Our Lady of Peñafrancia

Our Lady of Peñafrancia
Our Lady of Peñafrancia
Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia

The original image of the Lady during the 300th anniversary of devotion.
Patroness of Bicolandia
Born 1710
Honored in Naga City and other parts of Bicol Region
Major shrine Peñafrancia Basilica, Naga City
Feast every 3rd Saturday & Sunday of September

Our Lady of Peñafrancia (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia) is a wooden statue of virgin mary originally came from Salamanca, Spain. Tens of thousands of pilgrims, devotees, tourists come to Naga City, Philippines every September for a nine-day festivities in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly addressed by Bicolanos as INA (mother).


In Salamanca, Spain

On September 4, 1401, in the city of Paris, capital of France, a child was born to pious and religious parents, Rolan and Barbara. He was christened Simon. They were quite well off; their property was more than sufficient to maintain a family of four. Early in youth, however, Simon despised wealth although his parents could well afford his wishes. When his parents and his only sister died, Simon inherited all their property. To avoid trouble which he thought might ensue from his possession of such wealth, he sold his patrimony and donated the proceeds to the church, the poor and the destitute, and to charitable institutions. He then applied for a position as chamber boy in a convent of Franciscan church in Paris.

Simon frequented the church and would spend hours in prayer before the altar of the Virgin Mary. Many times, in his deep meditation, he would ask the Holy Virgin to inspire him what he might do to please her. Once, while he was absorbed in the spiritual contemplation of the beauty of the Holy Mother, he lost consciousness. His prayer then found its answer for he heard a clear voice that tried to rouse him from slumber: “Simon, wake up; be on the watch…. From now on your name will be Simon Vela. Go to Peña de Francia west of this country, and there you will find the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For five (5) years Simon Vela traveled far and wide among caves, hills and mountains, in search of Peña de Francia but he could not find the place. He wanted to give up the search, and was in fact already on his way back to Paris, when one night he heard the same voice once more saying: “Simon, do not give up the search; do not give up what you have begun. Persevere and your labors will be recomposed.” This suddenly buoyed up his spirits and so he resumed his search the next day.

Simon went to the Church of Santiago de Galicia. And while he was passing the market place of Salamanca, he saw two men quarreling. One was seriously wounded and fell at Simon’s side. The offender was caught by the crowd who milled around them and he brazenly remarked: “Had I killed my enemy, I would have escaped to Peña de Francia where no one, not even the king, could find me.” Simon was overjoyed when he heard this for now he knew that such a place did actually exist.

Several hours afterwards he resumed his way to the church of San Martin. On his way he met a man selling charcoal. Simon asked the man where he came from, and the man said he came from a place called Peña de Francia. This was the second time that Simon heard the name of the place mentioned. He then begged the man to guide him to the place called Peña de Francia but for some reason the latter refused to do so.

Simon traced the road through which he thought the man has passed. He then reached a villa called San Martin de Castañar on May 14, 1434. He went to church and after the mass, he asked a man to kindly indicate where Peña de Francia was. The man took Simon Vela to a place some distance from the church and pointed to him a hill in the far distance saying that the hill was the Peña de Francia he was looking for. Simon was very grateful and thanked God for having found the man who showed him the place of his dream.

Simon then set out for the place indicated and, after a long weary journey, came to a steep rocky hill. By this time his supply of provision had already been depleted and he was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger. The climb over the hill had considerably weakened him but he lost no heart for he knew deep within him that God had not forsaken him to a fruitless and useless search. And indeed how right he was for on the road otherwise abandoned he found a packet containing a loaf of bread and piece of meat. This relieved him so much until night overtook him and he sought shelter in a cave. Inside he prayed for guidance and soon he was lost in deep slumber.

