It seems everywhere I look; churches follow me at every corner I take in Naga City. Worship places seem to grow out of its streets like mushrooms on farm fields. The last one I was able to visit, not out of disinterest to the other ones, rather than due to lack of time, was the Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia or the Basilica, as the locals refer to it.
Construction of the church was started in 1976 due to the increasing numbers of devotees flocking Naga City. It was finished five years later, after much delay due to financing. It was lifted to a title of a Basilica Minore after a request to Rome by Leonardo Legazpi, the third Archbishop of Caceres in 1985.
The basilica appears as new as the year it was built. The lawn that surrounds it was as verdant as it can be and the walls of the church look fresh and clean. The architecture is simple and clean-cut, ornaments on the church is limited to trims and windows that pierce its walls.
The stained glass windows on this church are no ordinary ones though, massive and epic are the words that come to mind as I stood awestruck in front of them. The basilica has three major stained windows, one out front and two others on the north and south transepts. The colorful panes portray the fluvial festival of Peñafrancia as the people transfer the virgin from one church to the next.
The festival is an annual event celebrated on the third Saturday of September in Naga City since 1885. The story goes that during the Spanish occupation an official from Peñafrancia, Spain was granted a wish for his daughter to get well after praying to the Madonna of Peñafrancia. He then promised to build a chapel for the Virgin.
The festivities actually start before the actual feast day of Peñafrancia. Nine days before the event, the replica of Spain’s Madonna of Peñafrancia is transferred from the Basilica Minore to Naga Cathedral for days of Novenas. The Virgin is then paraded back to the Basilica on the night of the ninth day via the Naga River, as candles from the devotees light its way along the waterway.
The event is echoed at the church pavilion, located some meters away from the basilica, which (I’ve learned just now) serves as shelter of the Virgin after processions.
One can’t help but be overwhelmed as one steps inside the spaceship-like structure. Its circular ceiling, similar to Naga Cathedral’s pavilion is layered with colored glasses depicting the color of the festivities.
There were a couple of blank panels though, which obviously has to be replaced, but remains broken up to my last visit (it was already that way when I first photographed this place years back).
Another noteworthy feature of the church is its soaring belfry. Towering eight stories from the ground, it looks like a modern needle piercing the cobalt blue sky. It was actually the first thing that caught my attention as I entered the church grounds.
The Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia may not compete with the other churches in Naga (like the San Francisco Church) in terms of historical significance, as it is relatively new compared to its centuries old brethren, but it is still majestic in its own way. Clean modern design, massive architecture and colorful window panes all combine to create a graceful house of worship to compliment the city’s old ones; a worthy place to end my mini-Visita Iglesia in the City of Naga.
Basilica Minore de Peñafrancia
Address: Balatas Road
Naga City, Camarines Sur