Our devotion to Ina must be enlightened and inspired by the Word of God, contained in Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. A true devotee of Ina reads, reflects upon and does the teachings of the Bible.
Our devotion to Ina, expressed through praying the novena, recitation of the holy rosary and other similar practices of piety, should not replace our attendance at Mass and reception of Holy Communion. Authentic devotion to Ina should lead us to adoration and reception of Jesus in Holy Communion.
A true devotee of Ina prays the novena, goes to confession, attends the Holy Mass and receives Holy Communion. True devotion to Ina does not end in the pious expressions of love for Mary but in the love for Jesus and His Church and love for the Eucharist and neighbor, preferentially the poor.
Our devotion to Ina should bring about unity-loving union of husband and wife, unity of the members of the family or community, unity of all members of an organization of movement, unity of the parishioners and the parish priest. A true devotee of Ina reconciles with God and with his/her enemies. Reconciliation is an indicator of true Marian devotion.
Our devotion to Ina should lead us to know more personally, love more dearly and follow more closely Jesus. A true devotee of Ina imitates Mary and follows Jesus ardently.
Our devotion to Ina should lead us to become better Christians so that our lives will be in absolute conformity with God’s will.
Devotional expressions such as kissing or touching the image of Our Lady of Penafrancia, immersing into the Bicol river during fluvial procession, walking barefoot, lighting a candle, waving handkerchief, shouting and many other forms of devotion cannot substitute for serious Christian commitment, persevering and practical actions.
“Viva la Virgen!” “Viva el Divino Rostro!” are shouts of lively faith and praise of Mary and Jesus. But these shouts of honor are also admonitions to us to live our lives in accordance with God’s commandments.
Let us be reminded by the words of Jesus: “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7: 21)
In another passage, Jesus says: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn. 15: 14)
A true devotee of Mary does not only shout, or touch or kiss her image but does the will of God every day, through faithful observance of the commandments.
(EXCERPT FROM THE REPORT OF RAPPLER.COM ON AUGUST 28, 2012)
Here is the homily at the requiem mass for the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, as delivered by Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose of the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP).
The homily was delivered on August 28, 2012, at the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia in Naga City.
YOUR EXCELLENCY, President Benigno S. Aquino; Mrs. Leni Robredo, wife of the late Secretary; their children, Aika, Tricia, and Jillian; family and relatives; Cabinet Secretaries, honorable John Bongat, Mayor of Naga City, national and local officials, representatives of foreign governments, members of the clergy and religious, my dear people of Naga, my dear Filipino people.
In an uncanny coincidence, the lifeless body of Secretary Jesse was found on the same day of the death anniversary of a great Filipino, Ninoy Aquino. Ninoy said “The Filipino is worth dying for.” And he proved it with his own death. Today, another great Filipino, Secretary Jesse Robredo, has shown by his life and death that every Filipino is worth dying for. To this great man, let us show our appreciation as we stand and put our hands together.
Thank you. If you feel the ground underneath shaking, please don’t worry. It’s not an earthquake. It’s most probably my knees that are trembling. Why me? That’s what came to my mind when Atty. Leni asked if I would celebrate and preach at this funeral mass for her late husband. Why me, a simple missionary priest working among the most forgotten ones in society? Why me? Then Atty. Leni said, “Father, that’s what Jesse would really want.” Yes, in death and in life, Secretary Jesse is a man of the ordinary people. I am honored and humbled to do this for a friend, a great man, and a champion of the poor.
I am a priest of the missionaries of the poor from Jamaica. Our mission is to shelter and care for abandoned children, special children, the disabled, and elderly who are homeless. We provide nutrition, health care, spiritual care for the indigent. For the past six years I have worked here in the Philippines in our mission center which is not far from here, on the same road, many of you might have passed there. I want to thank the family, especially his wife, for including the missionaries of the poor as one of the favored charities of the late secretary to which donations can be made. We will establish a free clinic for the poor in his honor.
Ten days ago when we heard the news about the plane crash followed by the discovery of Secretary Jesse’s body three days later, like you, like each and every one of you here, I was shocked by the suddenness and the seeming cruelty of it all. My mind was racing to find some logic in what seemed a senseless tragedy. Words simply seem to fail us in such situations.
