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Penafrancia Festival
Naga City, Bicol

The Penafrancia Festival or the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on the third Saturday of September in Naga City, Bicol. The feast day is preceded by a novena, nine days of prayer, in honor of the Virgin.

On the first day of the Penafrañcia Festival, the image of the Virgin, a copy of the Madonna in Peñafrancia, Spain, is brought from its shrine to the Naga Cathedral where the novena is held. The statue of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is carried on the shoulders of male devotees.

On the last day, the image is returned to her shrine following the Naga River route. The colorful evening procession is lit by thousands of candles from devotees in boats escorting the image.

When the barge reaches its destination, the devotees shout "Viva la Virgen" (Long live the Virgin!) and the image is brought back in a procession to the cathedral.

The ritual transfer is known as translucion, and during the one-mile hike, devotees vie for the honor of carrying the statue on their shoulders. Thousands of believing arms stretch up from a sea of bodies desperate to touch the image of our Lady of Peñafrancia,

The famous Madonna of the Penafrañcia Festival is believed to have miraculous powers. On her Penafrañcia Festival feast day, pilgrims gather at her shrine to pay her homage for favors received.

History of the Penafrañcia Festival

To thousands of devotees who come from different parts of the Bicol Region and the country to attend the annual pintakasi, the origin of the Penafrañcia Festival and the Holy Image is not altogether known. The Penafrañcia Festival is a mystery to a great many especially the youth.

According to local history, a Spanish government official from Peñafrancia, Spain, settled with his family in Cavite in 1712. One day, his daughter fell ill and the family prayed for her recovery to the famous Madonna of Peñafrancia, a picture of whom was in their possession.

When the daughter recovered, the father vowed to build a chapel in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Manila. However, since he was being detained in Nueva Caceras, he built the chapel in that city instead. That city is now known as Naga, .

Many believe that the Holy Image had its origin in a pineapple plant which since time immemorial grew abundantly in Francia, the place where the Sanctuary in her honor stands today.

There is even a painting, purposely for commercial sale of the Holy Image, representing the Blessed Virgin as coming out of a pineapple fruit. The native word for pineapple is “piña”.

Peña de Francia sounds very much like Piña de Francia hence many believe that the Blessed Virgin must have really come from the pineapple fruit of France.

Peña de Francia, Literally, is Rocky hill of France, where the Image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is believed to have been discovered by a hermit named Simon Vela.

The discovery of the Holy Image is a wonderful story of providence whose retelling will never fail to evoke a sense of wonderment and mystery in the hearts and minds of believers and cynics alike.

On September 4, 1634, in the city of Paris, capital of France, a child was born to pious and religious parents, Rolan and Barbara. He was christened Simon.

They were quite well off; their property was more than sufficient to maintain a family of four. Early in youth, however, Simon despised wealth although his parents could well afford his wishes. He was rather of a religious turn of mind and was wont to kneel before the altar of the household shrine to pray. He was no ordinary boy who, instead of taking part in boyish games and pranks, found delight in things spiritual.

Nothing the religious bent of their child, the parents sent him to school at the age of ten to study grammar and, later, philosophy to prepare him for the priesthood. Not being bright, however, he was not able to finish his studies and was not ordained therefore to the priesthood.

When he was old enough, his parents advised him to marry, but marriage offered no allurement to him as he had made a vow to the Holy Virgin to devote his life to works of piety.

When his parents and his only sister died, Simon inherited all their property. To avoid trouble which he thought might ensue from his possession of such wealth, he sold his patrimony and donated the proceeds to the church, the poor and the destitute, and to charitable institutions. He then applied for a position as chamber boy in a convent of a Franciscan church in Paris.


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