From l-r: Rev. A. Snyder, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church assisting Bishop B. Almoneda of Daet, C. Norte, with Fr. Ed Dura, Spiritual Adviser of the Devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia in the Bay area during an annual mass in celebration of Penafrancia

The Bicolanos in the Bay Area together with their friends and guests, celebrate annually the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia. The church of Our Lady of Good Counsel has been the gracious host of this marian celebration in San Leandro, California. The image of Our Lady is now enshrined in the church that her faithful devotees may have a place to go to.

Devotees forming the processional line in front of the church in Sn Leandro.

Call Mag-iribahan Kita and be connected to the Bicol community in America.

Devotees singing and praying the rosary as they head for the fluvial procession.

Marshalled by the city police force, the devotees follow the procession towards the marina.

Getting ready for the fluvial procession with devotees watching from the banks of the inlet

The culmination of the festivities, a grand picnic of participating organizations with friends

Editorial Address

Manuel A. Alarcon
Andy Salvador
Jay de la Cruz 
Care of:
1095 Market Street
Suite #312
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel.(415) 431-6150
Fax (415) 431-9208

In the spirit of pagsararong bikolnon, Mag-iribahan Kita would like to hear from you. Tell us how else we can foster the unity and fraternity of our region. Mabalos sa saindo gabos.

"Penafrancia - A Love Story"
by: Rev. Jess B. Esplana

I. GENESIS: How It Started.
Penafrancia is Mother Mary's story, therefore as old as Christianity. The name however, Our Lady of Penafrancia, started when a French Friar, Simon Roland found an icon believed to have been buried since 711 on May 19,1434, after a long search. Mary's image was excavated in a cave on a rocky (Pena in Spanish) mountain along the French Way (via Frances) near the village of San Martin de Castanar, Salamanca, Spain. Penafrancia is a syncopation of Pena de Francia, designating the place where the precious icon was found, hence the name of Our Lady; Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia. Simon Roland (in history Simon Vela) and companions were eyewitnesses to instant miracles from day one. These and many others are today recorded in the archives of Salamanca.

II. Penafrancia of the Philippines: How It Began.
In the 17th century, a native of San Martin de Castanar, the Covarrubias family, settled in Cavite, Islas Filipinas. A son, Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, a seminarian studying in the Universidad de Santo Tomas, Manila got very ill. He prayed to Our Iady of Penafrancia whose picture he was clutching to his breast 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 ftrst 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 extract 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 fondly call "Ina" and us, her children is never ending. How we love Her; the following pages will show. Are we the ones called upon by Divine Providence to spread Our Mother's love to the world?

III. The "Santuario" and now the "Basilica Minore".
Due to the growing number of devotees, Fr. Miguel's original bamboo and nipa chapel had to be expanded and improved. Bishop Ysidoro de Arevalo built the first stone and mortar church commonly called as the Santuario (Shrine) of our Ina, a structure that stands to this day after undergoing renovations, expansions, beautifications especially since it became a Parish church (1973) under the title "Parish of Our Lady of Penafrancia." Today, Penafrancia is a tale of thousands if not millions. This gave rise to the vision of the late Archbishop Pedro Santos to build a grander church but its implementation was Archbishop Emeritus Teopisto Alberto's job, his implementor and work horse being Aux. Bishop Sofio Balce. On January 18,1984, Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, OP was installed as the Third Archbishop of Caceres. On his shoulders fell the task of putting the finishing touches of what we now call Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Penafrancia. It was inaugurated during the Penafrancia Fiesta, September 22, 1985, Sunday, officiated in by Apostolic Nuncio Bruno Torpigliani. In attendance were about fifty Archbishops and Bishops, more than a hundred priests and an array of government of officials among whom was Metro Manila Governor and First lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. The Basilica which used to be the favorite target of media bashing, is now hailed as the "pride of Bicolandia, a monument of love and faith". Where have all the critics gone? Now at the back of the Basilica is a U-shape imposing building, Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi's legacy - an archdiocesan pastoral center.

