Sunday, February 25, 2007

Feast of Feasts

It is the Traditional Feast Day that Manila Society has forgotten…

It used to be that Manila’s grandest ladies and gentlemen — from the Tuason, Legarda, Prieto, Valdes, Roxas, de Ayala, Zobel, Zaragoza, Araneta, Ortigas, Vargas, Madrigal, Cojuangco, and other affluent families — spearheaded the preparations for the annual event in honor of “Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario” Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary…

Don Felix Roxas y Fernandez [ o 1864 - + 1936 ], Mayor of Manila from 1905 - 1917, recalled the “La Naval de Manila” Novena at the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros and wrote in 1936: “”Up to the age of nine [ in 1873 ], I remained under the care of my aunts who strove zealously to undertake the responsibility of my early education. All of them very devout women, they frequently took me along to the religious festivities, specially to the church of Santo Domingo during the nine-day novena of the Most Holy Rosary. The devotion to this Virgin, who is venerated in this church, has not diminished a bit in spite of the changes and social transformations in these islands. Last night [ October 1936 ], for example, the torrential downpour that continued during the hours of prayer was not an obstacle to the filling of the church by a devoted crowd anxious to take part in saying its prayer to the legendary Virgin, to hear the sermon of the priest who preached from the pulpit, and to witness the solemn rites of those ceremonies.”"

The Great Dominican Feast of “La Naval de Manila” pays tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as “Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario” Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, wrought unbelievable naval victories for the Spaniards over the Dutch invaders of these islands in a series of battles in 1646. What made the Spanish Victory more miraculous was that they only had two worn galleons, the “Encarnacion” and the “Rosario,” that battled the more numerous, and better-armed, fifteen Dutch frigates.


Manila Society venerated the magnificent and beautiful image of “Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario,” a legacy of the Spanish Governor General Luis Perez Dasmarinas to the Manila Dominicans in 1593. It was carved from [ elephant ] ivory by a Chinese sculptor under the supervision of Captain Hernando de los Rios Coronel . The image is garbed in yards of precious “tisu de oro” cloth of gold embroidered with silver gilt thread. The crowns of Our Lady and the Child Jesus are of high-karat gold and are studded with many precious jewels, the gifts of generations, indeed centuries, of affluent devotees.

Don Felix Roxas inquired with the PreWar Spanish Dominicans about the origin of the image of the “Santo Rosario”… “”I have often asked myself if the actual image of the Virgin was imported or done by some local carver. My investigations uncovered the following facts:”

“The community of Dominican friars arrived from Mexico prior to the arrival of the Augustinians, the Franciscans, and the Jesuits in the Philippines. About the last years of the XVI century, on the same site where the church of Santo Domingo is actually located in Intramuros, they erected a chapel where the Virgin of the Rosary, the image about two feet high, was venerated, the same image still conserved in an urn lying between the two towers of the belfries at the outer facade of the church. This original image was replaced by the present one which we owe to the chisel of a Chinese carver who executed the work without the intention of becoming a great artist, and completed it as if he were guided by a divine inspiration, something he himself did not take into account.”
“From August 16, 1587, this image has attracted the devotion of Catholic believers, who have multiplied manyfold, encouraged by the favors they received from her. From the very beginning both the the Virgin and the infant Jesus in her arms have appeared with crowns on their heads. In this way they were venerated until Pope Pius IX prepared a ritual decreeing that the coronation of images of Virgins should be done by the highest ecclesiastical authority of each land beginning with the coronation of the Virgin of Savona, Italy, who was crowned by Pope Pius IX himself. Others followed this tradition, such as that of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, who was crowned by a delegate of His Holiness. The turn of the Philippine images came in this century in the following order: The image worshipped in the church of Santo Domingo in Manila; that of Penafrancia in Nueva Caceres, Camarines Sur; that of Manaoag in Pangasinan; and last, that of Antipolo, recently crowned with great solemnity in the Manila Cathedral. The last-named coronation was special: the Apostolic Delegate crowned the Virgin and the Archbishop of Manila crowned the infant Jesus [ sic ], each one by special instructions from His Holiness.”"

