|Peñafrancia Minor |
The concept for the building came from the late Archbishop Pedro Paulo Santos y Songco in 1960. Construction began on April 18, 1976, but was delayed for a number of years due to financing problems and was not completed until September 1981.
On May 22, 1982, it was dedicated as The Church of Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia and it wasn't until May 22, 1985 that the church was given the title of "Basilica Minore" from Rome after a request from the third Archbishop of Caceres, Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.P., D.D.
The Peñafrancia Basilica Minore houses an image of the virgin Mary that was sculpted in 1710. It was commissioned by Miguel de Cobarrubias, who moved to the Philippines from Spain with his family and believed that the virgin Mary had helped him numerous times in his life. The image was housed in a small chapel until the Basilica Minore was built constructed.
Archbishop Pedro P. Santos noted that the devotees and pilgrims kept increasing through the years. In 1960, he dreamt of building a basilica to give honor to Our Lady. Shortly after, through the meditation of the Archbishop Emeritus Teopisto V. Alberto, D.D. and the Association of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Mr and Mrs. Macario Mariano donated a three hectare lot at barrio Balatas. Bishop Concordio Sarte initiated the ground work of the construction. Blessing and laying of the cornerstone was held on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1976 having Church dignitaries led by Cardinal Jaime Sin and prominent Bicolano sponsors.
Immediately thereafter, there was a hiatus in the construction. Yet the association continued soliciting contributions and donations. Bishop Sarte was transferred to Sorsogon and Fr. Sofio Balce (later appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Caceres) took over as Parish Priest and Rector of Our Lady of Peñafrancia Parish and Shrine. He reorganized the different committees and launched “Operation Peñafrancia Basilica”. From then on construction continued on an almost fevered pitch until it was finally completed in September 1981. On May 22, 1982, Cardinal Sin officiated the solemn inauguration and dedication, having Cardinal Julio Rosales in attendance. On January 18, 1984, Leonardo Z. Legaspi was installed third Archbishop of Caceres. He sent a petition to Romeo to the effect that the title “Basilica” be granted to the newly built church. On May 22, 1985, he received the decree from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship conceding the title of “Basilica Minore” to the “Church of Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia”. With this concession comes another Basilica Minore in the Philippines granting plenary indulgences under the usual conditions.
Barely ten years after its completion, the physical structure of the Basilica Minore had deteriorated earlier than expected due to some construction defects and the ravages of natural elements.
In 1991, the Basilica Rector, Msgr. Manolo de los Santos, started the repairs and improvements of the Basilica Church. The doors were reinforced and strengthened, window stained glasses and oil paintings of the Stations of the Cross were installed, concrete pathways and drainage systems were constructed around the basilica church and complex. His efforts, however, were cut short towards the end of June 1993 due to his transfer to Iriga City as its new parish priest.
In July 1993, the Rector then, Msgr. Alberto Nero, resumed the major repairs and repainting of Our Lady’s Basilica. The first move was to treat the whole church and complex with anti-termite chemicals to control and exterminate those destructive pests which have already attacked and damaged considerably both structures.
By September 1994, the leaking roofs of the Basilica have been fully repaired and repainted, the damaged ceilings rehabilitated and repainted together with the interior walls of the Basilica, the electrical wirings and installations renovated, the gigantic and ugly chandeliers were replaced with the more luminous and more economical Highbay luminaire lamps, the Cross at the Basilica dome provided with a neon light tubes which distinguishes the Basilica at night even from afar and finally a 20 KVA standby power generator had been purchased and installed to provide emergency lights during brown-outs.
On November 3, 1994, the repair works and repainting of the Basilica Minore’s exterior walls were resumed. The broken window glasses, the partly corroded steel window frames were replaced/strengthened. The towering Basilica Belfry, however, remains untouched.
The complete repairs and commissioning of this towering belfry seems to be impossible before this year’s Peñafrancia festivities. Most of its window glasses were already broken and need replacements, the steel window frames themselves are no longer safe, the long and winding steel staircase towards the topmost part of the belfry had already been declared not passable by our engineers. To replace the same with concrete staircase will take a yearlong job. Only after this can we furnish it with a suitable Church Bell or with an electronic Chime Bells.
Above all the Basilica Minore of Our Ina has to be provided with a Perpetual Adoration Chapel for the Blessed Sacrament which should be accessible to everybody and yet more conducive to private personal prayer any time of the day. The left wing of the Basilica hallway will be most suitable for this.
The basilica basement have to be converted and developed into a presentable Audio-Visual Room and furnished with the necessary Audio-Visual equipment to make it functional for the proper briefings and orientation of the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the Basilica Minore in groups all year round.