Ramon Belleza of BABA presenting a plaque of appreciation to the mayor of San Leandro, Ellen Corbett, for her continued support of the Bicolanos' annual afair.

Editorial Address

Manuel A. Alarcon
Andy Salvador
Jay de la Cruz 

1095 Market Street
Suite #312
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel.(415) 431-6150
Fax (415) 431-9208


Historical Vignettes

The mass celebrated by Rev. Fr. Domingo Nebres, then a Major in the Chaplain Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, now a monsignor and a retired Brigadier General, in September of 1970 at our Lady of Peace Church in Santa Clara, started what was to become a yearly celebration of the Feast of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia. For the next three years Rev. Fr. Nebres made it a point to be in the area every third Saturday of September to offer mass at the chapel of the Dominican Convent in Fremont. Following the mass a family get-together lunch was held at the auditorium.

In July of 1971, a group of Bicolano families met at the residence of Drs. Antonio and Susan Abiog in Saratoga to form an association whose sole purpose was to promote the devotion to Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia, through the celebration of her feast day, which was to coincide with the observance in Naga City. No election was held but they opted to have a permanent Secretary and appoint the "Hermano Mayor" yearly to coordinate the festivities. They adopted the name Bay Area Bicol Association - BABA - for short. There were no set dues.

1974 was the Golden Jubilee Year in Bicolandia commemorating the coronation of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia and her proclamation as Patroness which took place in Naga City in the year 1924. Our mass that year was offered by Msgr. Jose Belleza, (now deceased), at the Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga and a potluck dinner held at the Saratoga High School Cafeteria. That year a wooden statue of our Lady was donated to us by the pastor of the Naga Metroplitan Cathedral, Msgr. Nicanor Belleza, now deceased.

For two years, novena prayers were held at the homes of the members with mass offered by Msgr. Belleza at St. Joseph's Church in Cupertino and a family picnic at the Stevens Creek Park. A week later, a dinner and dance was held at the Ramada Inn.

In 1976, the members from Salinas requested that novena prayers for the Penafrancia be held at noon at the Madonna del Saso Church in Salinas and brunch was served at the Parish Social Hall. A record crowd of devotees turned out for the event.

News of the appointment of Rev. Fr. Antonio Rey, now deceased, a Bicolano priest from Oas, Albay as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Daly City, a first among Filipino priests in the United States, came out. The Presidents of the Bicol organizations in the Bay Area met at the residence of Ronnie and Ligaya Avenida, President of the Bicol Circle, now Sorsogon Association of California. Present at that meeting were: Ramon & Ruperta Belleza of BABA, Froilan & Gilda Ramos of Iriga Association of America, Eustaclo & Mening Beltrano of Nabua Bay Area Club, Eustaquio Raposa of Oasnon, USA and other representatives of Bicolano Associations. They decided to honor the new appointee in conjunction with the Penafrancia celebration that year. It was Fr. Rey who said the Penafrancia mass in his new church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and a testimonial dinner was held at the Colonial Ballroom of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. All Bicol organizations actively participated in the celebration. The following month, at the suggestion of Fr. Rey, an informal organization of Bicolanos of Northern California was formed with him as Spiritual Adviser.

It was at this time that BABA decided to replace the nine-day novena prayers with a triduum - Thursday, Friday at the homes of the members and the final day, Saturday, with the feast of the Penafrancia where it was going to be held. This practice remains up to now.

For the years 1977 to 1980, with the exception of 1979, Fr. Rey celebrated the annual Penafrancia mass; 1977 at St. Moysius Church in Palo Alto and the next three years at open-air masses at the Coyote Creek Park in San Jose. Following each religious observance, a family picnic was held and the traditional dinner and dance at hotels around the areas. Other Bicol associations who participated at the testimonial dinner for Fr. Rey also actively co-hosted each year.

