Naga City (14 Sept) -- The highest political power in the land has declared during the Peñafrancia Novena Week Naga City and the province of Camarines Sur as 'pilgrimage capitals' of the Bikol region.
In his Executive Order (EO) #33 dated September 10, President Benigno Aquino III, took cognizance of the annual celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia as an "epic historical event that [had] become part of our cultural heritage," and that Naga City "where the 300-year old image is enshrined, has long been recognized and considered as the pilgrimage capital of the Bikol region."
The President's EO stated that programs and activities held as part of the Peñafrancia Fiesta "must be assisted and maintained by the government, and that the solemnity and sensitivity to the nature and character of the festivities must be preserved."
Moreover, the EO stipulated that government must ensure that aside from respecting the essential activities of the feast, "commercial exploitation during the pilgrimage period such as street parties that may become rambunctious, drinking sprees in plazas, street vending that obstruct passages towards the pilgrimage sites, and other similar activities, shall be discouraged."
Remarking on the President's EO, Tercentenary Celebration Exec. Secretary Fr. Andrew Recepcion said that it "[was] a gift from INA. It will preserve the religious nature of devotion and the continuity of the changes instituted during the tercentenary."
Naga SP Resolution
An earlier resolution by the Naga City Sanggunian Panglungsod (SP) declaring the City as a "Pilgrimage City" had been sponsored and subsequently adopted last August 24.
However, Resolution No. 2010-280 received approval from Naga City Mayor John Bongat only on September 13, three days after the President's EO had been issued.
Sponsored by Hon. Joaquin Perez and co-sponsored by Hon. Cecilia de Asis, the resolution "Declaring Naga City As Pilgrimage City This September 2010 And Every Year Thereafter" had reportedly undergone "styling" from Vice-Mayor Gabriel Bordado before reaching the desk of the Mayor.
But unlike the President's EO which contained directives and guidelines pertaining to the status of Naga City and Camarines Sur as "pilgrimage capitals," the Perez resolution merely declared Naga City as a pilgrimage city owing to the annual Peñafrancia Fiesta celebration and to the significance of 300th year commemoration of the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.
Unmentioned in the Perez resolution were possible functions or tasks of the City government in view of its declaration of Naga as "pilgrimage city."
Two years ago, the Council of the Laity of Caceres (CLAC) filed a petition with the Naga City government who was then headed by Mayor Jesse Robredo to enact an ordinance which declared Naga City as a "pilgrim city."
The said petition urged the city government pass an ordinance which would provide basic services and facilities such as shelters and parking places to the huge number of pilgrims who visit the city during the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia every September.
The ordinance, the petition indicated, would also identify "religious zones" that would be free from commercial and "distracting" activities inimical to the religious celebration.
The petition, moreover, asked that the city government ban "civic activities that are offensive and scandalous to pilgrims, and are not in harmony or congruence with the religious nature and character of the Peñafrancia Fiesta."
Robredo, who had been severely criticized by the local church in previous years for abetting the "commercialization" of the Peñafrancia celebration, sent the petition to City Legal Officer Angel Ojastro who stated that such an ordinance "may violate certain legal tenets" found in the Constitution.
Ojastro alleged that an ordinance declaring Naga City a 'pilgrim city' might violate the legal doctrine on "the separation of the Church and State." (F.J. Lagdameo)