The world-famous Peñafrancia Festival is the feast of the patron saint of the Bicol Region, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Naga City remains the pilrimage center, although it is known as the festival of the whole Bicol Region and devotees in various countries make their own versions of the festival.
The festivity begins on the second Friday of September when the Image of the Virgin of Peñafrancia is carried by hundreds of male devotees (voyadores) from her shrine, the Peñafrancia Basilica to Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Main highlight is the fluvial procession along the Naga River to mark the image’s voyage back to her shrine.
All of Region V flock to Naga City in Bicol to take part in the Peñafrancia Festival, the biggest Marian celebration in the nation. It is also deemed as one of the premier festivals combining religion, culture and tradition in a 9-day lineup of festivities that include civic and military parades, sports fests, trade fairs and exhibitions, regattas, cultural shows, beauty pageants, and other vibrant contests.
The festival is the Bicolanos’ devotion to the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, whom they tenderly refer to as “Ina nin Kabikolan.”
In Naga, the whole month of September is abuzz with preparations for the multi-hued festival while the religious observance starts nine days (the second Friday of September) before the feast day itself (third Saturday). The first highlight of the festival is the traslacion during which the image of the city’s patroness is transferred to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. The festival reaches its climax during the fluvial parade down the Bicol River, where a raft (pagoda) bearing the Holy Image then brings it to the Basilica. Escorting the pagoda are canoes, other bamboo rafts and decorated motorboats. As the sky turns dark, candles are lit which lend sparkles like that of jewels dotting the blanket of darkness. All the while, resounding shouts of “Viva La Virgen” and “Viva El Divino Rostro” meant for the Holy Images (the second being a framed image of Jesus) are heard.
Only male devotees called voyadores who are on barefoot and who sport colorful headbands are allowed to share the burden of the Image’s carriage. The female devotees instead pray novenas and the rosary. Everyone is unmindful of the unprotected feet and the crush of tourists and pilgrims who wave their hankies to the Holy Images or hold candles and get down to their knees to murmur prayers. The rain is anticipated as it is seen as a blessing.
Naga may be easily reached by bus. There are terminals for Naga-bound buses in Cubao and Pasay.