At a meeting held in June, 1981 to discuss the preparations for the forthcoming Penafrancia Fiesta that year, the late Dr. Cornelio Parafina and Mr. Marcial Villanueva invited BABA to move their celebration to San Leandro. They pointed out that aside from being centrally located in the Bay Area from Vallejo to Salinas where most of the devotees could be found, the church of Our lady of Good Counsel was willing to host the annual religious event. Moreover, a marina in the area where a fluvial procession could be held just like the one being held in Naga City and a big park nearby to hold the family picnic, convinced BABA that the devotion could gain nore participation by moving to San Leandro. At this time there were other Bicolano organizations who were also holding their own Penafrancia celebrations. This was just the right opportunity to unite all these celebrations into one in San Leandro.

A couple of months later representatives from Iriga Bicol Association of America, Dr. Pilar Moncada; Bay Area Bicol Association, Ramon Belleza; Oasnon U.S A, Dr. Lilio Ribaya; Bicol Circle, Calixto Ereno and Nabua Bay Area Club, Dominic Moreno, met at the residence of Dr. Parafina, and unanimously agreed to hold the annual Penafrancia Fiesta in San Leandro, and drawing lots, each organization taking turn in hosting the event. Thus was born the nucleus of what is now known as the Devotees of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia, Inc. These five organizations hosted the first five celebrations with Iriga hosting in 1981, BABA in 1982, Oasnon in 1983, Bicol Circle in 1984 and Nabua in 1985.

BABA would continue to hold the annual Triduum Prayers with the first two days at the homes of their members and the thlrd day prayers in San Leandro.

In 1986 BABA joined the Bikol National Association of America, an umbrella Bikol organization based in Chicago on a national levl. Through the BNAA, BABA became involved in various charitable and humanitarian projects notably the pumpwell project for needy schools and barrios in the Bicol region, disaster relief to victims of natural calamities such as Mayon Volcano eruptions, typhoons and earthquakes. Scholarship for Bicolano seminarians was also added to their charitable agenda, and contributions for the repair of the Basilica Minore and construction of the Pagoda being used for the fluvial procession in Naga. The following year we hosted the annual national convention of the BNAA at the Holiday Inn in San Jose. At this convention Calixto Ereno was installed as national president.

We took turn to host the Penafrancia Fiesta for the second time in 1989. In the meantime, other Bicolano organizations had joined the Devotees and they took turns in hosting the annual celebration.

In our desire to take advantage of the group tax exempt status with BNAA, we filed articles of incorporation with the California Dept. of State on September 1990 and were duly registered as of October 23,1990. Subsequently; we acquired a state tax exempt status from the Franchise Tax Board. Our twentieth anniversary celebration in 1991 was a formal black and white affair held at the Mediterranean Center in Hyatt Hotel San Jose. Some out of town guests came to join the joyous celebration with us. Successful fund raisers wholeheartedly supported by enthusiastic members both of BABA and other Bicol organizations in the "Sarong Banggui" Fiesta in 1993 and the New Year's Eve Dinner Dance in 1997 bolstered the funds of the organization.

In 1995 a well attended Bikol National Convention at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara with the active support of member organizations of the BNAA; Nabua Bay Area Club, Sorsogon Association of California, Devotees of Our lady Virgin of Penafrancia, Oasnon, U.SA., Devotees of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia, Oasnon, USA, Naga Metropolitan Society and the Ateneo de Naga Alunnni Association of Northern California. At this convention applications for membership were filed by the Bay Area Camarines Association and the Goa Association, which were unanimously approved. Also at this convention, Ramon Belleza was acclaimed President-Elect and was installed National President at the annual convention at the Sheraton Hotel in Washington, D.C. in July; 1997.

We will take our turn to host the Penafrancia celebration in the year 2000. We look back with nostalgia to the first ten years when we went from one church to another but the devotion has spread and gained momentum no doubt due to our constant prayers. Now we can say, that given this occasion of the enshrinement in San Leandro, our "INA" has a home with Her Son, a shrine where we can venerate her and pray at all times of the year but especially during her feast day - the third Saturday of September.


Thank you for dropping in.

(Since October 18, 1999)


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