Church, Naga Government Ban Peñafrancia Street Parties

"Distracting" activities approved by city government now scheduled outside Novena week
Saturday, June 27th, 2009

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 Bikol and local government authorities agreed to ban the fiesta's civic components to avoid diverting the public's attention from the church's celebration.

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

Significant points in the deal include the banning of "Bicolandia Beauty Pageant" within the fiesta days that start with the "Traslacion procession" which is scheduled on September 11 this year.

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

The Naga City council also agreed with Archbishop Legaspi 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 Legaspi 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.

BACS statement

Meanwhile, the agreement came a week after the association of Catholic schools in Bikol stated their opposition to events which have no relevance to the celebration of the Fiesta of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, particularly the Military Parade and beauty pageants.

Nine catholic schools in Bikol said that they would not be joining the traditional annual military parade, sponsored by the city government, if it would be done again within the Fiesta week.

The schools include Ateneo de Naga University, Universidad de Sta. Isabel , Sta. Monica Academy (Baao, Camarines Sur) La Consolacion College of Daet, La Consolacion College of Iriga, St. Andrew Academy (Sagñay,Camarines Sur), Dominican School of Calabanga, Pili Parochial School, and St. Louise de Marillac School(Pili,Camarines Sur).

All are members of Bicol Association of Catholic Schools (BACS), and have participated in the military parade during the Fiesta in the past.

The schools said in a statement that while preparing for the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, they been led to reflect on the various activities normally held during the Fiesta, "hoping to discern ways and means to preserve and enhance the devotion to Ina."

They were unanimous in saying that a military parade has no relevance to either the celebration or the enhancement of the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia so it should not be scheduled within the Novena to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

They urged that the military parade be scheduled outside the Fiesta week on civic holidays as Naga Charter Day or Philippine Independence Day.

No BACS school would participate in the parade should it (parade) still be scheduled within the Fiesta week, they said.

They also expressed strong disapproval to beauty pageants within the Fiesta week.

According to Bikol historian Danilo Gerona, military parade during the Peñafrancia Fiesta started only in 1940, following the mandate of the Philippine Commonwealth Government executed by Gen. Douglas McArthur.

"There was urgency at that time. The commonwealth government called for the country to prepare for war," said Gerona.

He said it was clear that there was no military component in the Peñafrancia before 1940. "It was never introduced by any of the bishops of Caceres as an essential constitution of Marian devotion."

The military parade has been conducted in Naga City every Thursday of Peñafrancia Fiesta week. Over 100 contingents from schools all over Bikol would participate annually in the daylong parade. (with reports from Jonas Soltes)

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