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Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia

If one is to ask what title of the Blessed Virgin Mary is famous in the Bicolandia, we can definitely say that it is the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, aside from the doctrinal titles of the Virgin such as Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Assumption. “Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia”, fondly called as “INA”, has gained enormous fame throughout the region due to the devotion that began in the year 1710 at the Metropolitan church, the Archdiocese of Naga. The then Vicar General Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarubbias brought the devotion to Naga, when he was ordained priest for the Diocese of Naga by Bishop Andres Gonzales, OP, by erecting a shrine to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, a promise that he made to the Lady for the cures and miracles he received from her.

Procession in the Philippines

The original image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia was found by a French hermit named Simon Vela in “Peña de Francia” (rocky mountain along the Via Frances) in the village of San Martin de Castañar, Salamanca, Spain in the year 1434. The hermit, born on 1401 in the city of Paris, France, from a well off family, gave all the properties he inherited from his family and decided to live a celibate life dedicated to the Lady and serving in a Franciscan convent in the city.

During his meditations, the Lady appeared to her many times, sending him to Peña de Francia, a place unknown to him, to search for the image of the Lady. After a long and arduous journey from Paris, France to Salamanca, Spain, and only after some heartbreaking experiences and conquered hopelessness he did finally find the image of the Lady in the said rocky mountain. The devotion to the image then began there in Peña de Francia, a mountainous region between two Spanish provinces of Salamanca and Caceres.

Our Lady of Peñafrancia and devotees at Virac church.

From that village of San Martin de Castañar where Peña de Francia is located, the family of Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarubbias originated. His parents migrated in 17th century to Manila where Fr. Miguel took his religious and priestly formation under the tutelage of the Dominicans. From the cover picture of his book of devotion to the Lady, he asked a local sculptor to copy the picture by carving a statue of the Lady and put it in a new shrine made of straws and local materials in the place where the present Basilica of the Peñafrancia is located.

The Holy Image was canonically crowned and declared as Patroness of Nueva Caceres and the Bicol Region on September 2, 1924. The feast of the Lady was transferred from the first Sunday of July to the third Sunday of September. The feast is usually preceded by a Traslacion, the procession of the image from Basilica to Naga Cathedral, and then the novena masses and followed by a fluvial procession of the image from the Cathedral back to her Basilica. Today, the devotion to Ina has grown not only region-wide but also worldwide that the city of Naga becomes overcrowded by devotees and tourists during the whole Peñafrancia festival.

Written by Rev. Fr. Orly Mendoza

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