IV. Penafrancia Traditional Practices.
1. The Traslacion, meaning "Transfer" of the Holy Image of Our Lady and the picture of the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) from the shrine to the Cathedral, about a mile south, is a procession by foot introduced by Bishop Manuel Grijalvo, O.S.A. (1848-1861) from a Saturday to the following Thursday prior to the Fiesta which before was the First Sunday of July.
2. Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P ordered that the Novena prayers should be held from Saturday (8 days) at the Cathedral, and the 9th day at the shrine, Sunday, a day after the Fluvial procession which he introduced. Why fluvial, by water! One, because most of the devotees coming from neighboring towns, provinces, used "bancas" (small paddled boats) as their means of transportation and offered to tow the Virgin's boat (Pagoda) back to her Shrine. Two because the "cimarrones" (mountain people branded by the Spanish as "rebels") who were the original devotees of the Ina were afraid to come near the seat of the spanish government for fear of being arrested.
3. The VOYADORES, a corruption of the Spanish VOGADORES or seafarers (boat people) are the paddlers who towed the Virgin's Pagoda, Today the VOYADORES serve as cordon to the Holy Image of our Ina and the Divino Rostro by inter-locking their arms and forming a human chain. The VOYADORES'S faith is for the record. But catechesis is needed for the purity of the faith.
4. The "PAGODA"of chinese origin, literally "temple of worship," Our Lady of Penafrancia is enthroned in its cruise during the Fluvial procession on its way back to the Shrine, now to the Baslica. Dozens of small boats (bancas) paddled by macho men tow our Ina's big boat, a sight so colorful and touching. Thousands of pesos were being spent year alter year to prepare and decorate the PAGODA which for years used to be borrowed landing barge of World War II vintage. To do away with this yearly financial headache (of spending thousands) Archbishop Legaspi took to task the construction of a permanent PAGODA through the efforts of the Penafrancia Association headed by ex-Governor Felix A. Fuentebella. On September14, 1990, Friday, the new PAGODA was blessed and inaugurated with Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.R officiating at Camaligan, Naga City's suburban town. This project is another showcase of the people's love and devotion to our Ina.
5. THE DIVINO ROSTRO DEVOTION. The Divino Rostro (Holy Face of Jesus) devotion started when Vicar General Pedro de la Torre, a native of OSA de la VEGA, Spain, suggested to Bishop Casimiro Herrero, O.SA (1880-1886) that the picture the former owned be venerated publicly and Jesus be invoked under the title DIVINO ROSThO in order to spare the populace from the klller cholera epidemic that has claimed many lives in Manila and in some Bicol areas. Padre de la Torre knew that his native town, OSA DE IA VEGA was spared from the same cholera epidemic in 1834,1854 and 1855 through the townfolks' devotion to the Divino Rostro. Bishop Herrero ordered further that Our Lady of Penafrancia be invoked too. So on August 26, 1882, the Divino Rostro and Penafrancia devotions were venerated together for the first time. From that time on, these two devotions became inseparable. The Divino Rostro Fiesta is celebrated on the Friday of the traditional TRASIACION, Friday, preceded by a nine-day Novena prayers and Mass.
6. THE "VIVAS". During Penafrancia celebrations shouts of "VIVA IA VIRGEN" and "VIVA EL DIVINO ROSTRO" reverberate all around. The VOYADORES easily identified with their headbands -now in different colors, form a human chain by interlocking their arms. A macho-type activity, all voyadores are barefooted, while devotees aligning the procession route wave to the Holy Images with their arms with their handkerchiefs, some with lighted candles on their knees and their lips murmuring in prayer.
