BACNOTAN, La Union, By William Garcia -Groups of devotees, from Region I, flocked to a fluvial procession here this weekend to celebrate the 25th Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia by the Baroro River.
Over 50 boats, of all types, some are built by wood, with plastic drams as improvised buoyant, attached under the boat deck; bamboos made into raft; newly-made, resin-smelling and fiberglass-coated rowboats; and even the rubberized-rescue boats, among others, joined the event, graced by Mayor Francis Fontanilla and other town and barangay officials.
The image of the “Lady” was aboard the sheltered 12-ft high wooden boat designed and constructed by River Farm restaurant-owner Cesar Ocampo, in time for the said event, with about 10 persons also on board.
Ocampo said that the procession started from the western portion of the river, eastward until Caculangan, San Juan town and back to the Baroro bridge.
Some devotees waited for the image to touch and stroke it for hope that they will be healed from their illnesses or for some luck.
“We were lucky, it was a rare event and we saw its tourism potentials because it was held here,” Fontanilla said.
Fontanilla added that they will meet with the devotees and see if it would have a good attendance records to make it a yearly town event as he vowed to lend the local government unit’s full support, as well as promote and protect the said river against siltation.
Baroro River, a triumphant defensive site of the Filipino guerrilla battalions during the World War II, is a haven for town fisher folk because it is the waterway from the China Sea and into the fishponds of adjacent towns. Various varieties of fish delicacies from the “ipon (zygote fish fries)” to “Malaga (siganid)” are caught here or eaten at the River Farm Restaurant on the riverbank.
“We are having a siltation problem in this river, actually, so (the event) brings the attentions not just us in the LGU, it is also hard that we do it alone,” Fontanilla added.
The “Lady of Peñafracia” arrived here after a Eucharistic celebration at the Carmel of Holy Family, Carmelite Pindangan Ruins in San Fernando City, with its purpose, to spread God’s mercy and compassion in the Year of the Poor.