THE Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Patroness of the Bicol Region is celebrated on the third Saturday of September. Amid joyous shouts of Viva la Virgen! (Long Live the Virgin!), Bicolanos and pilgrims join the traditional festivities of one of the biggest and most popular Philippine religious events, highlighted by the 'traslacion,' the procession transferring 'Ina' (Mother), as the image is fondly called, from the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Naga City.
As the "traslacion" passes through the main streets of Naga, "Ina" is borne on the shoulders of barefoot "voyaderos" (male devotees), a practice that began in 1885. Our Lady is returned to her shrine by way of a fluvial procession. A multicolored pagoda carrying images/icons of the Virgin of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face of Jesus) passes through the Naga River, with thousands of pilgrims and devotees in boats escorting the image. At the end of the fluvial procession, the image is carried back to the cathedral.
The devotion to Our Lady by the Bicolanos can be traced back in Spain. In a village called San Martin de Castañar in Salamanca, Spain, a man named Simon Vela found on May 19, 1434 an image of the Virgin Mary. In 1700, the Covarrubias family of San Martin de Castañar migrated to the Philippines, and settled in Cavite. One of their sons, Miguel, became sickly while studying in the University of Sto. Tomas. A devotee of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Miguel found a painting of the image found by Simon Vela. This gave him relief from his suffering.
Miguel de Covarrubias came to Naga upon the invitation of Bishop Andres Gonzales (1685-1709) to join him in the Diocese of Nueva Caceres. He became an ordained diocesan priest and later Vicar General of the Diocese. Miraculous events happened in Naga during this period, as devotees increased in number. The devotion spreads outside the diocese. Bishop Isidro Arrival (1740-1751) built the first stone church, the Sanctuaries de Peñafrancia, on the bank of the Bicol River. Bishop Francisco Gainza (1862-1879) enlarged the sanctuary and wrote the history of Peñafrancia. A century later, the English translation was done by Monsignor Florencio C. Yllana in 1945.
We greet Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, Peñafrancia Basilica Minore Rector Reverend Monsignor Rodel M. Cajot, Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr., Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat, and Vice Mayor Gabriel H. Bordad Jr., other officials and the people of Bicol in their prayers and festivities to honor Our Lay of Peñafrancia. Viva La Virgen! Viva! Viva El Divino Rostro! Viva!