I admit, I mostly got curious about Camarines Sur after it became one of the Philippines’ top travel destinations. I just had to find out what the fuss was all about. I finally had the chance to visit Camarines Sur during my weeklong trip to Bicol last September, which was great timing since it was the tercentenary celebration of the Peñarancia Festival in Naga City. Witnessing the Peñafrancia Festival, the largest Marian devotion in the country, was my first agenda after arriving at the Pili (Naga) Airport.

Cebu Pacific ATR Plane  at the Pili (Naga) Domestic Airport

From the airport in Pili town, I went straight to Naga City to meet a few Naga-based forum members of Skyscrapercity Philippines. We spent the morning doing a walking tour of the old downtown area in Naga City. Like I mentioned, I didn’t know a lot about Camarines Sur moreso the history of its towns and cities. It was a very enlightening experience to discover Naga City as we visited the core of its cultural heritage. I was surprised to discover that Nueva Caceres (the old name of Naga City), was one of the earliest Roman Catholic dioceses of Spanish-colonial Philippines alongside Manila, Nueva Segovia (Cagayan-Ilocos Sur), Cebu, and Jaro (Iloilo). Deeply rooted in Philippine history and culture, there’s certainly a wealth of discoveries awaiting anyone visiting Naga City and Camarines Sur.

The Porta Mariae, a massive arch built infront of the Naga Metropolitan Cathderal to commemorate the 300th Peñarfancia Festival

Outside the Naga Metropolitan Cathderal

Interiors of the Naga Cathderal

Central Altar with the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia nicknamed as “Ina”

Holy Rosary Minor Seminary

Brick Arches along the corridors of the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary

A chapel inside the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary featuring excellent woodwork designs

We stationed at the roadside near the Cathedral at around 3pm and waited as the crowd swelled up for the fluvial procession, wherein the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is transferred from the Naga Metropolitan Cathderal to its more permanent home at the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore. The procession passes through the major streets of Naga City and then follows the fluvial route along the Naga River. Like the feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, devotees flood the streets during the procession. It took quite an effort to peer out of the crowd and take photos of the scene with people pushing and bumping against us at all directions.

I didn’t make any room reservations before the trip so I decided to spend the night in Legazpi City instead. All the hotels/pension houses in Naga were already fully booked. I did go back to Naga City a few days later to explore the greater Naga City area enroute to a 3-day tour of Caramoan town and its beautiful off shore islands and islets.