NAGA CITY, Camarines Sur–With the devotion of Bicolanos to the Holy Virgin of Peñafrancia, along with inter-agency coordination, the Peñafrancia Festival was “generally peaceful,” Naga City Police Spokesman SPO2 Randy A. Solano told SecurityMatters, based on his overall assessment of the month-long celebration in the City of Naga, Camarines Sur.

In an exclusive interview, SPO2 Solano said that no major crimes were recorded during the Peñafrancia celebration, although there were rampant petty crimes such as theft and “salisi” during the military parade on September 14, 2012 as reflected over several pages of police blotter records. However, there are petty crime cases off the record, too.

A teenage girl then, Kimberly Jane dela Torre, has been a victim of theft a couple of years ago during the Peñafrancia Festival Military Parade. Fresh in her memory, she shared how a  “small dark man on his twenties,” amidst the sea of spectators in front of the Philippine National Bank building across Plaza Quezon, slipped his hands into the pocket of her bag to grab her new phone. With dela Torre was her sister who tried to retrieve the phone but was threatened by the thief armed with a dagger. They ended up seeking refuge to the police officer within the vicinity.

But police visibility has been intensified in the 2012 Peñafrancia Festival, according to SPO2 Solano. He disclosed that the PR05 Augmentation Force from Camp Simeon Ola joined the team for additional assistance in Advance Command Posts (ACP) strategically located in Naga Central School, Sto. Niño Memorial Park Dome, and Puregold Naga.

The ACPs, in particular, were key spots designated to provide police and medical assistance with standby mobile and ambulance. Police Assistance Centers were also established in major churches such as the Basilica Minore, Metropolitan Cathedral, and Peñafrancia Church.

SPO2 Solano also shared that various agencies were in collaboration with the Catholic Church to make the 2012 Peñafrancia Festival successful. He mentioned the Joint Operation Center (JOC), spearheaded by Most Rev. Rolando J. Tria Tirona of the Archdiocese of Caceres and Hon. John G. Bongat of the Naga City Government, which is comprised of the Regional, Provincial, and City Philippine National Police Commands, Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coastguard, Civil Defense Office, and many other public and private agencies.

While there were no major crimes reported, a major road accident unfortunately hit Peñafrancia devotees on their way to Naga City for the Fluvial Procession.

From initial reports of 43 injured passengers, the number rose to 55, according to subsequent reports. Among the injured passengers, 12 were seriously hurt, not to mention the bus driver who suffered minor injuries.

Silver Star Shuttle and Tours bus driver, Antonio Baultro, lost control of the steering wheel as they approached Brgy. Mulay along the Maharlika Highway at about 2:00 a.m. on September 15, 2012. Victims were immediately rushed to various hospitals with the help of law enforcement personnel.

Nevertheless, the 2012 Fluvial Procession was carried out accident-free. The Pagoda carrying the Holy Virgin of Peñafrancia had a safe journey going back to the Basilica Minore. Philippine Coast Guard detachment imposed safe-keeping and peace-keeping measures along the course of the event. There was also the Banca Registration policy that looked after the number of boats and rowers that pulled the Pagoda from the Tabuco Bridge to the Basilica Minore through the Naga City River. Voyadores were also cautioned not to get drunk before the procession.

Earlier, an orientation program was conducted by the church, reiterating the importance of discipline and devotion.

Voyadores in presence and spirit

Bicolandia’s Peñafrancia Festival officially started on September 7, the day of the Traslacion, when the Virgin of Peñafrancia and the El Divino Rostro are traditionally transported from Basilica Minore to the Metropolitan Cathedral with the help of devout voyadores.

Voyadores are devoted Bicolanos who make time each year to participate in the Traslacion and accompany the Holy Patroness along the journey. Most of them have observed the tradition for decades to pay tribute to the Holy Virgin of Peñafrancia.

One of the voyadores in the 2012 Traslacion was Bureau of Customs Attorney II Raymundo A. Parayno. In a statement to SecurityMatters, he said, “I’ve joined the Peñafrancia Traslacion for 30 years straight as a voyador. I was 20 when I started to participate in the event as a spiritual expression of my Christian faith. Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Holy Mother of God and the Patroness of Bicolandia, has been my prayer warrior in achieving my personal aspirations and keeping my personal well-being as much as that of my family. Joining the Traslacion is also my way of expressing gratitude for all the favors I have received from the grace of God through Her intercessions.”

Consequently, the festival also marks the first day of the Novena to the Holy Mother.

Among the influx of voyadores in the City of Naga for the Traslacion would have been the late Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Atty. Leni Robredo and Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose even confirmed that the late DILG Secretary has been a voyador since he was 16.

Secretary Robredo was, nonetheless, present in spirit through many different ways. For instance was the Jesse Robredo Lives Movement that attended the rest of the events such as the civic parade, carrying a banner with Robredo’s face. Some Nagueños were also seen sporting the Jesse Robredo shirt in many events.