Text: Adam Daniel Reyes | Edited: Diego Torres
First Release: 11 Oct 2020
Before its destruction during the Second World War, the Walled City of Intramuros at the heart of Manila was the center of religious life and pageantry of the city. Within its moss covered perimeter walls stood numerous centuries old religious institutions, such as convents, monasteries, chapels, and churches. An entire calendar of religious activities brought pilgrims and devotees to the ancient streets of the Walled City. Among the most important churches was the Dominican church of Santo Domingo.
Every October, Santo Domingo Church became the center of attention due to the image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary whose feast was a grand event that was one of the most awaited in Manila. October is the liturgical feast for all the images of Our Lady of the Rosary worldwide, and it is during this time that the celebration of the La Naval occurs during the ‘Month of the Rosary.’
The story of the image and the epic event behind its feast is one which every Manilenyo needs to know.
Image of Our Lady of La Naval
The image of the Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila or Our Lady of La Naval de Manila is curently kept at the new Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City. The image that is the center of veneration depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary with the child Jesus, both of them holding the holy rosary. The image is made out of ivory, and is adorned with pieces of jewelry, elaborate robes, and other precious gifts given by devotees who continue to pray for her intercession .
In the year 1593, the new Spanish Governor-General Luis Pérez Dasmarinas commissioned a statue of the ‘Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario’ (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary) for public veneration in honor of his recently deceased father. Under the direction of Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel, the image had an approximate height of four feet and eight inches, the face and hands of Mary and the entire Child Jesus were made of solid ivory with a hardwood body in Bastidor style. The image was commissioned to an anonymous Chinese immigrant who later said to have converted to Christianity after the Virgin herself talked to him during the sculpting process. The statue was later given to the Dominican friars and settled in its new home at the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros.
Aside from the ivory La Naval image mentioned above, the Dominicans also had two other images of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. There was the La Mejicana, which was the original wooden image that the first Dominican missionaries brought with them from Mexico in the late 1500s. The image was destroyed during the Second World War. The other one was the ivory La Japona that was carved in the 1590s. It was named as such because the image accompanied Dominican missionaries to Japan and was eventually brought back to the Philippines in 1614 together with several Japanese Christian exiles, most notable of whom was Daimyo Justo Takayama. The image is still with the Dominicans today.
The Battles of La Naval in 1646
From the late 1500s to the middle of the 1600s, the Spanish Empire was at war with its former possession, the Dutch Republic. The Dutch had thrown off Spanish rule due to Spanish abuses resulting from religious differences since the Dutch Republic being predominantly Protestant. The Dutch then decided to strengthen its economic position, establishing colonies and trading posts in the Americas and Asia, bringing them in direct conflict with the Spanish.
Dutch forces made several forays into the Philippines, launching these attacks from their bases in Java in the East Indies (modern day Indonesia). By the 1640s, the Dutch had captured Formosa (Taiwan) from the Spanish. The Dutch were also the only nation allowed by the Japanese government to trade with the Japan after other Catholic powers (Portugal and Spain) were ejected when Japan closed its doors to foreigners. They were now in a position to threaten the Spanish in Manila. An all out Dutch invasion was planned for 1646.
Manila was in no position to wage a war in 1646. Bad harvests had ravaged the countryside in the years prior to 1646, and a major earthquake in 1645 had levelled Manila’s buildings and defenses. The navy was in a bad shape, with only two (2) big warships readily available, the Encarnacion and the Rosario. Against these two vessles were three Dutch squadrons with a combined total of 19 vessels.
Fighting raged in and around Philippine waters, with several skirmishes and battles being fought on land as well. Fighting took place in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan province, Jolo, Zamboanga, Ticao Island, Tablas Straits, and even at the mouth of Manila Bay. Against all odds, Spanish forces with the voluntary help of many native Kapampangans repelled and defeated the Dutch. Ultimately, the Spanish forces, with only three Manila Galleons, a galley, and four brigantines neutralized nineteen Dutch warships. The victory at La Naval marked the end of large scale attempts by the Dutch to capture Manila.
The Feast of La Naval
During the battles of La Naval, Spanish forces prayed for the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Spanish decided to offer their prayers to the image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, taking inspiration from the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 which saw Christian forces under the Holy League emerge victorious against the Ottoman Navy. The victory at Lepanto was also dedicated to the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
Following their victory, Spanish forces walked barefoot in Manila’s streets on their way to offer prayers of thanksgiving to the image of Our Lady fo the Holy Rosary at Santo Domingo Church. A few years later, the Archdiocese of Manila declared the victory miraculous after a canonical investigation. Nonetheless, more miracles happened long after the war, an example of that would be a mother who lost her 6-month old son. Walking down the aisle of the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros, with thousands of parishioners inside the church, it is said that she knelt before the image of La Naval saying “Mary, Mother of God. You have tasted the bitterness of the death of your Divine Son. Please, bring him back to me. I ask no more.” After saying this, her son was brought back to life.
A grand feast fo celebration was eventually scheduled every October. Like the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene (minus the rowdy modern crowds), the Feast of La Naval became one of Manila’s most awaited events, celebrated with much pomp and attended by the city’s most prominent and illustrious members. The feast was celebrated in Manila until the World War 2 destroyed the world of Old Manila, relocating this centuries old event to Quezon City.
The image of Our Lady of La Naval has merited several pontifical approbations.
Pope Pius X granted a Canonical Coronation in 1906, which was bestowed on October 5, 1907 by Dom Ambrose Agius of Malta who performed the coronation for the La Naval de Manila.
On July 31, 1944, Pope Pius XII sent an Apostolic letter on the occasion of the tricentenary of the Battle of La Naval de Manila. On October 13, 1973, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Our Lady of La Naval as the patroness at Quezon City. Lastly, Pope John Paul II blessed the original image on February 19, 1981.
Today, the image is enshrined at the postwar Santo Domingo Church, located in Quezon City. It had earlier been stored at the Santisimo Rosario Chapel of the University of Santo Tomas during, and immediately after, World War 2. On January 2020, a few months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the image of La Naval de Manila was once again brought to the walled city of Intramuros which since the war has been much reduced in significance as the religious center of the city. The symbolic return of the image to Intramuros, returns the image to its roots, connecting its storied past to places, events, and peoples that are long gone.
Only the image of La Naval de Manila and its significance remains a constant.
Original Text (2020): Adama Daniel Reyes | Edited and New Text (2022): Diego Gabriel Torres | Original Photos: Adam Daniel Reyes | Multimedia Artwork: Angelo Andres | Featured image: Yasuda Rain
All Rights Reserved.
www. mypope .com .ph/feast- of-la- naval-de- manila/
en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Our_Lady _of_La_Naval_de_ Manila
en.w ikipedia. org /wiki/Battles_ of_La_Naval_de_ Manila
trip advisor. com .ph/Attracti on_Review- g298574-d7785461-Reviews-Our_Lady_of_the_Most_Holy_ Rosary_of_ La_Naval_de_Manila-Quezon_City_Met ro_Manila_L.html
“IN CELEBRATION OF THE MONTH OF THE HOLY ROSARY” by Dr. Jose Victor Torres | retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10159336709199412&set=a.48925859411