Historian of historians in Bikol, Dr. Danilo M. Gerona has a new book: The Lady of the Cimarrones.
The book was launched at the International Pilgrims’ Congress at the Peñafrancia Basilica on Thursday, Sept. 16.
The book is about the development of the devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia in Bikol by virtue of the meeting of two personalities: Bachiller Don Miguel de Robles y Cobarrubias and the upland people in Mt. Isarog, called Cimarrones by the Spanish authorities.
Written in time for the Tercentenary celebrations, the book is by far the most authoritative account of the devotion. According to Gerona, local researches and writings about the Nuestra Señora de Peña de Francia are enormous, but their knowledge about the history of the devotion is inadequate, most often they are repetitions or translations of the work of Bishop Francisco Gainza.
The research undertaken for this book is almost exhaustive and has taken Dr. Gerona, author of several books on Bikol and invited speaker in various international conferences on Hispanic influence in Philippine history, to the Archivo Franciscano Ibero-Oriental in Madrid, Spain not only once, but seven times.
For Dr. Gerona “this book is by itself a testament of many miracles. From start to completion, the writing of this book is met with many obstacles. I pushed for the completion and publication of this book, primarily as a personal commitment and as a token of my gratitude to the Virgin of Peñafrancia whose countless blessings by themselves constitute a worthy narrative.”
In a casual talk, Dr. Gerona revealed that he received a favorable gift from Ina last year — on the very day Ina had her traslacion procession when his daughter fell unhurt from a ten-step staircase. That little girl is now a walking bubbling joy to the writer and his wife.
This book then is a testament of the author to Ina’s many and countless miracles.
In the course of writing this book, Dr. Gerona was hampered with his car not in running condition, unable he was to met appointments with church personalities who would aid him in his research. This is not to mention the difficulty he had in raising funds for his trips to the Universidad de Sto. Tomas Archives and to the archives in Madrid, Spain. These difficulties could have been the working of Satan who would not have the book written about the Lady whose feet crushed his head. But in spite of the wiles of the devil, the book is now being printed.
This book finally tells more about the Cimarrones. Common beliefs have it — as depicted in festivals — that the cimarrones are no different from the agta in the upland: black people, with short physical stature, with kinky hair, with thick lips and with fearsome countenance.
Actually the cimarrones were fair-complexioned, of middling stature, with physical features hardly different from those living in the lowland, in the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres. One thing however, differentiated them from the lowlanders in the ciudad: they were dissenters to the Spanish rule; they abhorred paying taxes to the conquistadores; being formerly baptized by the missionaries, they longed for the presence of priests and for a chapel where they could worship.
This book finally tells us that the founder of the devotion to Ina was a man whose life remained “an enigma even after more than three hundred years,” Bachiller Don Miguel de Robles y Cobarrubias.
The research of Dr. Gerona did not only point to the correct spelling of the name but also the character of Bachiller Don Miguel de Robles de Cobarrubias. He used to be pictured as a sickly seminarian and with a frail health. But the Gerona research contended that the abbreviations Br. D. which stand for “Bachiller Don” is an honorific title, which indicated his academic rank. The surname “Robles” belonged to a rich and ancient ancestry, spelled with variations, one of which is “Robredo.” But the priest was tough when contending with wayward civil authorities as he held the highest authority in the diocese, in charge of the See of Caceres when in wait for a new bishop.
This book is an enrichment of what devotees of Ina know about her and about Bachilller Don Miguel de Robles and about the forerunners of the devotees, the Cimarrones.