The most revered image of Bicolandia , the Virgen dePeñafrancia is based on an image found in the rocky hills between Spain and France. It was said that the Virgin appeared to Simon Vela and it was on the apparition site that an image of the Holy Virgin was found among the rocks on 19 May, 1434.
In 1712, a Spanish government official—a Covarrubias—was assigned to Cavite. He had a son—Miguel Robles, who got sick while studying for priesthood at the University of Sto. Tomas. He recovered after praying to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, whose picture he held all throughout his illness. 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. Miguel later became a priest and was assigned eventually to Nueva Caceres (now known as Naga City).
There, he fulfilled his promise; he asked the help of natives to build a chapel by the banks of Bicol River, in lieu of Pasig. He then commissioned a local artist to carve an image of our Lady patterned after the picture he clutched while sick. The image was painted with the blood of a dog—which miraculously came alive even after being dumped in the river. News of this miracle and many others spread all over Bicol and miracles spread like wildfire and devotees grew in number as the devotion spread beyond Bicol, reaching Tayabas, Marinduque, Laguna, Isabela and all the way to the Cordilleras.
The official coronation of Our Lady of Peñafrancia as Patroness of Bicolandia took place on September 20, 1924, officiated by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Guillermo Piani. “Ina”, as she is fondly called, is honored during her feast day with a festive tribute that begins with the famous Traslacion procession during which the images of the Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are brought by barefooted male voyadores from the Basilica through the main streets of the city to the Cathedral. The 4-hour procession is participated in by pilgrims from all over Bicol and other parts of the country. A fluvial procession in which the Virgen is placed in a pagoda and cheered to the shout of “Viva La Virgen!”, is the highlight of the festivities.
A pall of gloom was cast over Bicolandia region on 15 August 1981 when the antique image was stolen from her shrine at the Peñafrancia Church. A massive search was launched and it was only over a year after that the image was mysteriously returned to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Florencio Yllana, a former Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.
A motorcade from Manila to Naga accompanied the precious Virgin, arriving finally in the city on 8 September 1982, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady. Not even a raging typhoon could deter the thousands of exulting devotees from giving their beloved “Ina” a warm and rousing welcome. The image was safely installed at the Metropolitan Cathedral on the same day, where a pontifical concelebrated mass was offered in thanksgiving for the safe return of Our Lady.
The image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is now enshrined at the Basilica Minore at Calle Balagtas in the City of Naga. Her Feast is on every 3rd Sunday of September
The Grand Tercentenary Celebration of Our Lady of Peñafrancia will be observed this September 2010 and the Archdiocese of Caceres is at the forefront of the 300th year festivities, the preparations of which were began three years ago.