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Cyclists from all over the city participated in the 2nd Camino de Peñafrancia Para sa Siklista. Hundreds of cyclists and pilgrims flocked to various churches around Naga. (CEPPIO/Jonathan Noble)

REGIONAL Tourism Director Herbie Aguas last Tuesday morning led the kick off at Plaza Quezon here the second edition of the “Camino de Peñafrancia”, a faith tourism program of the Naga City Investment and Tourism Office led by its head Reuel Oliver.

This year’s edition, which coincides with the celebration of the city’s 76th charter anniversary, took a new version featuring the city’s bikers, composed of various biking associations in the city and nearby towns, who pedaled their way to a pilgrimage tour of the different religious and historical landmarks in the city, starting off and culminating at the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore.

The project becomes part of Naga City’s new tourism branding which initially and correctly started with a new form of strengthening the Bicolanos devotion to Ina, the patroness of the Bicol Region.

Tourism Regional Director Aguas, who was the guest of honor, noted that Camarines Sur is one of 4th most visited province in the country, with Naga as the center of tourists’ convergence because of the crowd-drawing Peñafrancia fiesta. He said that while the Penafrancia festival is a phenomenon by itself, the event only happens in   September. That is why, he said he welcomes the coming of other or similar programs, such as the Camino for one, to sustain the influx of visitors in the city and draw them to other sights and unique gastronomic delights found only in Naga and Bicol.

In his inspirational message, City Councilor Joe Perez, chairman of both the SP committees on culture & arts and tourism welcomed the continuing second edition of the program saying that while it parallels a European original pilgrimage tradition, Naga’s own version is beginning to take a life of its own, owing to our inherent religiosity and our common devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia.

In the European version, known as the Camino de Santiago (or “Way of St. James”), Perez explained), pilgrims from all over the world take a spiritual journey to Compostela in Galicia, Spain in search of his remains or burial ground there.

Perez said pilgrims often stay in hostels or monasteries where they can meet other travelers and share stories about their experiences on the Camino. “Today, millions of people still travel along The Way of St. James each year for spiritual reasons or simply for a unique travel experience. The route has become increasingly popular among modern-day pilgrims who are looking for an adventure and a chance to connect with nature and their own spirituality. For many people, traveling along this ancient pilgrimage route is a life-changing experience that will stay with them forever,” Perez elaborated.

The city councilor urged that the Camino’s route should expanded in the future to cover towns in Camarines Sur and the entire Bicol peninsula that includes Albay, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon. The island provinces of Masbate and Catanduanes will follow later. The idea was promptly supported by RD Aguas and Rev. Fr. Francis Tordilla, rector of the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary and a historian himself, who blessed the participating bikers during the kick-off ceremony.

NGO advocate Bong Rodriguez was also around to share his ideas about people’s participation and collective support in the blossoming of Bicol culture and tourism as opportunities in the upliftment of people’s lives and the economy.

Some of the participating bikers groups are the Oragon Bikers, Easy Riders Philippines, Naga Na Bikers, 94 Cycle Group, Calabanga Bikers, and others. The different parishes and their churches were on-hand to receive them as tour stations/destinations. The group is headed by Mr. Jonathan “Boboy’ Hernandez of the Naga City bicycle group. They were warmly received and blessed by Archbishop Rex Alarcon in their final station at the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore.

Written by Jason Neola (CEPPIO)

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