Dispossession of the Cimarrones
Fernando Jose P. Obias
From the book " INA ON THE RECORD"
the Cimarrones of Mount Isarog approached Caceres Bishop Gonzales to
ask for a chapel suited to their spiritual needs, far from their
thoughts was the idea that someday their tribal devotion would become
Cimarrnones had accepted the doctrine of Christianity – but not the
government the conquistadores brought with them.
The Cimarrones would not have any of the tax system and the
titling of lands by the Castila.
With better weapons and military training, the Spaniards had
their way in almost everything, in pushing their weight around but not
extensively enough, else they would be spreading their strength so
thinly they would be very vulnerable to any attack at any point along
their spread. The farther
away they are from their municipio, the weaker is their defense.
Cimarrones had taken notice of this.
Thus, the petition of the Cimarrones for a chapel was so
calculated that they suggested the site from where they could easily
take a refuge, if pursued, to the forest of Isarog, but not so near
the municipio where the guardias had a concentration of forces.
The most suitable site for the chapel would be somewhere near
the banks of the Naga River, some two kilometers away from the ciudad
to the request, the bishop relayed the matter to Rev. Fr. Miguel
Robles de Covarrubias who was then thinking on how he could comply
with a vow he had made while studying grammar, Latin, philosophy and
theology in Universidad de Santo Tomas in Manila.
Covarrubias was a very sickly lad. His parents, natives of San Martin
de Castañar gave him a picture of the Nuestra Señora de Peña de
Francia, a copy of the image Simon Vela had found in the town’s
mountain called the “Pena de Francia.” Whenever the young
Covarrubias felt pain he would have recourse to the picture, touching
with it the part of his body which suffered the most pain. In going
through the act, he would
experience relief, and this prompted him to make a vow that he would
set up a chapel near the banks of the Pasig River as his way of being
grateful for the relief he experienced which he attributed to the holy
as fate would have it, Bishop Gonzales summoned Miguel to the see of
Caceres after he finished his study in Theology, ordained him priest,
and appointed him vicar general for the diocese.
change of assignment – from Manila to Bikol – posed a problem to
Fr. Covarrubias since his vow could no longer be fulfilled.. He then
had his vow commuted and resolved to find a way to set up a chapel at
the banks of the Naga River.
petition of the Cimarrones could be said to be the heavenly answer and
confirmation that the vow of Fr. Covarrubias could take substance
Fr. Covarrubias not been summoned to Caceres there would not be any of
the regional September festivity in this part of the country.
Cimarrones would not have any idea at all about the Nuestra Señora de
Peñafrancia.. For the Cimarrones, one saint for a patron would be the
same as another – and as long as they would have their spiritual
needs attended to on Sunday and on holidays of obligation, the
popularity of any saint would not make a difference.
the confluence of events seems to point to something greater.
role of Fr. Covarrubias seemed to have stopped with having the Nuestra
Señora de Peñafrancia carved in wood, copied from the picture he had
in his possession while he was still student studying for the
priesthood, and with the installation of her shrine by the banks of
the Naga river.
of weak physique, he most likely engaged in less strenuous activity in
the shrine, stirred from time to time by stories of “miracles
attributed to the icon of the Cimarrones”
icon itself was a manifestation of simplicity, crudeness, and
meekness. The icon had no jewels. It had no crown. It had no richly
embroidered robe. No perfume enveloped it. But the Cimarrones called her their Ina.
The icon was a mother with her son on her left lap, whose hand
is extended as if to give a blessing to anyone who seeks her help. And
to add native color, the icon was bathed in blood from a dog slain at
the banks of the Naga river.
was the Ina of the Cimarrones.
took a couple of hundred years before the devotees to the Lady of Peña
de Francia grew by the thousands and the devotion assumed regional
to the development of the religious fervor around the Nuestra Señora
de Peña de Francia, the fiars and the regulars slowly took possession
of the supervision of the chapel, making the growth in the devotion a
reason for erecting a sturdier and more spacious shrine made of mortar
and stone. The secular
hand in the devotion represented by Fr. Covarrubias had to give way to
those of the friars and the regulars.
the rich and the famous and the mestizo inched their way into the
shrine, crept into the care of the icon and into the manner she should
be presented to the devotees.
icon had to be covered with padding and plates of silver, hiding the
entire body of both mother and child, except their faces, from the
devotees. The icon had to
be made to wear a crown, her cape be studded with jewels, her body
bathed in perfumes imported from Spain.
And from a sitting position she was made to appear as standing,
set up as she was on a silver pedestal.
was how the rich and the influential expressed their faith, a far cry
from that of the Cimarrones, who, without realizing it, had been
dispossessed of their own icon.
in recent years, several attempts have been made to do away with the
boisterous, unruly, crass, sweating mob of the bogadores, or voyadores
– the last of the fragments that still remain to remind one and all
that the icon was initially the “Ina” of the Cimarrones.
the advent of technology and science, unruly behavior during
procession has become something intolerable. For human beings, faith should be expressed not by unruly
behavior but by the heart, it is said.
might be true – but truer is to say that what makes the traslacion
and the sakay in September truly Bikolano and undoubtedly exciting is
the voyadores who have become an endangered species.