[ “Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buenviaje” The Virgin of Antipolo is actually a depiction of the “Immaculate Conception” and She does not carry the Infant Jesus as part of her iconography. Don Felix Roxas must have confused Her canonical coronation with another revered image of Our Lady. ]


Historian Basilidez Bautista explained that during the Spanish Era, it was the tradition of rich and devout Filipino families, specially those of Spanish extraction, to consider the “Santo Rosario” as another ”heiress” to the family jewels. An entire lot was always apportioned and forthwith donated to the Virgin.

Three of the Virgin’s legendary jewels are ”The Carbuncle,” the Roxas ”Granada de Oro,” and the Roxas “Concha.”

“The Carbuncle” is a mythologized large red gemstone that was believed to have crowned the forehead of a large serpent that inhabited the Pasig River. It was immortalized in a story by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, an ardent devotee of the “Santo Rosario.” However, artist Rafael del Casal, who was privy to the Dominicans and to the image of the “Santo Rosario,” says — to great disappointment — that it does not exist. He knows that the largest red stone in the Collection of the Virgin is neither a ruby nor a garnet but is made of faceted red glass and is set in the “Ave Maria” cipher on the Virgin’s “plata” silver gilt dress. Mr. del Casal thinks that “The Carbuncle” could have also referred to a Pearl, and recalls that the Virgin has two big pearls which are set as drops dangling below the orbs in her two gold crowns. A pear-shaped pearl like the internationally famous and centuries-old ”La Peregrina” [ currently owned by actress Elizabeth Taylor ] is set in the 1811 Crown and an L-shaped baroque pearl is set in the 1907 Crown for the Virgin’s “Canonical Coronation.”

Mr. del Casal is of the opinion that Nick Joaquin’s story of the Carbuncle is actually a metaphor for the Triumph of Christianity over Paganism.

The Roxas “Granada de Oro” [ Golden Pomegranate ] and the Roxas “Concha” [ Shell ] had a more historic — and royal — provenance: King Norodom I of Cambodia visited the Philippines in 1872. At a ball given by the Arnedos in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga he met and fell in love with Senorita Josefa “Pepita” Roxas y Manio of nearby Calumpit, Bulacan. But he could not further his intentions because of their different religions. Before his departure, he gave Senorita Josefa Roxas a precious, pomegranate-shaped jewel [ called the “Granada de Oro” ] encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and pearls and her sister Senorita Ana Roxas a smaller shell-shaped one [ called the “Concha” ] also encrusted with precious stones. Both Senorita Josefa’s ”Granada de Oro” and Senorita Ana’s “Concha” were donated by the sisters and their brother Rev. Fr. Manuel Roxas to the ”Santo Rosario” at the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros. The “Concha” was inscribed “S.M. El Rey de Cambodia A La Sta. Ana Rojas 1872″ [ “His Majesty The King of Cambodia to Senorita Ana Rojas 1872″ ]. Most unfortunately, the ”Granada de Oro” was lost after PreWar. It was last seen — hanging from the neck of the “Nino Jesus” — in a published photograph of the “Santo Rosario” in a supplement of the “Philippines Free Press” on 03 May 1930. That same photograph showed the “Concha” pinned to the hem of the embroidered garment of the “Nino Jesus.” Unfortunately, decades later, the “Concha” also disappeared upon the death of Rev. Fr. Augusto Antonio, O.P., the Chaplain of the Virgin, in 1982. He had carefully kept it in his bedroom for scholarly study and it could no longer be found after he died.


It actually rained torrentially during the Canonical Coronation of the “Nuestra Senoral del Santisimo Rosario de ‘La Naval de Manila’” on 05 October 1907…

Don Felix Roxas reminisced the Canonical Coronation of the “Santo Rosario” in 1906 [ sic ], which took place during his tenure as Mayor of Manila, and wrote in 1936:

“”I remember the glorious day of the fifth of October, 1906 [ sic ], when the canonical coronation of our Lady of the Rosary, who was venerated in the Santo Domingo church in Intramuros, was pompously celebrated in this city by order of Pope Pius X.”

