According to locals, a Spanish government official from Peñafrancia, Spain, a native of San Martin de Castañar,settled with his family in Cavite in the early 1680s. One day, Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, a son of that Spanish official and a seminarian studying at the Universidad de Santo Tomas, Manila became seriously ill. He found a painting of the image found by Simon Vela, and would place the painting on whatever part of his body that greatly pained him. This gave him relief from his suffering. “So many are the miracles that have happened that I cannot count them. All I could say is that I am the miracle of her miracles.” Miguel said. He and his family prayed to Our Lady of Peñafrancia whose picture he clutched to his breast as he hoped for recovery. Miguel vowed that if cured, he would construct a chapel on the banks of the Pasig River in Manila, in gratitude to Her, Miraculously cured,he built a small church made of nipa at the small estero near pasig river containing the first copy of painting of Penafrancia,done in canvass in 1690s. After that,he was ordained a priest in Manila but he was destined in the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (now Naga City) by Bishop Andres Gonzalez.
A lot of miraculous events happened in Naga during this period. One of the most prominent story is about a dog killed, its neck slashed and its blood used to coat or paint the newly carved replica of the statue of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Spain made by a local artisan. The dead dog was dumped into the river, but it swam alive once again, as witnessed by hundreds of people. Many other miracles that happened were attributed to Our Lady, and its news spread like wildfire. Thus, the devotees also increased in number. She became more popular not only to the natives, but also to the Chinese community. These were all documented in Father Miguel’s letters of 1710 and 1711. His letter to the Dominican Fathers of Salamanca, Spain (from where the home of the first INA Penafrancia) in 1712 reported many miracles through the intercession of Our Lady. As the devotees grew in number, the devotion also spread outside the Diocese of Nueva Caceres, which before comprised not only the Bicol region, but also includes Tayabas (now Quezon), Marinduque, Laguna up to Palanan, Isabela along the Cordillera ranges.
Succeeding Bishops of Nueva Caceres also contributed in propagating this devotion. Bishop Isidro Arrival (1740-1751) built the initial stone church, later called “Sanctuario de Peñafrancia”, on the banks of the Bicol River. Bishop Francisco Gainza (1862-1879) enlarged the sanctuary, wrote the history of Peñafrancia, and edited the Novena to Our Lady in Spanish, and in the Bicol dialect. Almost a century later, the English translation was done by Monseigneur Florencio Yllana in 1945.
Like the biblical “mustard seed” , the Peñafrancia devotion today is like a “giant tree”, whose branches extend to other parts of the world like America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The love story between our Lady of Peñafrancia, whom we lovingly call “Ina”, and us, her children, is never ending.
Today, we have Bicol,Tagalog and English novena translations. Devotees from all over the world are enjoying the fruits of this Marian devotion, and the aid of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. On her feast day, pilgrims gather once more at her shrine to pay her homage for favors received.
THE CANONICAL CORONATION OF INA
The Canonical Coronation of Our Lady of Peñafrancia as Patroness of Bicolandia took place on 20 September 1924, officiated by Monsignor Guillermo Piani, their Apostolic to the Delegate. The image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia enshrined in her sanctuary on Calle Balatas is approximately 275 years old. It is an ancient statue that has become an object of desire for some collectors of antiques.
It was crowned by the Edict of Pope Benedict XV (1923) under the Pontificate of Pius XI (1924) and the decree (bulla) was released through Cardinal Merry del Val (see Salve Regina book by Bro. Michael delos Reyes).. The popular hymn “Resuene Vibrante” for the coronation was composed by Fr. Maximo Huguera CM and soon,translated to Bikolano by Fr. Jesus Esplana and Fr. Sohl Saez.
The image of Ina was stolen
On the morning of August 15, 1981, this miraculous image was stolen from her shrine at the Peñafrancia Church. The entire region was shocked by this news and every devotee of Our Ina could not believe that such a dastardly and sacrilegious act could be perpetuated. Immediately a network for the massive search of the image was military and civilians alike. In the course of following leads to the theft, a policeman was killed and a police lieutenant was wounded when the jeepney they were riding in were ambushed by heavily armed men somewhere in Bolo Sur, Sipocot, Camarines Sur.
