Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, La Naval de Manila
(Sto. Domingo Church)



Facade of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

People wonder how Sunday after Sunday, especially in the second Sunday of October, during its feast day, that the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City teems with humanity, hearing Mass or participating in the mile-long religious procession in honor of La Naval.

To the devotees of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary enshrined at the church, the early beginnings of the devotion to the Most Holy Rosary image of the Blessed Virgin Mary may not be clear because of time and circumstances. However, what seems most important to them is their own personal understanding of the miraculous interventions and intercessions of the Lady in times of their own difficulties.

In the church, the pilgrims rub elbows with the regular churchgoers who find in this Dominican-run entity the right place in which to unburden oneself from the worries of the day, finding solace in the silence of the high-domed structure, sometimes broken only by the mild intonations of the praying crowd, or by the lilting songs of the cherubic voices of the Tiples of Sto. Domingo. On a Sunday Mass offering, this familiar silence is induced with the passion of persuasion from the Dominican prelates who provide one of the best sermons thereat in this part of Metro Manila.

Interior of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Unknown maybe to the thousands of her faithful devotees, the beginning of the special place that the image of the Most Holy Rosary occupies in the hearts of her devotees may be traced during the 17th century where sometime in 1646, the City of manila was again being attacked by the Dutch invaders, this pugnacious stance they started against this small Spanish colony as early as 1609.

From records of this encounter, the skirmish started in Lent of that year where the Dutch attacked Zamboanga in the South but was repelled. This was followed in March 15 when five Dutch ships engaged the Spaniards who fought with some 400 men hastily commissioned and put to fight in two galleons, the Rosario and the Encarnacion. The Dutch were forced to flee despite their number. They proved no match to the expertise of the Spaniards in commandeering their guns and galleons against the odds at sea and on land. However, the fight resumed when in July, the Dutch waylaid the Acapulco Galleons near the San Bernardino Strait on their way to Manila Bay. Again the Rosario and Encarnacion fought gallantly against the Dutch Fleet of seven heavily armed ships and some 800 men.

The fighting as expected was bloody and fierce, with each side, desirous of winning, having in mind the coveted colony of thousands of islands waiting to be explored, all rich and pristine against their own lands choking with the growing demands of civilization.

Altar of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

It was said that what provided the Spaniards the will to persist is their fervent praying of the rosary and devotion to the Blessed Virgin mother, whom they sought to intercede in their behalf against the Dutch whose religion they fear may ruin the Catholicity of this new Spanish colony.

It was written that the Dutch and the Spaniards had another encounter before the year's end, but that by undetermined reason, the Dutch fled, never to appear in the Philippine seas again, until another century later when they tried to snatch this land again from the well-entrenched Spanish forces.

This battle-scarred year of 1646 proved momentous to the joyous Spanish community who, remembering a page in their history, the Battle of Lepanto, where their own forces routed the enemy, decided to celebrate in style. Then they started to parade the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary which became the patroness of the Spanish Galleons which went to war with the Dutch with the fitting praying of the rosary, in thanksgiving to the Mother of the Church who provided her faithful and loyal children the right courage to win and protect their religious birthright. The annual religious procession which began in the Spanish enclave of Intramuros winding around the cobble-stoned walkways of the Fortress was discontinued only after the outbreak of the Second World War when the Liberation Forces razed Intramuros to the ground, destroying the beautiful church of the Most Holy Rosary which was the original shrine of the image. Through the efforts of the Dominicans who ran and still run the Colegio de San Juan de Letran which was just beside the bombed-out church, the image was miraculously saved and enshrined at the Sto. Domingo Church in the reconstruction years of the 1950's.

Because of the symbolic note attached to the image Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in her defense of the Spanish ships and men, our own Philippine Navy most fittingly chose the Lady of the Most Holy Rosary at its patroness, once more establishing her deep concern for those who must find the seas in their destiny.

Today, the faithful devotees of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval consider her October Feast Day a most important day to visit and give thanks to her unceasing love and support to those who seek her intervention.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from angdaangkatotohanan.blogspot.com, tanawin.wordpress.com and thesplendorofthechurch.blogspot.com.

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