“At that time, in anticipation of the said day, the prior of the Santo Domingo convent announced to the faithful devotees who used to fill the pews of the church that from that time on Manila had nothing to envy the renowned sanctuaries of Zaragoza, Lourdes, Monserrat, Begona, and many other sites selected by the Most Holy Virgin Mary as the throne of her mercies.”

“On the day set for the coronation ceremonies, as foreseen, there was an extraordinarily large crowd consisting of delegations from the provinces, carried by their devotion to the Virgin of the Rosary, anxious to witness the event. The organizing committee in charge of the ceremonies secured a permit from me to erect a stage for the ecclesiastical authorities and lay guests invited to the memorable event on Magallanes Drive.”
“Preferential seats at the center of the stage near an altar were given to Governor General James Smith, the Commissioners, Chief Justice Arellano of the Supreme Court, the undersigned as Mayor and other officials of the insular and city governments.”

“An incessant and persistent rain fell at the precise moment when the image of the Virgin passed near the small altar where the Papal delegate, Monsignor Guidi, assisted by Mons. Petrelli as secretary, was preparing to place the crowns on the infant Jesus and on the Virgin. Despite the rain the Governor General, who was a Catholic, calmly assisted them in the coronation rites.”

“Dona Encarnacion Roxas, the sponsor of the coronation, and her retinue of ladies, without abandoning their posts and in proof of their devotion, brilliantly fulfilled their obligation of carrying and delivering the crowns adorned with a valuable collection of precious stones.”

“From this moment almost all of those who took part and witnessed those rites firmly believed they had crowned the Virgin of the Rosary as the patroness of the Philippines.”"

……. “At the risk of being repetitious, I want to relate that it was in the afternoon of October 5, 1906 [ sic ], when, in the midst of a torrential downpour, high dignitaries of the church, of the government and of the Filipino people gathered around the platform erected beside the Ayuntamiento building toward Magallanes Drive for the ceremonies.”"…….


From his sickbed, Don Felix Roxas wrote in October 1936: “”This afternoon, if the weather permits, this image will leave in a procession that will start from the Santo Domingo Church and tour around the streets of Intramuros. Devotees will have the opportunity to look upon her once more, enthroned on the brightly lit carriage to spark the human imagination in beholding her at the height of her glory.”"

In its last days of glory PreWar, All of Manila Society, dressed in their grandest, congregated at the Santo Domingo Church inside Intramuros for the annual “La Naval de Manila” Procession, which was always celebrated every second Sunday of October.

The “La Naval de Manila” Procession in PreWar featured only ten Dominican images interspersed with the “estandartes” banners of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Yet, it was already the longest and the grandest of the Intramuros processions. It was headed by the image of San Pedro de Verona, … Santa Rosa de Lima, and those of Santo Tomas de Aquino, Santo Domingo de Guzman, San Jose, and the “festejada,” the “Santo Rosario.”

Manila oldtimers remember that it was the time-honored custom for the faithful to kneel reverently, even on the Intramuros streets, as the image of the “Santo Rosario” passed by during the annual “La Naval de Manila” procession. It was a tradition that was portrayed on film by director Lamberto Avellana in his screen adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino.”


Just before the War, the affluent Sor Catalina Osmena of the Dominican Sisters initiated — with her own substantial donation — a fund drive for the construction of a new, large, and magnificent “carroza triunfal” [ boat-shaped carriage ] entirely of solid silver [ 85 % ], an absolute masterpiece of the “Talleres de Maximo Vicente,” for the use of the Virgin during the “La Naval de Manila” processions. Mrs. Carmen Reyes, the current “Camarera” of the “Santo Rosario,” told Rafael del Casal that the PreWar devotees had donated real silver coins [ 85 % ] for the “carroza triunfal.” Mr. del Casal also met the old Ireneo Taruc, a longtime silversmith at the “Talleres de Maximo Vicente,” who as a 19 year old apprentice had labored on the elaborate silverwork of the ”carroza triunfal” just before The War. He too, remembered that it was entirely of solid silver. Unfortunately, it was burned inside the Santo Domingo Church and Convent in Intramuros during The War.
The present, simpler “carroza triunfal” was a memorable work of the “taller” of Santiago Santos in PostWar [ in 1946 ]. The workshop was located at the back of the University of Santo Tomas.