It seemed that the search would be futile altogether and people almost resigned to the sorry fate of having lost a most beloved image. Most of the leads proved to be hoaxes. The approaching feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia necessitated an image to be borne during the "traslacion" or transfer of image and the colorful fluvial procession. One was commissioned by church authorities and another image was donated by the Former first Lady, Imelda R. Marcos
The recovery of the image of Ina
A little over a year later, the region was shocked, with equal unbelief, with the news that the image has been returned to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Florencio Yllana, P.A, Liaison Officer of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and former Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia here in Naga City. On September 8, 1982, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, the motorcade from Manila bearing the Image arrived in Naga City at the height of Typhoon Ruping. The inclement weather did not deter thousands of devotees who braved the raging winds and the devastating floods to welcome the image of Our beloved Ina. At 10:00 in the evening of the same day, the image was safely enshrined at the Metropolitan Cathedral where a pontifical concelebrated mass offered in thanksgiving for the return and safe arrival of the image.
The image is now enthroned at the newly constructed Basilica Minore at Calle Balatas in the City of Naga. She has returned to her flock and her people have gratefully built her a home worthy of her dignity, honor, and maternal position.
Colgante Bridge tragedy
More than a hundred devotees were killed when the Colgante Bridge in Brgy. Peñafrancia collapsed from the weight of spectators waiting for the pagoda of Bicol’s patroness to pass halfway to its destination during the fluvial procession along the Naga River on Sept. 16, 1972, a Saturday. The procession was bringing back the image of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia to her shrine from Naga Metropolitan Cathedral after the novena.
Naga, the “Heart of Bikol” situated 382 kilometers south of Manila, was then simmering with rumors of a supposed meeting of New People’s Army (NPA) leaders with Jose Maria Sison, secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines. This was splashed on the frontpage of the local weekly newspaper Naga Times on its Sept. 17 issue.
The feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on the third Saturday & Sunday of September in Naga City, Bicol Philippines. All roads and routes will lead to Naga City in Camarines Sur where six million Bicolanos from here and abroad will flock to that progressive city to pay honor to the Virgin of Peñafrancia, miraculous patroness of the Bicol Region. Bicolanos from all walks of life will be in Naga City to meet their relatives and partidarios, share food, drinks, and prayers with them, and most of all, to pay homage and make thanksgiving to the Virgin of Peñafrancia, whom the Bicolanos fondly call Ina. Viva la Virgen, they will shout to high heavens. The feast day is headed by a novena, nine days of prayer, in honor of the Virgin. On the first day, the image of the Virgin, a copy of the Madonna in Peñafrancia, Spain, is brought from its shrine to the Naga Cathedral where the novena is held. On the last day, the image is returned to her shrine following the Naga River route. The colorful evening procession is lit by thousands of candles from followers in boats escorting the image. When the flatboat reaches its destination, the devotees shout "Viva la Virgen" (Long live the Virgin!) and the image is carried back in a procession to the cathedral. Millions of Bicolanos will once again show to the whole Christian world their strong faith and loyalty to their Heavenly Mother. amongst triumphant sounding shouts of Viva la Virgen, Bicolanos and pilgrims, with lighted candles in their hands, will kneel on the ground and bow their heads in prayer as the colorful fluvial procession carrying the Virgin plows through the Bicol River in downtown Naga.
A multicolored pagoda carrying the images/icons of the Virgin of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro will pass through the Bicol River. Male, sunburned devotees of the Virgin will adhere to the huge pagoda in a heartwarming display of faith and devotion. Actually, the fluvial procession marks the return of the Virgin from the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral to her home shrine at the Basilica. Upon its arrival, the Virgin will be received in formal religious rites by Roman Catholic dignitaries of the Bicol Region led by Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez.
