My Fairy-Tale Visit to Peñafrancia (The Fruitful Finale)


The exquisite beauty of the retablo of Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine.

This is the final part of my Five-year Tribute to the patroness of Bicol, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, which I began writing in 2016.

I have waited and planned for this for four long years. Because of the ravaging pandemic, I thought it will not push through. Yet, it actually did, and it wasn’t just a normal pilgrimage. Although I would say it was rather simple, it has been joyful in many ways…

I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, it felt as though it came out of a fairy tale. Maybe, it was romanticized by my feelings of gratitude and happiness. Nonetheless, I do feel that there were some things about it that gave it some kind of extraordinary flair.

For one, with the pandemic going on, I didn’t expect that I will be able to make a visit. Thankfully, the numbers have been going down since the start of September so I felt that it has become relatively safe to visit the Heart of Bicol.

Secondly, again because of the pandemic, there weren’t too many people at the destinations. This circumstance allowed me to indulge in the sights as if I had exclusively visited and enjoyed their beautiful surroundings.

Thirdly, the most special of these reasons, the interiors of the churches were melodramatically-lighted, allowing me to feel some kind of deeper sanctity than I would have if everything were normal.

These reasons endowed me with ethereal feelings of happiness and contentment. I am grateful for having made the visit despite all the odds, and to God for making it safe, fruitful and happy.

Of course, I needed to capture photographs as keepsakes of my pilgrimage. I’ve taken so many of them, completing the already meaningful journey…


Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine

The exteriors of the small church.

          My first stop was the former home of our dear ‘Ina,’ Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine. It was quite small but the interiors were splendid. Reminiscent of the rococo architectural design, the ceiling, the retablo, the floor, and the decors were tastefully done in pastel colours, my favourite among all color schemes. Even the exteriors looked light enough to also appear in pastel shades.

The statue of Fr. Miguel de Covarubbias, the priest who established the shrine.

          The shrine is not as popular as the other tourist destinations in Naga City but this has been endowed with so much history that it should always be part of one’s itinerary. Its background history and its exquisite beauty make it a must-visit site. 

       The small church was completed in 1750, a date partly explaining its fancy and playful interiors. Its rococo-like design and over-all vibe gave it some semblance of a fairy tale coming out to life...

Basilica Minore

          Not far from the old shrine was the equally magnificent Basilica Minore, which has been the home of ‘Ina’ since 1982. While already modern, the basilica has a classical look that one wouldn’t easily notice that it has only been four decades old.

Bright yellow flowers as offering to our beloved Mother...

          The interiors played with geometrical designs - rectangles and triangles - that somehow gave it the feel of a chess game. While the small shrine had the vibey feeling of a fairy tale, the basilica on the other hand seemed noble and royal.

        However, I wasn’t able to capture the exteriors as it was raining at that time. I was just lucky enough that, when I arrived there, it was still sunny.

Outside the basilica was this quaint structure...

        While waiting for the drizzles to cease, I played with my camera and took different shots of the retablo in different color schemes...



Vivid Warm

Vivid Cool

Dramatic Warm

Dramatic Cool


The Naga Metropolitan Cathedral & the Porta Mariae

          The rains continued on but I needed to make a visit to the cathedral to complete my pilgrimage. The weather slowed down a bit so I was able to take pictures of the cathedral and the Porta Mariae. However, there was a mass going on so I decided not to go inside anymore for precautionary measures. It was already beyond six in the evening so I opted to venture back home.

         The cathedral was completed in 1843 while the Porta Mariae was recently added in 2010 in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the patroness.

My Company

          I wasn’t there alone. A friend of mine went with me; she in fact took a leave of absence just to accompany me. Her presence brought some spice to the voyage, which was a little serendipitous in a way because we've only reconnected the Friday before. She wouldn’t have been around if we didn’t reconnect that day, a fact that puts a smile on my face as I write this.


My Birthday Gifts from God


        My visit took place last Tuesday, September 15th. I thought it was all there is to my 33rd birthday. Unbeknownst to me was that by the time my birthday will arrive today, I would learn the valuable lesson that happiness is a choice.

          From here on now, I decided that no matter what happens, I will only think positively, to keep cheerful thoughts, and to give the negative ones realistic views. I learned that negative thoughts are mere thinking errors needed to be shown realistic viewpoints.

          As for my big question last year, I realized I should not think too much about it. Let my future unfold as a surprise… for God’s plans will always be better than mine!

          Life has never been this amazing. What a lesson to learn! What splendid gifts from God! Thank you, Mother Mary!


          Viva La Virgen! 



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