Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

PHL Embassy joins the devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia in Auckland

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In the Embassy’s continued effort to highlight the richness of the Filipino culture and to follow the directive of President Benigno S. Aquino III and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to restore the culture of honesty, integrity and hard work in all frontline services of the Philippine government and to serve with a smile, go the extra mile and reach beyond our grasp, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez and Engr. Pio J. Benavidez together with some Embassy staff attended the Peñafrancia fiesta celebration on 22 September 2013 at Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Onehunga, Auckland.

This year is the 303rd year of devotion in the Philippines and the 24th year that Auckland is one with the Peñafrancia devotees in celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the patroness of Bicolandia. The Bicol region composed of six provinces in southern Luzon, has been one of the regions in the Philippines with a very strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. History tells us that more than four centuries ago, in 1710, Padre Miguel Robles de Covarrubias who was miraculously cured by Our Lady of Peñafrancia brought the devotion and reverence to her to Nueva Caceres, now known as Naga City, Camarines Sur where many miracles happened. Since then, millions of Marian devotees and Bicolanos in the Philippines and overseas continue to unite in faith to manifest their great devotion and homage to the beloved “INA” and patroness of Bicol – the Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

This year’s Peñafrancia fiesta celebration in Wellington and Auckland is consistent with the worldwide Peñafrancia theme of “Growing in Catholic Faith in Jesus Christ with Mary at the Service of Social Transformation”. As Ambassador Benavidez mentioned in her speech, the continuing celebrations here in Wellington and Auckland, alongside with similar festivities in Bicol and other countries highlight the Filipino’s unshakeable faith and provide a wonderful opportunity to share the strength and the richness of the Filipino culture and traditions with people from New Zealand and other communities and contribute to the multicultural enrichment that makes New Zealand a hospitable haven for migrants and Auckland as a premiere city taking pride in its being multi ethnic and most liveable for everyone because it is home to 25,000 out of 36,000 Filipinos in Aotearoa.

“Indeed, the Peñafrancia Festival is a joyous and delightful mix of religion, culture and tradition. Considered as the biggest religious festivals in the Philippines, may the celebration in honour of Our Lady of Peñafrancia festival strengthen our unity and solidarity with each other, deepen the Filipinos’ faith experience and all-embracing trust in GOD and heighten our sense of nationalism and pride for our beloved country and people,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.

The Peñafrancia fiesta celebration in Auckland started on 30 August 2013 with the nine-day novena to the Divino Rostro which was held at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Balmoral, Auckland. It was followed by the nine-day novena to Our Lady of Peñafrancia which culminated in the procession, mass and fellowship on 22 September 2013. The event was attended by His Worship Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland, Member of Parliament Melissa Lee, Parliamentary Secretary for Ethnic Affairs, Honorary Consul General Paulo Garcia and Malou Garcia, Honorary Vice-Consul Virginia Russell and Sean Russell, Dr. Antonio Noblejas, President of the Federation of Filipino Associations, Societies and Clubs and Mrs. Cora Noblejas, Rev. Fr. Falaniko Stowers MF, Rev. Fr. Linus Miranda, MSP, Rev. Fr Sherwin Lapaan, Rev. Fr. Carlo Carmelo Constantino Cruz, Rev. Fr. Andrew Antonio, Rev. Fr. Gilbert Ramos, Rev. Fr. Mario Dorado, Rev. Fr. Larry Rustia, Rev. David Randall, community leaders and devotees of the Divino Rostro and Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The success of the celebration is due to the diligent efforts and untiring commitment of the 2013 Hermano Greg and Hermana Lutgarda Albao, URAGONZ President Rio Beltran, the incoming Hermano Mr. Nonilon Ortiz and family, and the URAGONZ core group.

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