Considered the biggest and most popular religious event in the Philippines, the Peñafrancia fiesta is in fact a one-week affair that starts on the second Friday of September when the miraculous Ina is transferred from her shrine to the centuries-old Naga Metropolitan Cathedral where a nine-day novena and prayers are held in her honor. Ranking government officials, Cabinet members, ambassadors, governors, mayors, senators, diputados, business/industry leaders, landlords, etc., vie for the distinct honor of sponsoring a nightly novena and prayers at the Naga Cathedral.
Novenario to the Divino Rostro
The festivities begin in a nine-day novenario to the Divino Rostro or "the Holy Face" or "Divine Face". The divino Rostro is brought to the old Peñafrancia Shrine, the old home of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, via a procession, and stays there for nine days of novenario. The novenario usually centers on the sick, and the faith in the power of Jesus.
The second Friday of September marks the feast day of the Divino Rostro after his nine days of novena at the shrine. Bishops and delegates from other dioceses attend the grand mass concelebrated by Archbishops in the Philippines, outside the shrine to commemorate the feast of the Divino Rostro.
During dawn, the image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia is transferred to her old home for the Traslacion in the afternoon. After the procession, a Community and Thanksgiving Mass is celebrated to honor the arrival of Ina. After the mass, the Grand Pontifical Mass, celebrated by Archbishops around the Philippines, is celebrated to commemorate the feast day of the Divino Rostro.
During noon, the Traslacion begins from the procession of the students, delegates from other regions, teachers, government officials, and other professions while the images are being prepared for the procession.
A mass is celebrated before the Traslacion while the people flock for the main procession. After the mass, the Divino Rostro leaves the shrine and heads to the Cathedral at a very slow pace. After a recital of the Holy Rosary, or sometimes two recitals, depending the distance and speed from the Divino Rostro, the Our Lady of Peñafrancia follows and moves at a very slow pace, somewhat slower than the Divino Rostro.
After 2 hours or three hours, the image of the Divino Rostro arrives at the Cathedral, and after an hour, the image of Ina arrives at the Cathedral. A Solemn Pontifical Mass is celebrated after the procession, outside the Cathedral.
After the mass, the nine-day novenario for Ina begins inside the Cathedral.
The Novenario to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia
After the Traslacion, the nine-day novena to the Our Lady is held inside or sometimes outside the Cathedral. Millions of devotees come to the Cathedral for the novenario, praying for the divine intercession of Ina to her son, that their prayers be heard and be fulfilled. The novenario is said to have healed countless devotees, even the Bishop himself, celebrating the novena is healed. The novena centers around Mary's intercession to Jesus as we make our way, closer, and nearer to him.
Different parades are held during the nine-day novena to the Our Lady.
During the Saturday, after the Traslacion, the majorettes, CAT, and the Drum and Lyre, exhibits their skills in dancing and playing the instruments.
Tuesday, before the Fluvial Procession, the Regional Cheer-dance Competition is held at the Plaza Quezon, almost all of the schools in Bicol participated in this long, but very entertaining event.
Wednesday, the Boy Scouts, and Girls Scouts, including the Drum and Lyre, and majorettes from different elementary schools in Bicol parade in the daylong, BSP/GSP Drum and Lyre parade and competition.
Thursday, the most engrand Civic Parade of the Government workers, and different associations, and organizations in Bicol, and the Float Parade that is joined by hundreds of floats, honoring Ina.
Friday, the most awaited,and the century-old military parade, participated by all High Schools, and College Schools in Bicol, including the Philippine Constabulary, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, parade in the major streets of Naga City. It is considered to be the longest parade outside Manila due to its daylong, sometimes reaches nighttime, parade.
A fluvial procession at the end of the novena caps the feast. The image is carried in a pagoda (the Filipino term for a decorated shrine-barge, usually with more than one tier, used in fluvial processions) on its return journey to the basilica, where a Pontifical Mass is held. Along the route, people shout "¡Viva La Virgen!"
The image is surrounded by a battalion of exclusively male devotees, for Bicolano folk custom holds that no woman, Filipina or foreigner, may board the barge with the Virgin as this will surely spell disaster.
THE FEAST OF INA - IN PICTURES
VISIT THE PENAFRANCIA BASILICA MINORE (4400 Balatas road, Naga city, Camarines Sur, Philippines)