Sunday, September 5, 2010

Philippine Army Soldiers "Invade" Naga City for Bicol River Clean Up Drive

Soldiers uproot the water lilies that grow behind the Lady of Fatima Church in Tabuco village during the Bicol River clean-up drive spearheaded by the 9th Infantry Division yesterday. Three hundred (300) soldiers were involved in cleaning the 2km stretch of the river where the fluvial parade for the Penafrancia Festival is traditionally held.

Soldiers pose for a souvenir photo with civilian participants and local officials during the Bicol River Clean up drive in Naga City. (Photo by Ernesto Loreto/PAO9ID)

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur – Philippine Army soldiers stormed Naga City’s Bicol River to spearhead the river’s clean up drive yesterday , a military report said.

LtCol Erwin De Asis, the 9th Infantry Division’s Civilian-Military Operations (CMO) officer said that three hundred soldiers were sent to participate in the cleaning of the river’s surroundings in preparation to the upcoming Penafrancia Festival.

Armed not with rifles and machineguns, the soldiers cleared the 2-kilometer river bank using bolos, rakes and even their bare hands starting at 8:00am.

“It is our commitment to throw our full support behind the organizers of the Penafrancia festival for the various preparations prior to the fluvial parade along this river stretch. Our soldiers cleared the floating debris, thrashes and shrubs starting from Tabuco village up to Balatas village where the Basilica is located,” said De Asis.

Soldiers were in high-spirits as they carried out their ‘clearing operations’ the whole day.

LtCol Epimaco Macalisang, the Ground Commander during the activity, was very proud for his group’s humble contribution.

“I am from Mindanao but it is my honor to be part of this once-in-a lifetime big celebration marking the 300th year of the Penafrancia Festival,” said Macalisang. “Imagine, others would have to wait 100 years to mark another century of devotion to our 'Ina' (Mother Mary). I am very proud to be part of this historic celebration," he jokingly remarked.

The clean up activity was fully supported by the Naga City government and the local officials of the villages along the river.

Traditionally, soldiers are deeply involved in the annual Penafrancia festivities. Army personnel are tapped by religious leaders for the Traslacion (procession) and the fluvial parade.

Hundreds of soldiers are also placed on standby to support the local police in its security operations. A contingent of Army personnel forms part of the Joint Operations Center which oversees the various festivities.

Also yesterday, at least 50 Army soldiers participated in the “Fun Run, Fun Walk, Fun Bike" activity organized by the religious community.

Naga City braces for the coming of millions of devotees in the second week of this month for the 300th year of devotion to the Lady of Penafrancia.

All hotels around the city and even in nearby towns reported that room reservations are already full up to the month’s end.

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