Naga imposes gun ban during Peñafrancia feast
NAGA CITY—The city government has imposed a gun ban during the nine-day religious festival of Bicol’s patroness, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, or “Ina” to her devotees, which will start tomorrow.
Only Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel in uniform and on duty will be allowed to carry firearms during the period of the feast that is expected to draw more than a million devotees to Naga, where the Ina devotion started 305 years ago.
The gun ban will be enforced starting 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 11, the day of the “traslacion,” when barefoot male devotees called “voyadores” will transfer the image of Ina from Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine to Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
This was agreed upon by a multiagency committee of city officials and representatives of the Archdiocese of Caceres and other government agencies during a meeting on Tuesday, Vice Mayor Nelson Legacion said.
After a nine-day novena at the cathedral, the feast will culminate in a fluvial procession on Sept. 19 at the Naga River to return the image to its “home,” the Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia, which is adjacent to the shrine.
Also prohibited during the traslacion and fluvial parade are the shower of confetti and water hosing of voyadores because these are deemed disruptive to the solemnity of the feast.
A liquor ban is imposed along the route of the traslacion. But Naga Mayor John Bongat said it would be a challenge to impose the ban because drinking parties were usually done in houses before the procession.
The majority of the voyadores, who join in groups in the ritual of tagging along with the Ina image while cramped in a moving human barricade, are known to fill themselves up with liquor to toughen themselves as they push and shove in order to fulfill their vow of touching the image.
Lt. Archie Hicban, station commander of the Philippine Coast Guard here, suggested during Tuesday’s meeting to reduce the number of people who will board Ina’s pagoda during the fluvial parade and the number of boats towing the pagoda.
He cited the safety implications of an ongoing dredging and revetment project in the river. The water level in dredged portions had gone deeper but narrower, he said.
However, Bongat said Hicban was misinformed about the river’s situation and that his suggestion “dramatically redefines the tradition.”
At least 700 policemen will be deployed during the religious festival, said Senior Supt. Romulo Esteban, regional police acting chief.
The devotion to Ina was started here in 1710 by Spanish Friar Miguel Robles de Covarrubias by introducing to local residents the group of Spaniard, called “cimarrones,” who were devoted to the Lady.
The miracles attributed to the image began when it was reported that the dog, which was killed and its blood used to darken the image, came back to life. The original Ina image was carved from a santol trunk by a local artisan. Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
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