PROCESION DE LAS PROCESIONES. I like reading essays about Intramuros that refer to this now popular tourist destination in the past tense usually with reference to prewar Old Manila or even older like Ciudad Murada. Writers like Nick Joaquin and Alejandro Roces immortalize Intramuros, its cobbled streets, its seven glorious churches, its traditions and processions.
October in the old walled city was so famously nostalgic because this was the month of grandest procession called La Naval de Manila. Touted during the prewar years as the procesion de los procesiones, the event pays tribute to the Blessed Virgin as Nuestra Señora de Santissimo Rosario for Her miraculous intervention during a series of naval battles in 1646. The battle concluded in favor of the Spaniards over the Dutch pirates.
LA NAVAL DE QUEZON CITY. Nick Joaquin left us with a description of Old Manila’s procesion de los procesiones. He said that in an October evening while watching this procession of La Naval, and having divined, by a general excitement, the approach of the image, he has heard the cries of trumpets of the passing concourse. He has seen her blazed into vision against the skies of his city, born upon cloud of incense and music, her face on fire with jewels and mysterious with the veneration of centuries, with gleaming rainbows forming and falling all about her and silken doves bobbing whitely among her flowers of gold and silver –Oh, beautiful and radiant as an apparition! –the Presence at Lepanto, Lady and Queen and Mother of Manila and Virgin of the Fifteen Mysteries.
Centuries passed, La Naval remains one of the most venerated images of the Blessed Virgin in the country. While the procession is no longer held in Intramuros since the Gothic Dominican church where the image of the La Naval was originally enshrined was destroyed during World War II. Today, the grand procession is held at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.
TREASURES OF LA NAVAL. The image of the La Naval was a legacy of Governor General Luis Perez Dasmariñas. He wanted a statue to memorialized both his deceased father who was murdered by the Chinese and the his own regime. The beautiful image was carved from ivory by a non-Catholic Chinese who was later converted. Governor Dasmariñas entrusted the image to the Dominicans. During World War II, La Naval together with Her vestments, jewels and crowns miraculously survived the inferno that reduced the old Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros to rubble and ashes.
The image we see today follows the Old Manila tradition of dressing the La Naval in yards of precious tisu de oro embroidered with silver gilt thread. The high-karat golden crowns of the Virgin and the Infant Jesus are studded with various precious jewels mostly gifts from generations of devotees who considered the Virgin as another heiress of the family jewels. True story or myth, the treasures of the La Naval range from a red gem on the image’s head said to have come from the mouth of a giant serpent in the Pasig and the jewels given by Prince Norodom I of Cambodia to two maidens in Bulacan, Josefa and Ana Roxas during his 1872 visit to Manila. These jewels were donated to the La Naval but was never seen. Also, we have yet to see the National Artist medallion offered by Nick Joaquin to the Virgin.
TIME-HONORED TRADITION. The La Naval procession in Old Manila only featured ten statues of Dominican saints namely San Pedro Verona usually depicted with an axe on his head, San Vicente Ferrer with angel wings, Santo Tomas de Aquino with book, Santo Domingo de Guzman with his dog, Santa Rosa de Lima with infant Jesus, San Jose with child Jesus, etc. They are interspersed with estandares of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
It was a time-honored tradition in Old Manila for the faithful to kneel reverently even on the Intramuros cobbled streets as the image of the Nuestra Señora de Santissimo Rosario passed by during the La Naval de Manila Procession.
WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN. The line-up of Dominican saints in the La Naval de Quezon City procession includes Filipino saints San Lorenzo Ruiz and other Asian saints like Sto. Tomas Khuong, Sta. Maria Magdalena de Nagazaki and San Vicente Liem de la Paz.
Interesting are the saints with their symbols and their stories like the crowns held by a cherub on the feet of Sta. Margarita de Ungria because she was of royal descent who refused marriage to a king. The monstrance and image of Mama Mary held by San Jacinto de Odrowatz, who is also venerated by the Aglipay Church. The philosopher San Alberto Magno is depicted tilting to his right was inspiration to the tilting typeface called Albertus.
EPILOGUE. Some years ago, we took part with the thousands of devotees who thronged Sto. Domingo Church for the centenary of the canonical coronation of the first Marian image in the Philippines and in Asia.
We witnessed how a crowd went on a state of energetic calm while waving their white handkerchiefs in the air as the boat-shaped carroza bearing the La Naval exited the main door of Santo Domingo Church to the streets.
-Feast of Nuestra Señora de Santissimo Rosario La Naval 2011
Patroness of Quezon City