Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

The Philippine Embassy joins the Penafrancia Fiesta celebrations in Wellington

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As the Philippine Embassy continues to reach out to Filipinos in New Zealand, foster greater friendship and fellowship between the Filipino community and the Embassy team, and in grateful recognition of the Filipino community’s continued support and cooperation, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, Mr. Pio J. Benavidez and the Philippine Embassy in Wellington together with their families and private staff attended the Peñafrancia Fiesta in Wellington on 21 September 2013 organized by the Bicolano Ako Wellington group.

In her speech, Ambassador Benavidez highlighted the Peñafrancia Festival as deeply rooted in Philippine history and a valuable part of the Filipino’s spiritual heritage. The Bicol region composed of six provinces in southern Luzon is one of the regions in the Philippines with a very strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bicolanos back home, in New Zealand and all over the world now celebrate the 303rd year of Devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia. History states that more than four centuries ago, in 1710, Padre Miguel Robles de Covenrubias who was miraculously cured through the intercession of Our Lady of Peñafrancia brought the devotion and reverence to her to Nueva Caceres, now known as Naga City, Camarines Sur. 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. The continuing celebrations here in Wellington and Auckland, alongside with similar festivities in the Bicol region, in the Philippines and other countries highlight the Filipino’s unshakeable faith and provide a wonderful opportunity to share the strength and the richness of the Filipino’s culture and traditions.

“The devotions and merrymaking unique to the Peñafrancia Festival is really a celebration of the time honoured values and beliefs we hold dear to us and have in common with New Zealanders as we remember and respect the precious legacy of our forefathers, namely, deep spirituality, family centeredness, peace, compassion and concern for our fellowmen and the time honoured values worthy of the love, dignity, honour and revered maternal position of Our Lady of Peñafrancia”, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez stated.

The Peñafrancia celebration started with a nine-day novena and culminated by a mass at the Sacred Heart Church in Petone and fellowship at the Maungaraki Hall in Lower Hutt. This year’s successful and meaningful celebration is attributed to the united community efforts of the Bicolano Ako Wellington core group and its supporters in close association with the Embassy of the Philippines, Fr. Raymond Soriano, Fr. Elmer I. Ibarra, SVD, Mr. Pio J. Benavidez, the Spring of Life choir, Kasagip Charitable Trust, Ms. Agnes Espineda, Pinoy Central, Ms. Christina Guieb, the After Glow Arcade and the devotees of our Lady of Peñafrancia.

Mr. Pio J. Benavidez, spouse of Ambassador Benavidez, is a Bicolano himself and greeted the guests in the Bicol dialect thanking the organizers for the initiative and exhorting the Filipinos to support the straight and righteous path being taken by President Benigno S.Aquino III and the Philippine government.

The Peñafrancia celebration in Wellington this year coincided with the 60th birthday celebration of Fr. Raymond Soriano who concelebrated the mass with Fr. Elmer I. Ibarra, SVD. Fr. Raymond, the First Filipino Priest Chaplain in Wellington, is the current Parish Leader of St. Canice in Westport. He is one of the founders of Young Once, a group of Senior Citizens in Wellington, and Binhi, a Filipino children’s group.

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