But my brothers and sisters, we take comfort that the word of God never fails, and so we read in the book of Wisdom, Chapter 3, “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to have died and their departure was thought to be an affliction and their going from us to be their destruction. But they are at peace. They will receive great good because God tested them and found them worthy of himself. Like gold in the furnace, he tried them. Like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. They will govern nations and rule over peoples and the Lord will reign over them forever. ”
I stand here before you today not as a representative of government or politics not as an official representative of the church, not as a spokesman for the family, but I speak on the behalf of the countless poor and indigent, the tsinelas people to whom Secretary Jesse was a true friend and a big brother.
Allow me to share about this man we are honoring today from the personal perspective. I first met Jesse Robredo, twenty years ago on a rainy day in June 1992. I had accompanied our founder, Father – from Jamaica and our first visit to the Philippines. We were looking at the possibility of our ministry among the poor and the needy in this country. Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi welcomed us warmly to Naga and introduced us to then-Mayor Jesse Robredo because the good archbishop knew that like himself, Jesse had a heart for the poor.
We met at the urban poor location site at San Rafael. With Jesse was his young, beautiful wife, Atty. Leni and believe me, she has changed very little since then and their eldest daughter, Aika. Aika, I doubt you will remember this because you were still a tiny tot at the time.
Two things impressed me about Mayor Jesse and that first meeting: He was a man of the family and a man of the poor. We met again the next day, this time at the mayor’s office at the city hall. I was surprised, even a bit scandalized by what I saw as the mayor’s office. His office was a simple room with a large table, more like a family dining table. The mayor was seated at one end of the table and there were several people of all sorts sitting or standing around in the room. They were all seeking the mayor’s attention or assistance with some need. He was their father and they were his children.
And in the last six years that I have been here in the Philippines, Mayor Jesse, and later, Secetary Jesse and I have met so many times. Either at his office or more often than not, in our mission center in San Rafael. Jesse was there at every occasion we had. Sometimes he would simply drop by just to find out how we were doing or if he could be of help in any way.
One of the images of Secretary Jesse that I would carry with me to my grave happened at the height of typhoon Reming in 2006 when the winds were howling and the roofs were flying and the trees were falling. I was shocked when the mayor’s car drove into our center. Mayor Jesse came to find out if everyone was safe. I couldn’t believe he would risk his own life to make sure the poor were safe and well. I later found out that this was something mayor Jesse did every time there was a typhoon.
Then he was at my place every August 7 to wish me happy birthday. He was there during our free medical missions. He was there with his wife and the three girls every December 25 for the Christmas party with our poor for the gift-giving for the indigent before proceeding to his parents’ home for their Christmas dinner. Secretary Jesse was there whenever we needed him and he was there even when we didn’t need him. He felt comfortable with us and we felt comfortable with him. Maybe because we wore sandals. You may call it the tsinelas friendship, if you want. When he became cabinet secretary we thought we would not see him as often as before but I was wrong. Despite his busy schedule and high position, he still found time to visit us every now and then. And it was still the same Jesse Robredo with his casual attitude and boyish smile.
Secretary Jesse Robredo was a man with a golden heart, a brilliant mind, and steely will. He was a humble man. He was a man of compassion for the poor, the needy, and for everyone. Leaders must have a vision and a will. A vision without a will remains a fairytale and a will without a vision can be disastrous. Secretary Jesse had both vision and will and he fulfilled his mission. He was a man of the masses, the real Pinoy Big Brother to the countless nameless, faceless persons who make up the bulk of our society.
Secretary Jesse also had a great sense of humor. One time, he said to me, “Father, all my life, I have been after girls and women.” I was a bit stunned. Then he continued “You see, when I was a boy, it was my mother and my sisters, now, it’s my wife and three daughters.” Give his family a very big hand. Then I said to him “Okay, but it is also the talk of the town that you also have another woman in your life.” It was his time to be surprised and he said “Who is that?” Who is the other woman in the life of Mayor Jesse? Bicolanos' Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Viva La Virgen!