7. PROCESSIONS/SONGS Community prayers especially the Rosary during processions led by a prayer leader in a car with loud speakers are a part of the religious tradition. As of today, there are processions in honor of our Ina, not only during the TRASIACION (by foot from the Cathedral to the Tabuco Bridge, then by water via Bicol River to the Basilica) but also during the Penafrancia week. As early as the 196Os early morning processions are held on the Wednesday and Thursday of the Pefiafrancia week plying different routes of the Naga City streets. Women devotees usually carry the Holy Image during these processions. On the Friday preceding the Saturday Fluvial parade, an all- men procession is held at night spearheaded by the Archdiocesan Adoracion Nocturna Filipina. A moving spectacle of well-dressed Nocturnal Adorers with lighted candles. Sometime in 1976 (or after?) another Penafrancia procession was introduced. In May the Holy Image is carried in procession sponsored by the different Barangays (barrios/villages) to the Naga City Supermarket where it is publicly venerated. Also in May culininating the FLORES DE MAYO devotions, a procession participated in by different REYNAS (Queens) headed by "Queen/Reina Elena" proceed to the modern Basilica Shrine for a Solemn Mass in honor of the Virgin of Penafrancia. This last activity also a colorful one was introduced to generate some finances for the construction, now maintainance of the Basilica. In all these activities, two marian songs stand out: RESUENE VIBRANTE composed by Rev. Maximo Juguera, C.M. and first sung during the coronation rites of our Ina during the Penafrancia of 1924 when Msgr. Francisco Reyes (later, Bishop) was the diocesan Administrator. Another song: PAKI-OLAY KI INA (prayer-song to our Mother) composed by Rev. J.B. Esplana on orders of then Archbishops Teopisto V. Alberto was first sung on August 24,1981, Sunday, alter a three-day prayer (Tridium) asking Gods forgiveness for the loss of the miraculous Image, August 17,1981, Monday. These two popular marian songs, RESUENE VIBRANTE and the PAKI-OLAY KI INA have today English and Bicol versions upon request of non-Spanish speaking devotees and also of English speaking people. During Penafrancia novenas, Masses and processions these two songs become a part of the people's devotion. For record purposes, the stolen Image of Our Lady of Penafrancia (August 17,1981) was recovered September 8,1982, a period of one year and twenty-two days, when it was brought to Naga City by car amidst a storm when the Manila route especially along San Fernando and Milaor, Camarines Sur was under water. This did not dampen the waiting devotees that received the recovered Image and carried it by foot procession from Mabolo bridge to the Metropolitan Cathedral where a Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Alberto who accompanied we are all brothers and sisters propelled and ignited by the same love for Her, the beauty of singing the same songs of love and devotion to the Virgin. Imagine the beauty of being together, because of a Woman we call "Ina," loving one another; serving one another, the beauty of camaraderie and fellowship and not... to each his own. One song says, "Daing si isay man na nabubuhay.. para sa sadiri lamang. Kita gabos may paninimbagab sa lambang saro." Yes, an ideal Penafrancia celebration for all, One Penafrancia Fiesta, all driven by one common purpose: to share and sing "Walang sinumang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang.. to love one another with Mary as the common Mother as She would want us all to do and to be. Really, "abang gayon kan buhay nyato..........nagsusupay nin karahayan." Indeed, how beautiful! In contrast, how ugly it is if a religious Fiesta turns out to be an event for competition, if it becomes an agent for division, if it becomes more of a social celebration than a religious one, if people of the same Faith, more so of the same race or nationality are so fragmented in thoughts, words and deeds, trying to outdo each other to show or to prove who is the Mother's "favorite", who is the "real devotee" or who has the "real Image" of the Virgin. How ugly it is if there is no humility among the marian devotees to admit and confess that we are all the same in the eyes of God. Any devotional practice without humility is hypocrisy. Humility unites as does love; and Penafrancia is a Love Story. Do we make it so?

Viva La Virgen!
Viva El Divino Rostro!
Viva La Patrona Del Bikol!
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