This year marks the closing of the Tercentenary (300th year) Celebration of the Devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Known as the biggest and grandest Marian festival in the Philippines, Peñafrancia Fiesta annually intensifies the faithful’s devotion to Mother Mary. Being celebrated every 3rd Sunday of September, Peñafrancia Fiesta is being attended by thousands of pilgrims, devotees and tourists to participate in the festivities in honor of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the patroness of Bicol, being addressed by the Bicolanos as Ina (mother).
See Schedule of Activities 2011.
The Image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia1
About thousands of devotees who come from different parts of the Bicol Region and the country to attend the annual pintakasi, the origin of the Holy Image not altogether known. It is a mystery to a great many especially the youth.
Many believe that the Holy Image its origin in a pineapple plant which since time immemorial grew abundantly in Francia, the place where the Sanctuary in her honor stands today. There is even a painting, purposely for commercial sale of the Holy Image, representing the Blessed Virgin as coming out of a pineapple fruit. The native word for pineapple is “pinya”. Pena de Francia sounds very much like Pina de Francia hence many believe that the Blessed Virgin must have really come from the pineapple fruit of France.
Pena de Francia, literally, is Rocky hill of France, where the Image of Our lady of Penafrancia is believed to have been discovered by a hermit named Simon Vela.
The discovery of the Holy Image is a wonderful story of providence whose retelling will never fail to evoke a sense of wonderment and mystery in the hearts and minds of believers and cynics alike.
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. He was rather of a religious turn of mind and was wont to kneel before the altar of the household shrine to pray. He was no ordinary boy who, instead of taking part in boyish games and pranks, found delight in things spiritual. Nothing the religious bent of their child, the parents sent him to school at age of ten to study grammar and, alter, philosophy to prepare him for the priesthood. Not being bright, however, he was not able to finish his studies and was not ordained therefore to the priesthood. When he was old enough, his parents advised him to marry, but marriage offered no allurement to him as he made a vow to the Holy Virgin to devote his life to works of piety.
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.
Official Coronation as the Patroness of Bicolandia2
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 Calle Balatas is about 300 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 Calle Balatas in the City of Naga.