to the cathedral is only four kilometers, but it took the procession hours to reach its destination, slowed down by men wanting to touch the image or get the flower decorations on the belief that anything that touched Ina will have healing powers.
A priest from the Archdiocese of Caceres, who went with the voyadores but requested that he not be named so his statement would not be politicized, said there was nothing wrong with wearing the Robredo shirt or wanting to continue his stint as a voyador.
“For as long as it does not distract the people from the true essence of the occasion, that is to bring the people closer to God through Mary,” he said.