The image of the “Santo Rosario,” along with her regalia — her gold crowns and renowned jewels — along with the other Great Treasures of the Manila Dominicans — the jewel-encrusted gold chalices, monstrances, reliquaries, ecclesiastical accoutrements, silver tabernacles, candlesticks, torcheres, missal stands, banners, ornate ewers and basins, important centuries-old documents, and many other valuables — had been stored by the Spanish Dominicans in their large vault located on the ground floor of the Church Complex. The late Rev. Fr. Augusto Antonio, O.P. described the Santo Domingo Church Vault to Rafael del Casal as having had very thick walls. As The Fire raged for many days and nights, and while the Manila Dominicans prayed for the safety of their Greatest Treasure — the 350 year old miraculous image of the “Santo Rosario” — The Great and Terrible Possibility loomed that the image of the Virgin would not survive the Extreme Heat from The Fire which had completely permeated the vault — and the entire Church Complex as well…

An Eyewitness recounted:

“”In December of 1941, the Japanese warplanes bombed Intramuros. One of the first casualties was the Santo Domingo Church and Convent. The towers were destroyed and only the walls were left. The Church and the Convent burned for many days. Wisely enough, days before the bombings, The Dominican friars had stored the centuries-old image of the “Santo Rosario,” along with her crowns, jewels, and vestments in the “Tesoro del Convento” The Convent Treasury, which faced Plaza Isabel II. But because of the intensity of The Fire, No One really knew if the image of the “Santo Rosario” had survived…”"


But She did, miraculously as always. The Extreme Heat of The Fire had bent, twisted, deformed, and in fact almost melted several of the important gold and silver objects. But the 350 year old [ elephant ] ivory and hardwood image of the ”Santo Rosario” actually survived The Conflagration which had consumed her beautiful, rose-colored, Gothic-style temple from 1875 — the Santo Domingo Church and Convent in Intramuros, a masterpiece by the Europe-trained, patrician architect Don Felix Roxas Sr. — and it also finally laid waste to the historic site of her home beside the Pasig River since 1593.

An Eyewitness recounted:

“”The Prior of the Santo Domingo Church and Convent, Rev. Fr. Aurelio Valbuena, O.P. — a respected and trusted man — decided to transfer the image of the ‘Santo Rosario’ and her crowns, jewels, and vestments to a safer place, to the University of Santo Tomas in Sampaloc District. That was, of course, if She survived…”
“On 30 December 1941, three days before the entry of the Japanese Ground Forces, the Japanese Air Force had started the aerial bombardment of The City. Electricity had been cut off; Blackouts were the norm. Word went around that Massive Looting would take place. Rev. Fr. Aurelio Valbuena, O.P., the Prior of the Santo Domingo Church and Convent, was advised by well-meaning friends and devotees to finally secure the treasures of the Manila Dominicans, paramount of which was the centuries-old ivory image of the “Santo Rosario.”
“And so, on 30 December 1941, at 4:00 p.m., Everyone concerned — the Manila Dominicans, their friends and devotees of the “Santo Rosario,” two Augustinian Recollect priests, and some Manila policemen — got together at The Ruins of the Santo Domingo Church and Convent in Intramuros to see if the ivory image of the ‘Santo Rosario’ had possibly survived The Conflagration within the confines of the “Tesoro del Convento” The Convent Treasury, and if so, to bring her to relative safety at the University of Santo Tomas in Sampaloc…”
“The Vault Door of solid metal was extremely difficult to open. The Group initially thought of blowing it up with a grenade but they found out that it would not be necessary…”

“They decided to use an Acetylene Torch. But The Vault Door resisted to a remarkable degree.”
“Nearly four hours later just before 8:00 p.m., They were still firing away at the mechanism of The Vault Door in Complete Darkness [ Electricity had been cut off; Blackouts had been imposed ]. It was very difficult to open!!!”
“Finally, by 8:00 p.m., They had already succeeded in making a small opening… A few minutes later, the mechanism finally gave way and They were able to force The Vault Door open…”
“The Dominican priests were eager to enter The Vault but an Infernal, Boiling Heat gushed out from it so they had to retreat!!!”

