300 cops, 200 soldiers to man security at Penafrancia fluvial rites
by LS Macatangay
NAGA CITY (14 September) -- The police regional office in Bicol (PRO5) has deployed 200 personnel from the Regional Mobile Group, a police K-9 unit, a maritime police team and members of the Camarines Sur provincial police office to augment the city police force under "Oplan Viva La Virgen" as early as Friday, September 7, the start of the "Traslacion" for the Penafrancia festival.
Camarines Sur provincial police director Senior Sup't. Romeo Tambungui said the total of 300 police personnel and 200 Philippine Army soldiers are on standby for the highlight of the Peñafrancia Festival which is the fluvial procession on Saturday, September 15.
At the "Traslacion" last Friday, the bulk of the augmentation force was fielded along the four-kilometer route of the procession from the Peñafrancia Basilica in Balatas to the Naga Cathedral where some 20,000 devotees awaited the venerated Marian image.
About 15,000 to 20,000 male "voyadores" participate in the "Traslacion" and fluvial procession every year. This year's Peñafrancia Festivity also signals the start of the three-year preparation for the 300th year or "tricentennial celebration" of devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia from 1710 to 2010.
Church records show that Spanish priest Fr. Miguel de Cubarrubias, who came to Bicol in 1690, started the devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia by erecting a nipa hut as chapel near the Bicol River in 1710. It is now the site of the Peñafrancia Shrine.
Msgr. Romulo Vergara, rector of Our Lady of Peñafrancia Basilica, said the local church now prepares for the biggest event of the decade, the tricentennial celebration of the devotion to the Ina which will culminate on 2010.
From 2007 to 2008 the image of Our Lady of Penafrancia will visit all the 300 parishes in Bicol covering six dioceses and one prelature. (PIA Camarines Sur) [top]