by Nadj Villaver | Negosentro.com
Known to be as the “Heart of Bicol”, Naga City is not just geographically located at the center of the Bicol Region, but it is also the top destination choice of travellers visiting the region. Whether you’re a pilgrim or a tourist ready to explore the whole peninsula, “an maogmang lugar” (the happy place) can take you to an extraordinary journey.
The Pilgrim City
For over 300 years, hundreds of Marian devotees from different places in the Philippines comes to Naga City for the Peñafrancia Festival. The festival which is celebrated every month of September is considered as one of the biggest Marian celebration in the country. It is a weeklong celebration with novena masses, civic and military parades, and other religious activities.
One of the things that you shouldn’t miss is the “Traslacion” which also marks the beginning of the festival. It is done during the first Friday of September when the image of “Ina” – Our Lady of Peñafrancia – is brought from the shrine to the Metropolitan Cathedral. All male devotees called “voyadores” carry the image of Ina and form a human barricade to protect the image from the crowd.
For guys, if you have an iron-will, you might want to try to surpass the ‘voyadores’ and get near “Ina.” Touching the “Ina’s manto” (or cloak) is believed to have a miracles effect like heal physical sickness.
“Ina” is carried back to Basilica Minore through a fluvial procession along the Naga City river which also marks the end the last day of novena. As a tradition, ladies are not allowed to join the “pagoda” (flatboat) because as they say “Ina” wants to be the center of the celebration. In turn, ladies may join the succeeding boats. As “Ina” passes, you will surely join the hundreds of devotees shouting “Viva la Virgen!” (Long live the Virgin!)
If you’re brave enough to take the dare of spicy foods, you need to taste Naga City’s Bicol Express (chilli and pork in coconut gravy) and Laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk). These unbeatable spicy dishes of the Naga will make you craving for more.
For those who shy away from spicy foods, the original log-log with kinalas and toasted siopao will indulge your appetite. Traveller’s shouldn’t miss the Log-log with kinalas, a noodle soup with sauce and toppings of either pork or beef, and take home with them the toasted siopao. These delicious foods can’t be found anywhere else.
Take a look at the different historical landmarks in the city. There are four historical churches in Naga – Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, San Francisco Church, Peñafrancia Basilica Minore and Peñafrancia Shrine. The Holy Rosary Minor Seminary Museum and Peñafrancia Museum will also take you back in time.
Aside from historical landmarks, you may experience adventure by going a nature trek at Mount Isarog, plunging into the cool waters of Malabsay Falls and relaxing in Panicuason hot spring. You may complete your trip with Haciendas de Naga Golf Course and Adventure Park that offers zip line, wall climb, rappel, and horse rides.
Seeing Naga City’s finest destinations and meeting the wonderful people does not make me wonder why businessmen invest and live in the city. A Traveller’s experience opens more doors to study more the “Heart of Bicol” – Naga City.
(Photos courtesy of Jeremiel Agustin)