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Nepean Belle paddle wheeler

Celebration of Penafrancia Festival in Australia

Procession fof the faithful rom the Nepean River
Procession of the faithful -N. Adan Photo

BY JOSE RELUNIA JR      Shouting “Viva La Virgen,”  devotees  carried the replica of the image of the Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia or Ina to Bicolanos  to a waiting watercraft at the bank of Nepean River  for the Australian re-enactment of a traditional fluvial procession of the  Catholic faithful in the Philippines, at noontime last  Saturday 21 September.

The ensuing travel at the Nepean River by four watercrafts, with the lead boat carrying the Replica of venerated Lady of Penafrancia followed by the paddle wheeler Nepean Belle which ferried the devotees was  enough to give significance to the yearly re-enactment in Australia of the famous river Festival back in Naga City in the Philippines.

Earlier that morning, the  celebration started with a solemn mass at St Nicholas of Myra Church, Penrith.  Fr. Mathew Antony, parish priest of the church where the Replica of Our Lady of Penafrancia  resides, lead in concelebrating the mass  for the feast,  joined by  Fr John Paul Escarlan, newly ordained priest of the Diocese of Parramatta, Fr. Mike Gimena, Chaplain of Westmead Hospital, Fr. Jolly Chacko, Assistant parish priest, St Andrews, Marayong, Fr. Joe Manjally, Assistant parish priest of St Nicholas of Myra and Fr. Domingo, the new Chaplain of Westmead Hospital.

Deacon was Rev Leon Decena Jr with Alex Mendoza as acolyte and the Filipino Chaplain altar servers.

State Member for Mulgoa  Tanya Davies  and Dr Tito Soliman, president of the host organisation Australian Devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia (ADOLP)  performed the  role of  offerors during the mass.

The 3SM choir and Brian Lorenz  sang during the mass ,  with a number of Philippine community leaders  reading the Prayers of the Faithful. Community leader Ms Julie Nunez was the commentator whilst Vivian Tee was the reader for the mass. Devotee Pi Gaite and a daughter donated the flowers which adorned the andas of the Replica.

After the mass the Replica of Our Lady of Penafrancia and the banner of the Divino Rostro were transported by vehicles and  escorted by the Marharlika Riders from St Nicholas of Myra Church to the Tench Reserve Jetty for the fluvial procession.

Ed Bada and the priests were waiting to welcome  the replica of Ina and the banner of the Divino Rostro in Ed’s boat which was adorned as a  ‘pagoda’ watercraft shrine. Two other boats from boating club Pendragon  as well as the Nepean Belle paddle wheeler  where the devotees rode joined in the fluvial procession.

The fluvial procession on the Nepean River was colourful. On board the pagoda, the priests prayed and sang hymns with guitarist Mr Vic Tuballa accompanying them. At the Nepean Belle, devotees  recited the Holy Rosary and sang Marian hymns. Next year, it is planned for the Penrith Rowing Club will participate in the floating procession.

The entourage  disembarked at the Factory street side of Tench Reseve where the festivities  continued with fellowship lunch and  a program of entertainment  and speeches.

Guest speaker State Member for Penrith  Mr Stuart Ayres  spoke about the beauty of the Nepean River which everyone should be proud of.  The Cumbacheros group led by Mang Danny Garcia were most helpful in providing the sound and entertainment system.  Other groups who had made a vow to join the Penafrancia celebration were the Sonata Singers, the Philippine Language and Culture Association of Australia (PLCAA)  dancers , the  Pantomina dancers Maria Carpo and Zena Samar, entertainer  Brian Lorenz, and teenage  trumpeteer  Bobby Harrison. The Pantomina dance is a traditional Bicolano depicting the courtship and relationship of lovers.

Among the event sponsors,  Benedith Cakes  provided  an awesome group of cake symbolising the provinces comprising the Bicol in the Philippines, namely, Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Masbate and Cantanduanes .

At the Diocese of Parramatta, the  ADOLP association held  triduum novena masses for three Saturdays before the Feast Day with the Replica of the image of the Lady of Penafrancia  staying for a week in each parish.

The Replica had now been to 15 parishes for the past  seven years. This year, three churches  namely  Our Lady Queen of Peace ( Greystanes), St Finbar Parish  of  Glenbrook and the Holy Family Parish  of  Mt Druitt), hosted the weekly novenas for the Replica of Our Lady of Penafrancia.

The concelebrated solemn mass  for the  2013 Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia  by itself,  the  colourful fluvial procession and subsequent entertainment and fellowship at Tench Reserve in Penrith combine as one best gift on the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia.  VIVA LA  VIRGEN