“But from the Vault Entrance, They saw that The Image of the ‘Santo Rosario’ was intact. She had survived!!!”
“Tears of happiness gushed forth as They All immediately knelt down on the wet stone floor of The Convent and prayed the “Salve” aloud. They had never prayed more intently. The Silence, The Blackout, the Faint Moonlight, the Deep Shadows, the Wet Walls… all contributed to the dramatic, almost ‘theatrical’ experience…”
“The Silence was broken by the bursting of canned goods in The Convent ‘Almacen’ Storerooms. All the factors: the Darkness, the Bombings, the Fear, the Assault… all contributed to the Great Emotion of the scene.”"
After the image of the Virgin was retrieved from the smoking vault by the Spanish Dominicans, the Ortigas brothers, their Ramirez-Ortigas nephews, along with some other brave souls, undertook the perilous and heroic task of transporting her secretly, in a rundown “camioneta” truck through the back streets of Sampaloc District, to the Chapel of the University of Santo Tomas, where She remained throughout The War.

“”The image of the ‘Santo Rosario’ was wrapped in a thick blanket. Her image, the wooden chests containing her crowns and her jewels, and the wooden boxes containing her elaborate vestments were all loaded in the same truck.”

“The truck exited through the Colegio de San Juan de Letran side…”

“The silent caravan made its way to the University of Santo Tomas through the dark and deserted streets.”

“The truck was followed by several other cars who escorted the “Santo Rosario” to the University of Santo Tomas.”

“Several people were waiting for the rescuers at the University of Santo Tomas. In fact, there was quite a crowd waiting to receive the ’silent procession’ from Intramuros.”

“Although the ‘Santo Rosario’ was not appropriately dressed, the priests lifted the thick blanket so She could be seen by the assemblage. The crowd knelt reverently and gratefully prayed the “Salve”…

“The Virgin was Saved!!!”

“The next day, some priests returned to the ruins of the Santo Domingo Church, to the “Tesoro del Convento” the Treasury, to retrieve boxes of documents of lesser value, but these had already disappeared in the intervening hours. Had they not retrieved the image of the ‘Santo Rosario’ the previous night, She too, might have disappeared!!!”

“The most important thing is that the historical Virgin is still venerated at the new Santo Domingo Church with the vestments, jewels, and crowns given to her by the Filipino nation.”"

As the eminent Dr. Nicanor Tiongson observed: “The devotion to ‘Nuestra Senora de La Naval’ was always traditionally aristocratic in nature.”