We both had a good laugh. I’m told that since the age of 16, Jesse has been a devotee of Ina. Year after year, without fail. Im sure next month he will be there with us for the Peñafrancia fiesta. Look for him. Secretary Jesse was a devout catholic, a god-fearing man.
It has now been revealed that he frequented the confessional, two, three times a month. He was a regular Sunday mass-goer and communicant. I was told by a common friend that it is not unusual to see Jesse slip into the adoration chapel in the Basilica early in the morning. Again, no fanfare, no blowing of his own trumpet.
Another quality that endeared Jesse to everyone, the elite and the lowly, the powerful and the weak, the VIPs and the VOPs. -you know who the VOPs are? The very ordinary people - is his inclusivist attitude in a time when people think with an exclusivist mentality. When human life is treated as a matter of human choice and people are considered as wanted or unwanted based on personal convenience or the availability of resources, Jesse made everyone feel wanted. He simply treated everyone with respect. He never complained that he did not have enough time or resources for so many who came to him but always found time for everyone. He might not have satisfied everyone’s needs but he made everyone feel that he cared.
For Jesse, every human life was sacred and a gift from God. Perhaps that’s why he loved our work so much. The deformed children, the disabled, rejected ones, whom society considers unwanted and a burden to development. My dear brothers and sisters, yes, every Filipino is worth dying for.
Secretary Jesse had time for everybody, you, me, everyone, except himself. He will drop by a barangay fiesta then go over to a meeting with some business people then stop at someone’s birthday party or wedding or a wake or whatever. He could take breakfast in Manila, have lunch in Cebu, and be back home in Naga for dinner with his family except that last trip. He was there for you. He was there for me. He was there for everyone. We all felt appreciated and accepted by Jesse. In his presence we felt no worry. He gave hope to many in hopeless situations. He was not afraid to walk the talk. He painted schools, scrubbed floors, cleaned drains, all while he was chief executive of this city and one of the highest officials in the land.
Secretary Jesse shared the name not only of our Lord Jesus but in his own humble way, he strived to live like him. He was a man truly poor in spirit because he desired nothing for himself.
As his wife said during the interview last week, he felt his cup was overflowing. He did not even dream the things that have come to him. He was satisfied with whatever he had. He sympathized with those who mourned. He hungered for justice and righteousness. He was humble and meek even when raised to the highest positions in the country. Secretary Jesse was not a perfect human being, but he was a true human being who treated every other human as true as himself.
Let me here, speak to the immediate family of the late secretary: Atty. Leni, Aika, Tricia, Jillian, siblings of the late secretary, thank you for sharing Jesse with us. You had to make sacrifices to let your husband, your father, your brother serve other people. for this, we all thank you. In you we see Secretary Jesse’s true spirit of humility and courage. Let me assure you also of the sincere condolences of the entire missionaries of the poor family around the world. When I heard the shocking news on Saturday, August 18, I immediately rang up our founder in Jamaica, and broke the news. He was stunned. He knew Jesse as a personal friend during his various trips to the Philippines. We assure you of our continued prayers and support for you always.
Seldom do people pass away doing what they loved doing. Secretary Jesse passed away doing what he loved the most: going home. Secretary Jesse, you liked to surprise people, but not in my wildest dreams did imagine that my last mass in Naga City before I leave for my next assignment in Jamaica this week will be your funeral mass.
Thanks for that surprise. Jesse Manalastas Robredo, devoted son, responsible brother, loving husband, caring father, humble servant of the people, champion of the poor, farewell. Indeed, you have fared well in this life, now fare well in the next.
Maraming salamat po Secretary Jesse for being a true friend of the common people.
Ingat po. Dios Mabalos.
The Peñafrancia Minor Basilica is located on the outskirts of Naga City—also known as the Piligrim City and Queen City of Bicol—in the Bicol Region of the Philippines. The Image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is enshrined in her sanctuary at the Basilica Minore, Balatas Road Naga City. Rodel Cajot was appointed rector in 2011.
The concept for the building came from the late Archbishop Pedro Paulo Santos y Songco in 1960. Construction began on April 18, 1976, but was delayed for a number of years due to financing problems and was not completed until September 1981.