Early in the morning of the next day, Simon began the search for the shrine in every cave where he had slept the night before. He felt distressed and discouraged for his seemed as distant as it was when he started. He knelt and prayed for strange and courage. And soon he heard the same voice he had heard before sounding clearly through the cave: “Simon, be awake: do not sleep.” Simon continued the search with more zeal in the morning of the next day. At a distance on a rocky hill, he saw a glaring and dazzling light filling the place with its brilliance. Trembling with joy, he approached it and there he found the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus in her arms sittings on a golden throne. He Knelt before her and prayed with all the fervor of his soul. Overflowing with ineffable joy he said: “Oh, Lady, the dream of my soul, the inspiration of men and women! My labors are now ended. Many years have I traveled far and wide to seek you and to drink in the beauty of your eyes! Do not forsake me: be my protection.”

In sympathy for Simon, the Lady answered: “Simon, rejoice! Your constancy will be rewarded. Your dream will be realized. Your labors are now ended. Take heed and keep in your heart what I wish you to do. Dig in this spot and take what you can see and place it on the summit of this rocky hill. Build on this hill a beautiful dwelling. You are to begin it and others will come to finish it.. This must come to pass as it has been the wish of my child.” Then the Lady suddenly disappeared and Simon was left standing alone and rooted in the spot with wonder and awe.

On the morning of May, 1434, on the spot where the apparition of the Holy Virgin disappeared, Simon began the work of digging and excavating. He, however, heard the same voice again saying: “Simon, do not attempt to undertake that big task alone. Undertake it in the presence and with the help of two, three, or more persons.” Evidently this was to avert any doubt or suspicion from people as to a veracity of the miracle and the credibility of Simon. So Simon went to San Martin de Castañar, a nearby town from the spot, and asked five men to help him. They were Anton Fernandez, Pascual Perez, Benito Sanchez, Juan Hernandez and Antonio Sanchez, the parish scribe of the place.

These men thought that they were digging for hidden treasure but they were informed that they were going to dig for the objects worthier than world goods their hearts could cherish. They dug and dug, clearly following directions from divine inspiration, and, finally, on May 19, 1434, after removing a huge stone, they found imbedded among the rocks, the most coveted image of the Holy Virgin with the Child in her arms...

In Naga City, Philippines

A Spanish government official from Peñafrancia, Spain, a native of San Martin de Castanar, the Covarrubias family, settled with his family in Cavite in 1712, according to locals. One day, a son, Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, a seminarian studying in the Universidad de Santo Tomas, Manila got very ill. He and his family prayed to Our Iady of Penafrancia whose picture he was clutching to his breast for his recovery and to spare his life. He also made a vow that if cured, he would construct a chapel by the bank of Pasig River in Manila, in gratitude to Her. Miraculously cured, he eventually was ordained a priest not in Manila but in the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (now known as Naga City) by Bishop Andres Gonzalez.

To fulfill his vow, Padre Miguel, the first diocesan priest to be ordained in Naga, did two things: one, he mobilized the natives along the slopes of Mt. Isarog to construct a chapel made of local materials, nipa and bamboo this time by the bank of the Bikol river in Naga, not by the Pasig river as earlier envisioned; two, he ordered a local artisan to carve an image patterned after the picture of Our lady he always had with him. Miracles happened then and there. Among them was the story of a dog killed, its neck slashed in order to take out the poor animal's blood that was used to coat/paint the newly carved image. Dumped into the river, the dead dog began to swim once again alive with hundreds of people witnessing this prodigy. News of many other miracles spread like wildfire so was the devotion to Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia. The letter of Padre Miguel to the Dominican Fathers of Salamanca, Spain in 1712 reported many miracles through the intercession of Our Lady. In the meantime, the devotees grew in number as the devotion spread fast far and wide, even outside the Diocese of Nueva Caceres which before comprised not only the Bikol region but including Tayabas (now Quezon), Marinduque, Laguna up to Palanan, Isabela along the cordillera ranges. Like the biblical "mustard seed" the Penafrancia 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 Penafrancla we lovingly call "Ina" and us, her children is never ending.

Other history

The official coronation of Our Lady of Peñafrancia as Patroness of Bicolandia took place on September 20, 1924, officiated by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Guillermo Piani. The image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia enshrined in the sanctuary in Balatas Road, Naga City is now 301 years old.

