MANILA, Philippines --- NAGA CITY-- Intermittent rains did not stop tens of thousands of devotees from joining yesterday's fluvial procession for Our Lady of Peñafrancia here.
The throngs gathered outside the Naga Cathedral welcomed the downpour as a blessing.
"It happens every year. That's how Ina shows her miracle. It's a blessing for us," said 79-year-old Lydia Torralba, a devotee of Our Lady of Peñafrañcia for more than 50 years.
Torralba said the rains are also Ina's way of filling the Bicol River so that during the fluvial procession it would be easier to transport the image from the cathedral to the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Senora de Peñafrancia.
For the past days, the river was too shallow for the "voyadores," the men who accompany the image on its fluvial journey.
A heavy downpour that began Friday brought the water level up.
"We always observe this phenomenon every year," said Michael Tadro, a voyador.
Wearing a yellow shirt and yellow headband printed with "Viva la Virgen", Tadro has been under a bridge near Dayandang Street near a boat which they carried all the way from Milaor, Camarines Sur. He and 10 other friends brought paddles with them.
A mass was officiated every hour at the cathedral since early yesterday to complete the novena since the image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia was brought last week through the Traslacion.
Jocelyn Rello, 32, took her five-month-old son with her, imploring Ina to take good care of her son as he grows up.
"I always make sure that I go here every year. It's my way of saying thank you for all the blessings and at the same time to seek guidance and protection from Ina," said Rello.
Mang Rene, who drove from Legazpi City with his family, including his month-old granddaughter, also want to express his gratitude to Ina.
Police estimated that no fewer than 50,000 people gathered around the cathedral, all of them wanting a glimpse of the image as it leaves the church and transferred to a six-wheeled, stainless steel-made and dome-shaped altar.
To the pealing of church bells, the image of the Divino Rostro was taken out around 3:30 p.m.
Three priests were boarding the altar, their task is to get handkerchiefs of the devotees, wipe them on the image and toss them back to the owners.
As the procession started, some devotees rushed towards the nearby bridges for a good view of the river parade, but most walked towards the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia to wait for the image.