[PHOTO -A barge carrying the image of Our Lady of Penafrancia passes through the river in Naga City during the patron saint's 300th anniversary fluvial procession in 2010. Roy Lagarde]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 (GMA7) AMANDA LAGO - On Friday last week, barely a month after the death of Interior and Local Government Secretary and beloved ex-Naga mayor Jesse Robredo, devotees flocked to the Basilica Minore in Naga to transfer the image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, patroness of Bicol, to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral for a week-long novena.

It was time for the Traslacion, an integral part of Naga City's Peñafrancia Festival.

Although the devotees have been doing this for years, there was something different about it this year.

“Jess was sorely missed at the Traslacion,” said Nagueño professor Paz Verdades Santos, referring to Robredo.

The Secretary was en route to his hometown when the plane he was on crashed off the coast of Masbate on August 18.

“There was a heavy downpour, but no one left his or her place in the procession. Some said the skies were weeping because Jess wasn't there,” Santos added.

It was no secret that Robredo has been a devotee of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia since he was a young man.

The festival

[PHOTO - The feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on the third Saturday of September in Naga City, Bicol]

Naga City’s Peñafrancia Festival is one of the country’s biggest displays of religious devotion, uniting Bicolanos of all ages and from all over the world in devotion to their beloved “Ina” — Our Lady of Peñafrancia, patroness of Bicol.

This year marks the festival’s 302nd anniversary.

According to the Peñafrancia Basilica website, the devotion to the Lady of Peñafrancia originated from Salamanca, Spain in the 1400s, when hermit Simon Vela had a vision of the Virgin Mary and later discovered an image of her in the Peña de Francia mountains.

In the 18th century, the Cobarrubias family of San Martin de Castañar in Spain came to the Philippines and settled in Cavite, bringing with them their son Miguel, who was a devotee of the Lady of Peñafrancia, and who would eventually be ordained in Naga.

According to the website, whenever the sickly Miguel fell ill, he prayed to the Lady and recovered thereafter. In gratitude, he built a chapel in her name near the hills, so that the Cimarrones tribes who lived at the base of Mt. Isarog could easier hear mass.

At the same time, Miguel also commissioned a sculptor to craft a wooden image of the Lady, patterned after the original in Spain. The image was painted with the blood of a dog that was said to have become the Lady’s first miracle when it swam back to life after its body was discarded in a river. The image was stolen in 1981, but returned — some say miraculously — the year later.

Everybody welcome


Santos told GMA News Online via email that the festival’s participants include a colorful mix of people, “young, old, mostly Bikolnon from all over the region, nation, world, but also other Catholic pilgrims who have a panata or vow, usiseros—anyone who wants to, participates.”

“The most obvious participants, because they are in uniform, are the clergy, the students, and religious and civic associations, NGOs and POs,” she added.

In the days that follow the Traslacion, novena masses are held daily in honor of the Lady. As per tradition, at the end of the weeklong novena the image will be returned to her shrine in a grand fluvial procession, which ends in a Pontifical mass. This year’s fluvial parade is scheduled for the afternoon of Sept. 15.

“Foreigners, non-Bikols and non-Catholics might say there's some kind of fanaticism in the procession, but I see it as an awesome display of faith and fervor particularly in Ina,” Santos said.

“I think this harks back to a more ancient God, God the Mother, since even the image is a small black Madonna rather than the white images brought by the Spanish friars,” she explained.

The Black Madonna, according to Stephen Benko, author of “The Virgin Goddess” which studies the origins of the Black Virgin, "is the ancient earth-goddess converted to Christianity."

Santos also noted, “she has also been called Our Lady of the Cimarrones, suggesting the image was used to get the hill tribes into the fold of the Catholic Church.” — BM/KG, GMA News

Robredo’s memory lingers at Peñafrancia AMANDA LAGO, GMA NEWS September 15, 2012 12:32am


Naga City’s Peñafrancia Festival is one voyador short this year without the late Jesse Robredo among the crowd.

Every year since he was a young man, the politician now known for his "tsinelas leadership" would go barefoot and join the sea of voyadores (devotees) for the Traslacion, the event that kicks off Naga’s Peñafrancia Festival.

“Nagsimula siyang maging devotee at 16,” Robredo’s wife, Atty. Leni Robredo said in her first media interview after her husband’s death.

“Fifty-four na siya. Walang paltos yun. Taon-taon kasama siya sa fluvial procession. Tinuro niya sa pamilya ang devotion, pag-novena,” she shared.

“Siguro malungkot ang piyesta na wala siya kasi permanent fixture siya pag Peñafrancia,” she said.

Meanwhile, in his homily at Robredo’s requiem mass, Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose of the Missionaries of the Poor quipped, “Who is the other woman in the life of mayor Jesse? Bicolanos' Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Viva La Virgen!”

Fr. Ambrose added, “I’m told that since the age of 16, Jesse has been a devotee of Ina, year after year, without fail. I’m sure next month he will be there with us for the Peñafrancia fiesta. Look for him.”

True enough, Robredo was with the Bicolanos as they carried on with the Peñafrancia festivities.

For instance, during Peñafrancia festivities, many donned shirts that bore Robredo’s image. Others also wore tsinelas, to pay tribute to Robredo’s leadership, which was condensed by Energy Secretary Rene Almendras in the image of slippers in his eulogy to his colleague.

A group called the Jesse Robredo Lives Movement even participated in the Civic Parade & Float Competition, and joined the parade bearing a large banner printed with Robredo’s face.

On the group’s Facebook page, many Nagueños shared their thoughts on Robredo’s absence from this year’s festivities.

“Jesse always attend traslacion...we just miss him around...and I’m sure he misses INA during Traslacion too,” said Bemboi Ragragio Badiola, who posted a photo of this year’s Traslacion, edited to include Robredo’s face.

Meanwhile, Angel Dialogo Israel replied, “true, Jess may have missed the traslacion but not Ina, for he is now with her and her Son sa ‘mas maogmang lugar.’”

As Nagueño professor Paz Verdades Santos had described the festival’s Traslacion, “There was a heavy downpour [at the Traslacion] but no one left his/her place in the procession; some said the skies were weeping because Jess wasn't there.” — ELR, GMA News

Jesse Robredo aide visits boss' tomb September 16, 2012 9:29am 01


Nearly a month after a fateful plane crash killed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, his aide visited his tomb in Naga City over the weekend.

A report on "24 Oras" said Senior Inspector June Paolo Abrazado and his family went to the tomb of Robredo and offered prayers for his boss.

Robredo and two pilots of a Piper plane heading for Naga City from Cebu perished when the plane crashed off Masbate last Aug. 18.

A separate report on dzBB radio Sunday said this was the first time Abrazado appeared in public, though he left the tomb shortly after the visit.

He also declined to give a statement on the fateful plane crash. Abrazado wore a black shirt with an image of Robredo printed on it.

Abrazado said some of his injuries had healed.

The report also said he later joined the fluvial parade in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. — LBG, GMA News

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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