The Virgin of Salamanca Who Found A Home in Naga
It has often been said that while the rest of the Philippine Islands anticipate the coming of the Christmas season when September begins, the Bicolano people hold what can be considered as one of the most popular Marian devotion and religious festivity not only in the country but possibly in the Asian region as well. Many Bicolanos living in different parts of the world have in fact brought the annual celebration where they are, through similar festive gatherings around the same time of the Penafrancia fiesta in Bicol.
The Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia always brings us back to the story of how the image of the Virgin of Penafrancia came to Naga from Salamanca, Spain. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias who became seriously ill, and who in his writings called himself “a miracle of her miracles” after he was cured of his illness through the picture of a painting of the Virgin, commissioned the image of Our Lady of Penafrancia based on this picture when he became rector of the Cathedral and vicar general of Nueva Caceres in the early 18th century. It is said that the image was honored with a canonical coronation under Pope Pius XI in 1924.
It is the same image that the Bicolanos now fondly call “INA”, and whose story continues to unfold through the passage of time. Two prominent stories have been the tragedy at the Colgante Bridge on September 16, 1972 which claimed the lives of 138 devotees, and the theft of the image in August of 1981 at the Penafrancia Shrine, and its return to Naga a year later- on the birthday of Our Lady, and at the height of typhoon Ruping.
Yet another story we have added to this anthology is how we celebrated the Feast of INA during the pandemic in 2020. It was an experience that strengthened all the more our deep trust in our INA and her protection for us, as we brought into our very homes her image and the celebration of her feast in many different ways. I recall warm-heartedly how in our home, we placed the image of INA at the center of our living room with lit candles, and we would pray the Novena prayer everyday for nine days. The traditional Traslacion, Dawn Procession and Fluvial procession were cancelled, and the Mass for the Feast of INA was live streamed on social media. It was one Penafrancia fiesta never to be forgotten, when the Bicolanos’ devotion to our Lady never wavered despite the absence of the usual festivities.
The Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia remains to be the most beautiful gift that we give to our Bicolano youth, our children and grandchildren. It is a gift we have been given by Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, which will continue to be passed on to generations to come.
VIVA LA VIRGEN! VIVA EL DIVINO ROSTRO!
QUOTATION OF THE WEEK:
“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
— St. Maximilian Kolbe
FOR OUR WORD OF LIFE:
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
- ACTS 1:14