On May 22, 1982, it was dedicated as The Church of Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia and it wasn't until May 22, 1985 that the church was given the title of "Basilica Minore" from Rome after a request from the third Archbishop of Caceres, Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.P., D.D.
The Peñafrancia Basilica Minore houses an image of the virgin Mary that was sculpted in 1710. It was commissioned by Miguel de Cobarrubias, who moved to the Philippines from Spain with his family and believed that the virgin Mary had helped him numerous times in his life. The image was housed in a small chapel until the Basilica Minore was built constructed.
Archbishop Pedro P. Santos noted that the devotees and pilgrims kept increasing through the years. In 1960, he dreamt of building a basilica to give honor to Our Lady. Shortly after, through the meditation of the Archbishop Emeritus Teopisto V. Alberto, D.D. and the Association of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Mr and Mrs. Macario Mariano donated a three hectare lot at barrio Balatas. Bishop Concordio Sarte initiated the ground work of the construction. Blessing and laying of the cornerstone was held on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1976 having Church dignitaries led by Cardinal Jaime Sin and prominent Bicolano sponsors.
Immediately thereafter, there was a hiatus in the construction. Yet the association continued soliciting contributions and donations. Bishop Sarte was transferred to Sorsogon and Fr. Sofio Balce (later appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Caceres) took over as Parish Priest and Rector of Our Lady of Peñafrancia Parish and Shrine. He reorganized the different committees and launched “Operation Peñafrancia Basilica”. From then on construction continued on an almost fevered pitch until it was finally completed in September 1981. On May 22, 1982, Cardinal Sin officiated the solemn inauguration and dedication, having Cardinal Julio Rosales in attendance. On January 18, 1984, Leonardo Z. Legaspi was installed third Archbishop of Caceres. He sent a petition to Romeo to the effect that the title “Basilica” be granted to the newly built church. On May 22, 1985, he received the decree from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship conceding the title of “Basilica Minore” to the “Church of Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia”. With this concession comes another Basilica Minore in the Philippines granting plenary indulgences under the usual conditions.
Barely ten years after its completion, the physical structure of the Basilica Minore had deteriorated earlier than expected due to some construction defects and the ravages of natural elements.
In 1991, the Basilica Rector, Msgr. Manolo de los Santos, started the repairs and improvements of the Basilica Church. The doors were reinforced and strengthened, window stained glasses and oil paintings of the Stations of the Cross were installed, concrete pathways and drainage systems were constructed around the basilica church and complex. His efforts, however, were cut short towards the end of June 1993 due to his transfer to Iriga City as its new parish priest.
In July 1993, the incumbent Rector, Msgr. Alberto Nero, resumed the major repairs and repainting of Our Lady’s Basilica. The first move was to treat the whole church and complex with anti-termite chemicals to control and exterminate those destructive pests which have already attacked and damaged considerably both structures.
By September 1994, the leaking roofs of the Basilica have been fully repaired and repainted, the damaged ceilings rehabilitated and repainted together with the interior walls of the Basilica, the electrical wirings and installations renovated, the gigantic and ugly chandeliers were replaced with the more luminous and more economical Highbay luminaire lamps, the Cross at the Basilica dome provided with a neon light tubes which distinguishes the Basilica at night even from afar and finally a 20 KVA standby power generator had been purchased and installed to provide emergency lights during brown-outs.
On November 3, 1994, the repair works and repainting of the Basilica Minore’s exterior walls were resumed. The broken window glasses, the partly corroded steel window frames were replaced/strengthened. The towering Basilica Belfry, however, remains untouched.
The complete repairs and commissioning of this towering belfry seems to be impossible before this year’s Peñafrancia festivities. Most of its window glasses were already broken and need replacements, the steel window frames themselves are no longer safe, the long and winding steel staircase towards the topmost part of the belfry had already been declared not passable by our engineers. To replace the same with concrete staircase will take a yearlong job. Only after this can we furnish it with a suitable Church Bell or with an electronic Chime Bells.
Above all the Basilica Minore of Our Ina has to be provided with a Perpetual Adoration Chapel for the Blessed Sacrament which should be accessible to everybody and yet more conducive to private personal prayer any time of the day. The left wing of the Basilica hallway will be most suitable for this.
