Rorate Caeli

Another small triumph for the restoration of the sacred

The "Penafrancia Festival" refers to one of the Philippines' largest religious events: a nine-day novena in Naga City (the see city of the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres) to Our Lady of Penafrancia, culminating in a fluvial procession with the miraculous statue of Our Lady on the 3rd Saturday of September. This event attracts millions of pilgrims from all over the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora, and just like similar festivals all over the Catholic world, is constantly threatened by the danger of becoming yet another occasion for purely secular merrymaking and government-promoted mass tourism.

Some might find the decision to ban street parties and beer plazas for the duration of the novena to be rather puritanical, but the desire of both Church and state to work together to keep an event such as this entirely devoted to sacred thoughts, is yet another encouraging sign that the spirit of Christendom lives, here and there, even if only in flickers.
From the official news website of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:

MANILA, June 25, 2009—Street parties and beauty pageants will no longer be allowed starting this year’s celebration of the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga City.

The Catholic Church in Bicol and local government authorities agreed to ban the fiesta’s civic components to avoid deflecting the public’s attention from the church’s celebration.

The agreement was reached recently between Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo.

Significant points in the deal include the banning of “Bicolandia Beauty Pageant” within the fiesta days that starts with the “Traslacion procession” on September 11.

“Street parties and beer plazas are no longer features of the Penafrancia fiesta,” said Fr Jay Jacinto, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

The Naga City council also agreed with Archbishop Legazpi to make efforts in keeping the Peñafrancia Novena days “free from undue distractions”.

Jacinto said the agreement caps the series of dialogue between the church and the city officials to avoid commercialization mess of the Peñafrancia Festival.

“These arrangements are deemed in keeping with the celebration for the tercentenary of Peñafrancia devotion,’ Jacinto said.

Other activities agreed upon by both parties include the holding of a Perdon Procession on Sept. 16; the Voyadores Festival on Sept. 17; the Military Parade on Sept.18; and the Thanksgiving and Fluvial Procession on Sept.19.

Archbishop Legazpi had been chiding the local authorities for the commercialization mess that marred last year’s celebration of the Peñafrancia festival.

He lamented that some activities approved by the city government deviated from the occasion.

The prelate stressed that the essence of the event is the renewal of faith and understanding of the devotion to Mary.

The commercialism that happened in recent years, he added, has tarnished the religiosity of the country’s only regional fiesta.

With this recent agreement, the priest said, the church is looking forward to a suitable celebration of the tercentenary of the Peñafrancia devotion. (Roy Lagarde)


Photo from Daylife
PS: It might be of interest to our readers that the Metropolitan Province of Nueva Caceres was also one of the first places in the entire Roman Catholic Church to implement Liturgiam Authenticam in the Order of the Mass (with "pro multis" and "et cum spiritu tuo" literally translated.)


  1. As a Roman Catholic, Filipino-American who claims heritage from "Bicolandia" and regularly celebrates the devotion to Our Lady of Penafrancia, I praise and thank the Lord for this decision from the Archbishop. We must continue to keep this tradition sacred and holy, prudently securing proper devotion to Our Lady of Penafrancia, without the tarnish of secularism and commercialism. Although this celebration is also cultural with family traditions and celebrations, we must not overemphasize the cultural over the religious, as the religious should guide our cultural understanding of the devotion. To all my fellow Filipinos from Bicolandia and beyond, I say with great conviction: Viva la Virgen de Penafrancia!!!

  2. Anglo-American guy here, Catholic, believe in reasonable separation of church and state, but: I love this. The people of the Phillipines, disaspora as well, are a blessing to Holy Mother Church. We should be so fortunate as to have governmental authorities in the U.S. be so agreeable.

    Tom G.

  3. Thanks Caloy for posting this news of improvement. I really thought it deserved to be posted on this high-traffic blog for the world to know.

    The Filipinos are lively and fun-loving; which are not bad on themselves but can become so.

    The Archbishop of Caceres recognises this.

  4. How fitting since his predecessor was the first Filipino appointed as a bishop


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