On the morning of August 15, 1981, the image was stolen from the shrine at the Peñafrancia Church. 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.

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 First Lady.

A little over a year later, the image was 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 in Naga City. On September 8, 1982, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, the motorcade from Manila bearing the image arrived in Naga City at the height of Typhoon Mike. Thousands of devotees braved the raging winds and the devastating floods to welcome the image. 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 enshrined at the Basilica Minore at Balatas Road in the City of Naga.


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.

Events in its Festivity

Peñafrancia Fluvial Parade Naga City.jpg

Fluvial Procession during Penafrancia Festival on the eve of the feast of Nstra Sra. De Penafrancia


The festivities begin with the famous Traslacion procession during which the images of the Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are brought by barefooted male voyadores from the Basilica through the main streets of the city to the Cathedral. A procession, locally called Traslacion (The transferring of the miraculous Image of the Virgin, Our Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro from the Shrine to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Naga City for a Novena and Holy Masses. This begun in 1885.), ushers in the weeklong festivities which include civic and military parades, agro-industrial fairs, and cultural shows.

During the traslacion, which passes through the main streets of Naga, the miraculous Ina of the Bicolanos is borne on the rugged, muscular shoulders of barefooted voyadores who form a human barricade to protect the Virgin from the unruly crowd. Call it absolute coincidence or plain superstition, but any Bicolano will swear to high heavens that the presence of a woman, Filipina or foreigner, aboard the merrily decorated pagoda will surely spell disaster. Whether this belief is true or not, only the Bicolanos know. But past events and experiences support their claim.

This procession which from the year 2009 will go back to its original route, from the Peñafrancia Shrine to the Cathedral lasts for 2 hours for the changes in its andas, is participated in by thousands of devotees from all over Bicol and other parts of the country.

Fluvial Procession

A fluvial procession at the end of the novena caps the feast. The image is carried in a pagoda accompanied by a battalion Bicolano faithful men going back to its basilica while people shout "Viva La Virgen!". After that, a Pontifical Mass is followed.

The Tercentenary Celebration

Tens of thousands of pilgrims, devotees, tourists come to Naga City, Philippines every September for a nine-day festivities in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly addressed by Bicolanos as INA (mother). The festivities begin with the famous Traslacion procession during which the images of the Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are brought by barefooted male voyadores from the Basilica through the main streets of the city to the Cathedral. This procession, which usually lasts for 4 hours, is participated in by thousands of devotees from all over Bicol and other parts of the country. The devotion started three hundred years ago, in 1710, when Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias had an image carved, a chapel built and processions held in honor of the miraculous image of the Virgin of Peñafrancia on account to the many favors he received through the help of the Virgin, especially pertaining to his health. Since then the devotion has grew and has even reached abroad. Devotees’ accounts of healing and favors received through her intercession are a reason for the spread of the devotion. Many have come to Naga as curious visitors and left as devotees of the Virgin. In 2010, the devotion shall mark its 300th year.

The Archdiocese of Caceres has outlined a three-year preparation for the tercentenary with each year centered on a particular theme and objective.

Year 1 (September 2007 to September 2008 ) whose theme is “Remembering the Gift of the Devotion to Ina”, will be dedicated to revisiting the history of the devotion in view of a deeper understanding of the same devotion.

Year 2 (September 2008 to September 2009) whose theme is “Renewing the Faith through Ina”, will be dedicated to appreciating the devotees’ giftedness towards a more vibrant and relevant faith life.

In Year 3 (September 2009 to September 2010) whose theme is “Sharing the Future in Hope”, will be dedicated to envisioning the future with the intent of sharing the fruits of the devotion to the next generations.

Year 2010 (September 2010), the church in Bicol will celebrate in thanksgiving the grace of 300 Years of Devotion. The over-all theme of the celebration is “A Gift received, a Gift to share” (Balaog inako, Balaog itao).


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