Politicians who are believed to be aspiring for top national positions in 2010 came. Former Senate President Franklin Drilon joined the Translacion foot procession, while Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando, Sen. Bong Revilla and Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon came for the fluvial procession.
Streamers of Senate President Manuel Villar, Sen. Mar Roxas and Sen. Richard Gordon were posted in strategic locations to the annoyance of many residents who commented that the religious celebration was being used for political purposes.
Revilla caused quite a stir when he was allowed to board the barge or “pagoda” carrying the image of the Virgin of Peñafrancia although his name was not on the official list. Only select people, including journalists, from the different parishes of the Archdiocese of Caceres are allowed to ride the barge.
Other issues brought out included the pollution of the Naga River and the supposed P300-million deposit of the archdiocese in the closed Golden 7 Bank. But Fr. Luisito Occiano, spokesperson of the archdiocese, said the church deposit only amounted to P11 million and was mainly reserved for its social involvement activities.
Criticisms also flew that the local church, not just the city government, had been commercializing the religious activity.
Tarpaulins of telecom companies were spread inside the premises of the Naga City Metropolitan Cathedral. Booths from soft drink companies filled the Peñafrancia Basilica and other large churches.
But Msgr. Romulo Vergara, rector of basilica, said the booths were not meant for profit but to cater to the needs of pilgrims. The proceeds will be used for church maintenance, he said.
Minus the controversy, the Peñafrancia fiesta was as colorful as ever. More people joined the fluvial procession. Firework displays after the high Masses lit up the sky for several minutes.