NAGA City -- Some 4,000 families or about 18,000 devotees were spared from harm during the fluvial procession of the image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia at the Naga River as Tropical Storm Ompong brought intermittent rains and floods in many parts of the region last Saturday.
The five-kilometer river procession from the Tabuco Bridge wharf to the Peñafrancia Basilica wharf capped the 10-day Marian festivities held in this city yearly, with the one-hour river rites from 5 to 6 p.m.
Contrary to an earlier recommendation of the “water cluster” of the Joint Operation Center (JOC) led by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Camaligan station, PCG Officer Fernando Pagador Jr. said there was an option to cancel the traditional fluvial rites last Saturday had Naga River water rose and due to rains brought by the typhoon.
But near the Rosales (Panganiban) Bridge, the fluvial pagoda briefly got stuck in the river bed until it was pulled by hundreds of voyadores bancas into the deep portion of the river, bringing cheers and waving of white handkerchiefs from thousands of devotees on both sides of the river.
At the tight entrance of the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore in Bgy. Balatas, the rush of thousands of pilgrims entering the gate of the Basilica grounds almost turned into a stampede as policemen were unable to control the crowd converging at the Peñafrancia Basilica Quadri-Centennial Arch, after the fluvial procession.
Despite uncontrollable crowds of devotees at the Basilica and the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral for religious services, Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat and Naga Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona expressed gratitude to the 1,800 police and Army augmentation force, the Maritime police, Philippine Coast Guard, Navy, the BFP, emergency and rescue groups and Kabalikat radio volunteers.
Bongat thanked the augmentation force and volunteer groups for another year of making Naga’s historic Marian Devotion.