The basilica basement have to be converted and developed into a presentable Audio-Visual Room and furnished with the necessary Audio-Visual equipment to make it functional for the proper briefings and orientation of the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the Basilica Minore in groups all year round.
TAKEN FROM THE ARTICLE OF FR FLORENCIO C. YLLANA
THE FIRST CHAPEL
Don Miguel Robles de Covarrubias began immediately the construction of the chapel of nipa and bamboo in the place indicated by the cimarrones. It must be like one of those “Ermitas” in our barrios. By then nobody must have dreamed, not even Dn. Miguel himself, that suck a chapel built for the cimarrones, would someday be the pet rendezvous of thousand and thousands of souls of the Bicol Region and other places. The present church was built more or less in the same place where the first was constructed. it is about 2 kilometers from the present Municipal Building and around a kilometer and a half from the Episcopal Palace.
THE LAST DAYS OF DON MIGUEL
Some months after the termination of the chapel, Don Miguel went to Manila where he lost the sight of his left eye. He consulted the doctors of the city with no positive effect. He then promised to come back to Naga to construct a stone church and to make the devotion to the Virgin more widely known among the Bicolanos. In a sudden he recovered his lost sight; so he came back. While in Nueva Caceres (Naga) Dn. Miguel fell seriously ill again and many thought it was his end. He then promised to live permanently in the place where he constructed a stone church and after five months of stay in that place he recovered. Dn. Miguel makes mention of this and other miracles in his letters addressed to the chaplain of Peñafrancia of San Martin de Castañar, Spain, written in the years 1710, 1711 and 1717. On or about the year 1723 God called him to his eternal abode to receive the reward for his good works and for the devotion he sowed in the bicolano soil, now acknowledged as Bicolandia’s foremost. May his soul rest in peace!
THE PRESENT STONE CHURCH
No definite data is available with regards to the construction of the present church. All references however point to the belief that it was Bishop Isidro Arevalo who built around the year 1750. His coat of arms engraved in the upper part of the western side of the church, justifies this stand, accepted by Msgr. Gainza himself. The old people say that the Chinese community of the locality donated the façade. They were ardent devotees of the Virgin as proven by the fact that they were the ones shouldering the expenses of the pagoda, the nicest seen in Naga, and all their children were usually baptized in the Peñafrancia church. As a consequence, the façade was entirely of Chinese art with pots, plates, jars, and etc. engraved on it. That was the façade previous to the present.
THE PRESENT FACADE
Perhaps few Bishops among those who governed the Diocese of Nueva Caceres had more devotion in, and demonstrated more interest for the Virgin of Peñafrancia and her church, as did Msgr. Francisco Gainza, an acknowledged luminary of the Dominican order. Not only did he write the history of Peñafrancia, the first one to be ever published, and edited a novena to the Virgin, but he also tried to make the Peñafrancia church a more worthy abode of the Mother of God. He introduced changes in the church, made it around 5 meters longer on the front and finally he constructed the present imposing thou simple façade. Bicolandia will never forget him and his memory will forever be linked with history of the Peñafrancia church.
THE FIRST MIRACLE
Just after the construction of the chapel, Don. Miguel asked a sculptor to carve a statue of the Virgin from the picture of the original from Spain, which he had with him for many years. When the statue was finished, the sculptor needed blood to color it, so a dog was sacrificed. The dead animal with its four legs tied up, was cast to the river, which is only around five meters from the place. At this instant, Dn. Miguel remarked: “The Virgin will work her first miracle in Nueva Caceres. She will bring back to life that innocent animal that gave the blood for her”. Upon hearing this, those around him laughed sarcastically, but what was their surprise when in a jiffy the dog began to swim and upon reaching the banks, ran fast to the house of the master. Some people, including some Dominican fathers who were then taking vacation with Msgr. Gonzales, O.P., then Bishop of this Diocese, bore witness to the veracity of this first miracle wrought by the Virgin of Peñafrancia in Nueva Caceres.
NOSTALGIA PENAFRANCIA HISTORIA
A Journey to the glorious past on how Our Lady of Penafrancia become very famous and popular to the world, from its humble beginnings until its full scale of success in propagating this devotion.