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Mr. and Mrs. Ramon Belleza standing in front of the newly enshrined Virgin

will congregate
in New York on
August 1-2,


In the spirit of pag-sararong bikolnon, local residents from Camarines Norte join fellow Bicolanos.


Enshrinement of Our Lady, a dream to reality

Responding to the concerns expressed by Rev. Fr. Alexander N. Snyder on his letter to Manny Alarcon, then editor of Mag-iribahan Kita after last years's celebration of the Penafrancia fiesta, Romy Salvador, President of Bay Area Camarines Norte Asscociation (BACNA) and Manny Alarcon, met with him on October 10, 1997. At this meeting the subject matter of putting the statue of the Virgin of Penafrancia permanently in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel was brought up in response to the concern of Fr. Snyder about the continuity of the celebration. Fr. Snyder appeared positive and suggested that the matter be taken up at the meeting of the Devotees. In October 29, 1997 meeting, it was decided that a letter be sent addressed to Fr. Snyder and signed by all the presidents of all member organizations reiterating the request of Romy Salvador on the matter of the enshrinement and commissioned Ramon Belleza, President of Bay Area Bicol Association and Bessie Parafina, Executive Director, to follow up discussion with Fr. Snyder. They met with Fr. Snyder on October 29, 1997 and a firm commitment agreeing to the enshrinement which he expressed in writing on January 25, 1998 in answer to Ramon Belleza "it is fitting that the Virgin have a good and permanent home. Please continue to work on this project as time and the blessing of God will bring this project to fruition."

At a meeting of the Devotees on November 23, 1997, Levino Segarra, President of Naga Metropolitan Society introduced a motion for the body to work for the enshrinement which was unanimously approved. A committee was created composed of one delegate and an alternate from each of the 11 member organizations namely; Ramon Belleza, Chairman with Ramon Espiritu as alternate from the Bay Area Bicol Association; Romeo Salvador, Vice Chairman, and Maite Guinto-Duncan, Secretary-Bay Area Camarines Norte Association (BACNA); Santiago Santamaria, Vice Chairman and Juanito Codillo, Goa Association of California; Bonifacio Piquit, Treaurer and Apolonia Basinal, Nabua Bay Area Club; Magdalena Barra, Calabanga Association; Levino Segarra and Helle Galicha, Naga Metropolitan Society; Rolando Millena and Romeo Leonen, Oasnon, USA; Thelma Taylor and Jimmy Odena, Sorsogon Association of California; Joe Sesno and Marcial Villanueva, Iriga(Bicol) Association of America and Bessie Parafina, Executive Director. Rev. Fr. Eduardo Dura, Spiritual Adviser as Ex-Officio member.

In his trip to Naga City in February, 1998, Ramon Belleza relayed the historical news of the enshrinement to His Grace, Most Rev. Leonardo Legaspi, O.P., Archbishop of Caceres who in March 20, 1998 wrote Fr. Snyder expressing his "own personal gratitude for his kindness in giving permission to have the statue of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia be placed permanently in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel." A copy of the letter was furnished His Excellency, Most Rev. John Cummins, Bishop of Oakland, California.

At the meeting of the committee on February 21, various committees were created: Fund Raising, Design and Construction, and Publicity On March 7, 1998, a design concept of the altar was presented by Ramon Espiritu of the Bay Area Bicol Association. It consisted of panels inlaid with mother of pearls on reddish-brown Philippine mahogany forming a cluster of petals with the image of the Virgin on the center. The assembly is supported by carved light brown mahogany, "molave" or "narra", shaped as a hull, facing the bow of a Spanish Galleon ship. The Enshrinement Committee approved the design concept and was submitted to Fr. Snyder for further comments. He did not approve the design for being too elaborate. Ramon Espiritu then proceeded to design a second one following the concept of Fr. Snyder.

From the very start of the project, we had targeted the enshrinment date to coincide with the celebration of the Penafrancia in September. However at our meeting in March, we were informed that Fr. Snyder either was to retire or be transferred to another parish and was leaving on Jun 15, 1998. A decision was made to move up the date to June 14, 1998.

Ramon Belleza immediately negotiated the carvings of the panels in the Philippines through an enegetic relative, Amalia Muhlach Stevens, also known as Amalia Fuentes, who ordered the carvings in Paete, Laguna, Philippines. It arrived last May 15, 1998.

With Fr. Snyder personally supervising the construction of the altar in the enclave of the church where "INA" will finally be placed permanently, Frank Klechner, artist and master carpenter with the help of Frank Wilson, worked on the project.

Come June 14, 1998, our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia, Patroness of the Bicol Region, Philippines, will have a home - a dream of her devotees - finally realized!

June 14, 1998 came. In a solemn dedication, a mass was celebrated with Mons. Pedro Espedido, Jr. (Formerly of the Daet, CN Parish), Fr. Jesus Esplana, Fr. Jonathan Paala, Fr. Rene Ramoso and Deacon Stanley Lee concelebrating the mass with Fr. Snyder as the celebrant. The enshrinement mass was a moving experience for a lot of people. Fr. Snyder made mention of his impending departure from the parish. He is retiring. To use his words, "The enshrinement is his gift to the Bicolanos, the devotees of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia. Ramon Belleza in response told Fr. Snyder, "We cannot thank you enough for all the things you have done for us." The ceremony saw so many children making flower offerings to Our Lady. The presidents and their wives and some members of each member organization of the Devotees of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia proceeded to make their own offerings starting with the candle bearers, followed by the offerors of fruits, bread and wine. Ramon Belleza and wife, Ruperta with Bessie Parafina brought the cruets, chalice and host. After the mass, the children led the way to the enclave dedicated for the enshrinement in the rear section of the church. After the unveiling, a resplendent enclave showed the work put together by Fr. Snyder with the officers, members and devotees of Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia. Penafrancia devotees now have a permanent place to go to in San Leandro, California. It should be noted here that this is only the second place in the US where Our Lady Virgin of Penafrancia is enshrined.