1434 - Spain
On May 19,1434, Simon Vela, a lay brother together with the help of Antonio Sanchez, Pascual Sanchez, Juan Fernandez, Antonio Fernandez, and Benito Sanchez, found imbedded among the rocks, the most coveted image of the Holy Virgin with the Child in her arms after removing a huge stone, in the slopes of Sierra de Francia, a mountain range situated between Spain’s two famous provinces: Salamanca and Caceres. It all began on the year 1428, When Simon Vela was resting in his room when suddenly, he heard a clear voice that tried to rouse him from slumber: “Simon, wake up; be on the watch…. From now on your name will be Simon Vela. Go to Peña de Francia west of his country, and there you will find the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” On the morning of the next day, Simon confessed what he had heard the night before to Father Ortuño, Director general of the convent. The wise father advised him not to divulge the secret to anyone for the priest feared that it might have been the voice of the temptation or the effervescence of a fevered mind. Apparently, Father Ortuño learned of Simon Vela’s losing consciousness, and may have thought that the voice and the message were but vapid figments of the imagination. The next day he asked for the blessing of Father Ortuño and set out to search for the place called Peña de Francia. For five (5) years Simon Vela traveled far and wide among caves, hills and mountains, in search of Peña de Francia but he could not find the place, but on May 19, 1434, he founded at last the Image of Our Lady together with the help of 5 gentlemen. Right then and there, all these men received special graces from the Lady. Simon Vela’s wound in the wound in the head was instantly cured; Pascual Sanchez’ defect in the eye disappeared; Juan Fernandez was relieved of a stomach trouble that has been nagging him for ten years; Antonio Fernandez who deaf began to hear; and, finally, Benito Sanchez’ finger which was defective from birth, recovered its normal stage. The official document of these miracles and this discovery, duly signed by those present and the Notary Public of the place, is reserved in the archives of San Martin de Castañar to serve as eloquent, if mute, witness to the past, present, and future generations of the veracity of this wonder.
1710 - Philippines
Way back in the seventeenth century, a Spanish family came to the Philippines and settled in the port of Cavite. They were from San Martin de Castañar. They had a son named Miguel de Cobarrubias. Miguel grew up under the influence of the Dominican Fathers of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila where he was an intern student in that venerable institution. He studied grammar, philosophy, and theology in preparation for the priesthood. When he was still a child, he was a victim of frequent illness. In some cases he suffered from serious diseases. However, he had this holy image of Our Lady of Peña de Francia (Peñafrancia) on the front cover of the History of the Holy Image to whom he would have recourse in moments of great pain, anguish, and adversity. He recalled that by putting the image on the part of his body that ailed him most, he would recover from his illness. Miguel de Cobarrubias carried this book with him all around and even in his sleep. In gratitude for the many blessings he had received from the Blessed Virgin, he promised when he shall be in a financial position he would erect a stone church on the bank of the Pasig River in Manila in her honor. Meanwhile, after his studies in theologate, Bishop Andres Gonzales of then Diocese of Nueva of Caceres, ordered Miguel to proceed to Naga City to be ordained priest. He was later given a small parochial church, and six months afterwards, was made parish priest of the Cathedral Church and, subsequently, made the Provisor and Vicar-General of the bishopric of Nueva Caceres which, at that time, covered the entire Bicol Region in its ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Accordingly the cimmarones who have been Christianized much earlier by the Francisca missionaries, Wanted a church where they could hear mass and receive the sacraments. This made Father Miguel very happy because it opened the way to the fulfillment of his vow. Father Miguel then promptly had a chapel made of straw and other local materials erected in the site indicated by the cimmarones. This must have been around 1710. In addition, Father Miguel asked a local sculptor to carve a statue of the Virgin Mary patterned after the picture of Our Lady of Peñafrancia who has been very instrumental in the many miracles wrought upon the person of the Father Miguel. The image was made from a wood. As a practice in those times, to serve as paint and wood preservative, the blood was used to color the statue. So a dog was caught, its feet body of the dog was afterwards thrown into the river nearby. Father Miguel, at this instant, remarked: “The Virgin will work her first miracle in Caceres. She will bring back to life that innocent animal that gave blood for her.” To their surprise, however, the dog began to swim and upon reaching the bank fast to the house of his master. This miracle was also witnessed by some Dominican Fathers who were then vacationing as guests of Bishop Gonzales. The news of this miracle spread like a fire. The official coronation of Our lady of Peñafrancia our Patroness of Bicolandia took place on September 2, 1924, officiated by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Guillermo their Apostolic to the Delegate. The image therefore of Our lady of Peñafrancia enshrined in her sanctuary in Calle Balatas is about 275 years old. Today, many pilgrims from all parts of the world, visit this Holy Image of Our Lady, but most especially at the Month of September at her Basilica in Naga City, Philippines.