*According to the memoirs of Don Felix Roxas y Fernandez [ o 1864 - + 1936 ], Mayor of Manila from 1905 - 1917, the Senoritas Josefa and Ana Roxas y Manio were the sisters of Rev. Fr. Manuel Roxas y Manio and were the children of Don Rafael Roxas y Arroyo, one of the twelve sons [ actually fifteen children ] of Don Antonio Roxas and Dona Lucina Arroyo of Binondo. According to Don Felix himself, Don Antonio Roxas was the progenitor of the “poor” branch of the Roxases. He further said that these Roxases “spelled their surname interchangeably with an “x” or a “j” and were often mistaken for the proletariat” [ it explains why the inscription on the Roxas “Concha” was “… A La Sta. Ana Rojas…” ]. Don Antonio Roxas was a brother of Don Domingo Roxas [ + 1843 ], the progenitor of the very rich Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano Clan. Don Antonio and Don Domingo Roxas were two of the three, or five, children of Don Mariano Roxas and Dona Ana Maria de Ureta.
The Roxas y Manio siblings were the first cousins of Don Felix along with Dona Rosa Roxas de Zaragoza [ married to Don Jose Zaragoza y Aranquizna { + 1895 }, the publisher of the much-admired sophisticated magazine ”La Ilustracion Filipina,” which ran from 1890-95 ], the mother of Dona Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas, who married the famous lawyer { Atty. } Don Gregorio Araneta y Soriano Dy Ching of Molo, Iloilo. The prominent couple Don Gregorio and Dona Carmen had twelve children — Don Jose Araneta, Don Salvador Araneta, Dona Pacita Araneta de Lopez, Don J. Antonio Araneta, Dona Rosa Araneta de Alcuaz, Don Ramon Araneta, Dona Teresa Araneta de Albert, Don Vicente Araneta, Dona Margarita Araneta de Singh, Don Luis Maria Araneta, and Rev. Fr. Francisco “Fritz” Araneta S.J. — and were known as “The Manila Aranetas.”
Another first cousin was Don Felix’s sister, Dona Lucina Roxas y Fernandez, who married Don Enrique Brias Roxas. The parents of Don Felix and Dona Lucina were the prominent architect Don Felix Roxas y Arroyo { Sr. } [ o ca. 1820 ] and Dona Cornelia ”Concha” Fernandez. Don Felix Roxas y Arroyo { Sr. } had designed, among others, the Neo-Gothic Santo Domingo Church and Convent in Intramuros, completed in 1875. He also designed the Neo-Renaissance San Ignacio Church, also in Intramuros, begun in 1878 but completed 11 years later in 1889, after his death.

Also a first cousin was the unfortunate Don Francisco L. Roxas y Reyes — the only son of Don Juan Roxas y Arroyo and Dona Vicenta Reyes of Binondo — a rich and prominent businessman who, despite his being a “Consejero” Adviser to the Administration [ along with his second cousin Don Pedro Pablo “Perico” Roxas ], was accused of Sedition by the King’s representative Fiscal Castanos in late August of 1896, imprisoned in Fort Santiago, and executed on 08 January 1897. He was married to Dona Maria Elio, a Spanish lady from an influential family from Pamplona. They had six children: Salvador, Maria Vicenta, Juan, Presentacion, Carmen, and Javier.

Another branch of the family was that of the painter Don Felipe Roxas y Arroyo [ o 1840 - + 1899 ] married to Dona Raymunda Chuidian. He lived and died in Paris.

Yet another branch of the family was that of Don Andres Roxas y Arroyo married to Dona Teria _____. They settled in Calauang, Laguna.

*Rev. Fr. Augusto Antonio, O.P. should have been the first Filipino Dominican priest. But he gave way to Rev. Fr. _____ Vargas, O.P., who gained that distinction. Fr. Augusto Antonio was of Chinese ancestry; his original family name was Tantungco. His mother was a Tambunting. According to him, his mother had strongly opposed the family’s entry into the pawnshop business, and that her opposition had caused a bitter family feud.

From : Remeberance of Things Awry [website]
By Toto Gonzales

Additonal Notes from Mr. Gonzales : (February 26, 2007)

This article is basically derived from three written sources: the articles “Coronacion” and “Salvamente” in the 1957 “La Naval de Manila” souvenir program, the articles “The Glorious Image of the Virgin” and “Our Lady of Guadalupe” in “The World of Felix Roxas,” the “Recena Historica,” etc.. Invaluable information was shared by my good friend, the artist Rafael del Casal, who has worked with the Dominicans and on the image of the “Santo Rosario.” Rafael also generously translated and annotated the Spanish texts.


Jm San Pedro said...

Due to the many triumphant events throughout the centuries i think the story of La Naval should be turned into a movie. So that more people would appreciate the true significance of La Naval to the Filipino people and to show that La Naval was truly been miraculous throughout the centuries.

Lord Zagato said...

I agree. May Mary allow this into fruition.