|Naga Metropolitan Cathedral|
N A G A C I T Y
S I D E T R I P
Just like a jealous wife, Naga City lured me into believing that her embrace was the first one that I should be yearning for on my way to Bicol. I was supposed to head straight from Metro Manila to Legazpi City for my Holy Week vacation. That did not happen as most Bicol-bound buses were fully booked upon my visit of various bus terminals a week before the vacation even started.
Arriving at Naga City was a hoot. I would normally be welcomed by a sleeping city at 4:00 am in my numerous travels but this Camarines Sur's city center surprised me as throngs of people were already out at the plaza and the streets at that wee hour. Fast food joints were filled with customers including myself. I would later find out that there was an event that early morning.
I was to meet an old Bicol-based friend at past 7:00 am to take photos of his Virgen Del Socorro image. They were to participate at that day's procession I was told.
|San Francisco Church in the wee hours and at 7:00 am|
Since it was still 6:00 am. I decided to walk around the city and take photos of schools, churches and other interesting-looking sites.
San Francisco Church
To find any Catholic church nearby without a map, what I always do is make a gaze of the landscape. Chances are, there's a bell tower sticking out of the rows of houses and buildings. In this case, I did not have to do so. My first church stopover was the 17th century church of San Francisco which I easily spotted at the city center as surrounded by various commercial shops and 24-hour fast food joints like Jollibee, McDonald's, Chowking and Biggs.
|Naga Metropolitan Cathedral door carvings|
Naga Metropolitan Cathedral
Standing outside of San Francisco Church, I next spotted the bell tower of another church. It took about 5 minutes of walking to reach what I would later on know to be the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. The church had been damaged by typhoons and earthquakes so there were already numerous restorations made to its present structure. Circling the church did not make me feel its title of being the biggest church in the Bicol region, but stepping inside did. The church doors' ornate design alone would make any visitor know that a splendid space of worship was inside. The almost sky high ceiling dwarfed the holy water angel statues on my way in.
|Porta Mariae or Our Lady of Penafrancia Commemorative Arch|
Porta Mariae and The Cathedral Grounds Pavilion
On my way out of the church, two more religious structures were standing for Naga City residents and tourists to behold -- the Porta Mariae and the Naga Cathedral ground pavilion.
The Porta Mariae or the commemorative arch of Our Lady of Peñafrancia was only erected in 2010 but it has been starting to attract the attention of numerous tourists. It is Naga City's tribute to the 300 years of Marian devotion of Bicolanos.
Strategically erected in the middle of the cathedral grounds is the pavilion that houses the decorative stained glass dome featuring images of Mary.
Holy Rosary Minor Seminary and the Universidad De Sta. Isabel
Lastly, before I went straight to the assembly group of a Marian image for procession, I walked past two distinct structures that beautifully defined the pleasantness of Naga City -- the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary and the Universidad De Sta. Isabel.
|Holy Rosary Minor Seminary|
|Universidad De Sta. Isabel|
Just outside the cathedral grounds was the Universidad De Sta. Isabel. Known to be the first normal school in Southeast Asia, the university used to only train high school students to be teachers. It was later declared in 2001 as having a university status.
I was supposed to explore the premises of the Naga City Ecology Park but, unfortunately, it was closed for the Holy Week.
|The face and hand parts of a Virgin Mary image for procession|
By 8:00 am I was already at the corner of a busy street nearby where my Bicol-based friend, King, was leading an assembly group to prepare his Virgin Mary image for that day's procession. Preparations would take the whole day as the procession would commence at night. With just 1 more hour to spare, I chatted with my friend as he assembled the body parts of his Virgen Del Socorro.
After 5 hours of staying in Naga City, I finally decided to head back to the city's bus terminal and catch an ordinary bus bound for Legazpi City, my next destination.
My side trip in Naga City might have been brief but it was exciting as I arrived and left the area at the time of its preparation for the Holy Week. A lot of teenagers were out in the streets because school days were over. Adults, mostly female ones, were dressed for church-related rituals. All in all, the atmosphere was celebratory in that the locals were expecting a lot of time to spend with each other.
C O M M U T E T I P F R O M N A G A C I T Y T O L E G A Z P I C I T Y
Opt to ride a van from Naga City to Legazpi City instead of an ordinary coaster or mini-bus. I tested the latter and it took me 3 hours to reach Albay. Vans have less epic stopovers or no stopover at all.
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