Like the province of Isabela where I originally come from, Camarines Sur has its fair share of well-known churches. But when it comes to ecumenical festivals, there is only one church that stands out: Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia. It may be relatively new compared to its aged counterparts but thousands to a million of devotees around the Philippines and the world converge on this church during the Peñafrancia Festival–one of the most attended Marian celebrations in Asia–which happens in September every year. This is the reason why paying a visit to the church is not only a spiritual but worthwhile experience even during the regular months.
I ticked that experience on my bucket list when I had my yearly vacation last April 2015. We usually attend a Sunday mass to any of the nearby churches but Ms. Wonderwall suggested the idea of attending one at Bicol’s most famous church, which is located along Balatas Road, last April 18 to be a treasured experience. The whole family succumbed to her idea in the afternoon of the following day.
Upon debarking from the jeepney after a twenty-minute drive from the Heart of Bicol, Naga City, the church’s imposing facade, with its grand belfry soaring like a skyscraper and the well-scythed sward, immediately made an impression. What was more impressive was when we got inside. We were greeted by the chromatic colors of the ceiling, walls, and stained glass windows.
The most astounding of them all were the stained glass windows courtesy of the revered mural painter and stained glass artist, Pancho Piano. The panes that were strewn with a motley of colors portray the fluvial parade of Peñafrancia as the people transfer the Lady from one church to the next.
I stopped from shooting when the mass started. I usually feel sleepy during an afternoon mass but the colors somehow kept my senses alive.
When the mass ended, I rushed outside to check the pavilion, which I already noticed before getting inside the church. This part of the place serves as shelter for the Lady after a big procession.
I was awestruck when I stepped inside the mini-dome structure that is capped with a glass roof and stained glass as ceiling. According to what I read, each glass pane showcases a story of devotion to the Lady and how her thaumaturgies changed people’s lives.
Now that Lent is around the corner, the place will soon be teeming with devotees once again. The busy days will be relived with the hope of another series of historic events in Bicol’s book. One thing is for sure: Every visit to a church, especially with family, is something to be treasured.
Penafrancia Fiesta 2015 (nagayon.com)
Penafrancia Festival 2015 schedule (bicolstandard.com)
Highlights of Peñafrancia Festival 2015 (bicoltoday.com)
UBLA: Kaaldawan of the 41st Penafrancia Fiesta 2015 (asianjournal.com)
Adventures in Bicolandia: Aboard the Bicol Express! (darlingakongangga.blogspot.com)