La Naval de Manila

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Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

La Naval de Manila is celebrated every 2nd Sunday of October at Sto. Domingo Church, Quezon City. This is a festival paying homage to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of La Naval, carved in 1593. The image, which has been elegantly decorated and placed in a well-lit ship carriage, was given as a gift to the Dominican fathers.

During the festival, the beloved image is brought out of the church, followed by a dozen images of Dominican saints. The procession goes around the main streets of Sto. Domingo Parish and returns to the church amidst applause until it reaches the altar pedestal.

The Santo Domingo Church, with its Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary-La Naval de Manila, has been declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government through the National Museum of the Philippines last 4 October 2012. The declaration, which was announced during the enthronement of Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval, recognized the Santo Domingo-La Naval as an institution, structure, and a repository of modern art. .


Image of Our Lady of the Rosary

Enthronement of Our Lady of the Rosary

The image of Our Lady of the Rosary, popularly known nowadays as 'La Naval, is actually considered the oldest ivory carving in the Philippines. It was carved by a non-Catholic Chinese sculptor under the direction of Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel. It is made of elephant ivory which was commissioned in 1593 by Governor General Luis Perez Dasmarinas for the Manila Dominicans. The sculptor later became a convert.

The image is dressed in yards of precious cloth of gold embroidered with silver thread. High-karat gold and precious jewels are part of the crowns of Our Lady and the Child Jesus. These jewels were donated by affluent devotees from several generations ago. Her garb reflects the influence from the 17th century Spanish "Golden Age," but her features show oriental characteristics.

The image suffered damage in 1762 when British troops pillaged Manila. In 1907, she became the first Marian image in the country to have been canonically crowned by the Papal Nuncio. She narrowly escaped destruction during the bombing of Manila in 1942, and had to be evacuated to a safer locale. In 1954, she was finally brought to her present home in the Dominican church in Quezon City.

Some scholars have wondered how authentic the present statue is relative to the 1593 original. This is because other images of Our Lady of the Rosary were commissioned for the same Dominican convent in Manila from the early 17th century to the present day. In order to resolve this art historical issue, a number of investigations had been carried out.

Miraculous Battles

In 1646, when Dutch invaders tried to gain possession of the country, the image of La Naval de Manila was believed to have helped and guided the Spanish fleet. Before each of the battles, the intercession of Our Lady was fervently sought. Crew members -- Spanish soldiers, religious persons, and Filipinos -- paid special homage to Our Lady for a victorious battle.

With five battles to face against the Dutch, the Filipino and Spanish forces led by Commander Lorenzo de Orella y Ugalde won despite being shorthanded: they had only two merchant galleons against 18 Dutch warships. They vowed that if they emerged triumphant, they would make a pilgrimage to the church -- barefoot. On 9 April 1662, sixteen years after the successful defense of Manila, these five battles was proclaimed miraculous by the Cathedral Chapter of the Archdiocese of Manila. The Council consisted of theologians, canonists, and prominent religious people. After studying all the written and oral testimonies of the participants and eyewitnesses, the Council declared that the victories were:

The La Naval de Manila was canonically crowned on October 1907 upon the orders of Pope Pius X, a first in the country and in Asia. Since then, processions and masses in honor of the Blessed Mother have become a tradition.

La Naval was acknowledged as the patroness of the Philippines during her feast on October 1973. In l974, she was enshrined in a safer vault-altar to protect her against the sacrilegious robberies of churches and sacred images that were then rampant in the area.




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