Bocaue’s pagoda sails again despite Ormoc sea mishap
BOCAUE, Bulacan—For the second time in 20 years, the Grand Pagoda here sailed through Bocaue River for nine days to commemorate the Feast of the Holy Cross of Wawa.
The huge crown-shaped golden pagoda, which loomed as high as three decks of a small vessel, set off around the town on the night of June 25, coinciding with the start of a nine-day Catholic “novenario,” a public worship for those killed in 1993 when the pagoda sank during a fluvial parade.
This annual event, which culminated yesterday, was revived in 2014 following a two-decade lull due to the stigma of the July 2, 1993, pagoda tragedy that killed close to 300 devotees.
As the pagoda cruised the river on Thursday, 45 people died when the motorized boat MB Nirvana capsized off the port of Ormoc City in Leyte province.
Regretting the lives lost in the mishaps in Ormoc and in Bocaue in 1993, Msgr. Albert Suatengco, the town parish priest, said, “Death is a reality we have to accept in our lives … [but] when it comes it leaves lessons for us to remember.”
Mayor Eduardo Villanueva said the pagoda mishap led to the death even of people who helped rescue people thrown into the river. “It taught us to prioritize safety,” he said.
On Thursday, Suatengco and 200 devotees boarded the huge pagoda where they offered prayers to the victims.
The pagoda bell was rang each time the name of a victim was read aloud.
The devotees also showered the river with red and white rose petals and unleashed white balloons in honor of the victims.
Suatengco said the souls of the people who perished in 1993 remained the inspiration for continuing the river festival.
“The pagoda is a call for unity for all the people of Bocaue—even those [Bocaue natives] residing temporarily in other places—to return to their faith and tradition [and] to bring back the glory of their beloved town,” he said.
Boy Leoncio de la Cruz, who served as this year’s pagoda boat captain, said it may take the third year of the festival to determine whether its goals are being fulfilled.
At best, it should drum up tourism for Bocaue, said Villanueva.
Before the 1993 pagoda tragedy, Bocaue was a trade center and had exchanged goods with nearby towns like Sta. Maria and Marilao, said Jim Valerio, who chairs this year’s pagoda organizing committee.
He said the Bocaue River provided access to traders during the Spanish colonial period. He chose a crown design, saying it best represented the “crowning glory” of Bocaue.
He said the crown-shaped pagoda would be improved and serve as a small chapel at the side of the river, where Catholics believe a holy cross was found in 1606. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon
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