Camarines Sur

Peñafrancia Festival

Peñafrancia Festival is regarded as the biggest religious celebration in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Asia. A month-long celebration, it is an annual cultural and religious festival held in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia) in Naga City, Camarines Sur, Philippines every third Sunday of September. Every Friday on the week of the festival is declared a special non-working holiday in the city by virtue of Proclamation No. 654 approved on September 25, 2013.

History of Peñafrancia Festival

The origin of Peñafrancia Festival is a story of healing. In the 18th century, a student of University of Santo Tomas and seminarian by the name of Miguel Robles de Covarrubias was quite sick. He prayed to the Blessed Mother and promised that if he regained his strength he would build a church in her honor. His eventual recovery was regarded as a miracle bestowed by the patroness.

When he became a priest of the secular clergy, he enshrined a painting in Paco, Manila that was a copy of Our Lady of Peña de Francia in Spain in 1697.

Later, he was assigned in Nueva Caceres. He had a statue made out of the replica of the patron and constructed a small church at the hills of Mt. Isarog. In 1710, the first every procession was recorded and it described how the image was installed in the chapel. This is also the year that festival’s anniversary is reckoned.

The history of the devotion was chronicled in 1866 by Bishop Francisco Gainza, once the bishop of the Nueva Caceres. Gainza also established the traslacion, that is the journey of the image between the shrine and basilica minore, two years earlier as part of the annual religious rite because the shrine was not spacious enough to accommodate the devotees during the feast day. He also helped in starting the reconstruction of the shrine that was in poor state.

Devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia

Our Lady of Peñafrancia is an image that is a replica of the patroness of the eponymous Spanish town. In the Philippines, among her devotees, she is referred to as “Ina” which means mother. She is the patroness of Bicol Region which comprises the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon.

In 1895, Pope Leo XIII declared that Our Lady of Peñafrancia the patroness of Naga City. He also set the schedule of the feast day every July. And in 1905, Pope Pius X fixed the schedule of the festival to be Sunday after the Octave of the Nativity of the same Blessed Virgin, and this is the schedule that is observed today.

Once a tragedy tarred the celebration. On September 16, 1972, the Colgante Bridge collapsed. People who were on it plunged into the Naga River while they were awaiting to get a glimpse of the passing of the pagoda of the Blessed Mother. The total number of people who died was 138 from drowning, being struck with falling debris, and electrocution when electric wires snapped and fell onto the waters. A hundred was also reported to be injured.

And activities related to the festival such as the fluvial procession and traslacion were suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus threat.

The devotion has grown over the years. There is a steady growth of the number of devotees who attend the yearly religious observance. In 2022, authorities estimated that there were 450,000 participants of the annual proceedings. In previous years, it attracted millions of devotees.

Devotion to Divino Rostro

In addition, the festival is an expression of the devotion to Divino Rostro, the Divine Face. It began within the term of Casimiro Herrera, then the bishop of Nueva Caceres, in 1882 when there was a cholera epidemic. Fr. Pedro De La Torre, a devotee of Divino Rostro, had its image put in the cathedral where people can pray for their health and an end of the epidemic.

On August 26, 1882, the bishop also had the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia be brought to the cathedral and that marked the first time the two images were together. It also began the tradition that is still observed to this day when during traslacion, both images are transferred from the basilica to the cathedral. When cholera subsided, the devotion continued as thanksgiving and it forms a vital part in the religious activities of the festival.

Peñafrancia Festival Religious Activities

Religious activities start in the last week of August or beginning of September.


Harubay marks the start of the festival. It is a proclamation and mobile procession that functions as one of the kick-off activities. It begins with the novena and masses in honor of Divino Rostro whose image makes it way from the Cathedral to the basilica.


Novena is a prayer that is said every for nine days leading to the feast day. It commences on the feast day of Divino Rostro. Masses are also heard during this period.

Pagsungko ni Ina

Pagsungko ni Ina commences weeks before the fiesta. The image is brought to the different parishes and institutions in a so-called ‘visit’. It is marked with procession, mass, and prayers.

Perdon procession

The perdon procession or Peñafrancia Perdon Procession has been observed in Bicol since the 19th century as penance and to request protection from sickness and misfortunes. It is a foot procession where the image of Divino Rostro, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, or both are taken to the major thoroughfares followed by devotees offering prayers. It is scheduled weeks after the fiesta.


Established in 1864, Traslacion, which translates to journey, is the point of the religious rite where the image of the patron and of Divino Nostro is moved from the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Peñafrancia to Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. The transfer also marks the first day of the nine-day prayers called novena and mass. At the end of the novena, the patron is returned to the basilica through a fluvial parade, the traslación por el rio. She will be laid in a punt steered by poles called pagoda and accompanied by devotees in canoes and outrigger boats along the stretch of Naga River.

After the fluvial parade, the foot procession commences. Devotees walk complete the journey to the basilica. The patron saint is placed on an anda, a carriage, and greeted by cheers Viva La Virgen! (Long Live the Virgin!) Devotees try to get as close as possible to the anda and rub cloth or handkerchief so that the patron’s miracles can be passed onto them.

Peñafrancia Festival Secular Activities

The city government of Naga likewise puts out a calendar of activities for Peñafrancia Festival that usually lasts for a month. The calendar starts earlier and ends much later than the religious activities. Its highlights are Miss Bicolandia, parades, float competition, majorette contest, and drum and lyre competitions. Miss Bicolandia, considered to be the oldest pageant in Bicol region, is a prestigious beauty contest that seeks to pick candidates with winning personality and a heart for advocacy in the region. Another beauty pageant is for males called Misters of Filipinas Bicolandia and for LGBT Miss Gay Bicolandia.

There are several parades lined up. The civic parade is participated by several institutions and organizations. It is also a competition among elementary students who compete in marching band and majorettes wearing colorful, spectacular attire. The military parade on the other hand is participated by high school students.

Other events include the Bishop Gainza trade fair, food bazaars, sports, cultural and musical shows, art exhibits, entertainment, dance showdown, forums, youth congress, etc.

How to reach Naga City, Camarines Sur

Book a flight to Naga Airport. Land trips are also available from various points in Luzon.


Peñafrancia Festival Summary

NamePeñafrancia Festival
CelebrationCulture, Religion
ChurchBasilica Minore of Our Lady of Peñafrancia
DateThird Sunday of April
Duration1 month
FounderMiguel Robles de Covarrubias
LocationNaga City, Camarines Sur
OrganizerBasilica Minore of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, City Government of Naga
PatronOur Lady of Peñafrancia