NO OTHER Marian image in the Philippines compares with the historical and spiritual richness of La Naval de Manila, whose divine interventions have been well-acknowledged from time immemorial.

Our Lady of La Naval continues to influence lives of Marian devotees as it did in the almost desperate but triumphant battles of Filipino-Spanish forces against the Dutch armada in the 1600s. After four centuries of devastating wars, natural calamities, and rampant sacrilegious Church robberies, La Naval has gained and received immense devotion from Filipinos, being the country’s patroness.

“We are full of gratitude because we have been bountifully blessed by God’s grace through the intercessions of Mary,” Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said in his homily during the centennial of the canonical coronation of Our Lady of La Naval.

Being the first canonically crowned Marian image in the Philippines as well as in Asia, La Naval proves to be much-admired as seen through the most lavish celebrations in Old Manila in which UST has been a constant participant.

La Naval and UST

A hundred years ago, UST played a major role in one of the milestones of La Naval’s history.

In 1907, UST took charge of collecting donations for the canonical coronation of La Naval, making it the first Philippine Marian image bestowed of such title. Aside from two star brooches, UST took liberty of embellishing the crown with its center jewel adorned with precious colored stones, which embody the different colleges and faculties of the University.

These were testified under the deeds of donation signed by the UST rector; secretary general; deans of Law, Medicine, and Pharmacy; and 36 professors from Law, Pharmacy, and Medicine on Sept. 7, 1907 after the prior of the Sto. Domingo Convent received the crown for the canonical coronation.

In fact, a dedication on the inside brace of the crown states “Real y Pontifica Universidad de Santo Tomas, Manila/ los Professores a su Patrona la Santissima Virgen del Rosario en su Coronacion/ 5 de Octubre de 1907 (The Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Manila/ the Professors to their Patroness the Most Holy Virgin of the Rosary on her Coronation/ 5 October 1907).”

Pope Pius X with his papal bull in 1906 ordered this coronation, acceding to the Dominicans’ request of giving La Naval the highest honor bestowed upon a Marian image. Notably, only a venerated Marian icon, which is historically old and in times of struggle is a source of faith and hope, can receive this form of reverence.

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In addition, the dated 1811 crowns of Our Lady and the Infant Christ were said to be commissioned in celebration of the second centennial foundation of the University. These crowns were meticulously crafted with gold, diamonds, jewels from donated brooches and earrings, and a precious natural Oriental pearl.

The miraculous image also took refuge in the University during the war and post-war years of World War II.

“After the bombing of Sto. Domingo Church in Intramuros, the UST chapel (now Santissimo Rosario Church) served as its sanctuary for 13 years,” Fr. James Alamillo, O.P., Santissimo Rosario parish priest, told the Varsitarian.

But even before its canonical coronation, UST has already served its share to the saga of La Naval.

Aside from safekeeping of the miraculous image, UST has managed to keep old records of La Naval dating back to 1640.

The earliest La Naval artifact was published by the Colegio de Sancto Thomas (now UST Publishing House). Diego Aduarte, a Dominican historian, wrote the account of Our Lady in 12 chapters of his Historia de la Provincia del Sancto Rosario de la Orden Predicadores en Phelipinas, Iapon, y China in 1640. The book included pertinent historical accounts of the image’s creation after the Hispanic governor-general Don Luis Perez Dasmariñas prompted a sangley (Chinese in the Philippines) to carve the sculpture with its face and hands made of ivory.

In addition, four centuries-old sample hymns, which were sang after every mystery during rosario cantadas (musical rosary recitals) in honor of Our Lady, remain intact at the UST Seminary Score collection. These samples include Venid Dieles Hijos (first mystery), Viva Maria (second mystery), Sea El Rosario (third mystery), and Salve de los Cielos (fourth mystery). The first three were translated to Filipino and are still sang by the Tiples de Sto. Domingo, the boys choir founded in the late 16th century by Fr. Pedro Bolaños, O.P.

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Meanwhile, two olden hymns remain in the repertory of La Naval. The first is the Regina Sanctissimo Rosarii of Gaetano Capossi, and the other titled Despedida of Hernandez, which is the marking song of La Naval ceremonies.

Professors and alumni of UST also give testament to the value given to La Naval over the years. After the bombing of the Sto. Domingo Church in the 1940s, the Dominican Order decided to rebuild the Church in Quezon City, which was inaugurated in 1954. This house of worship then became the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, La Naval de Manila. Behind the conception of this massive structure, which stands tallest among Churches in the Philippines, is architect Jose Maria Zaragoza, an alumnus of UST College of Architecture. Galo Ocampo, a faculty member of UST, designed the stained glass depictions of Our Lady in the Church.

The masterfully crafted bas-reliefs, which add to Sto. Domingo Church’s luster, were the handmade of another University mentor named Francesco Monti. Among his works were the illustration of La Naval procession and the image of St. Dominic, the father of the Order of Preachers.

The Museo de Santo Domingo at the Sto. Domingo Parish, which houses important documents regarding La Naval, is now under the care of museum curator Rei Nicolas. He is an alumnus of UST and one of the pioneer members of the movie industry’s Production Designers’ Guild of the Philippines.

Nicolas together with two other architects designed the floor plan of the museum, which was inaugurated in 2004.

“Perhaps it is through my passion for collecting Marian items that I express the value I give to Our Lady especially to La Naval,” Nicolas told the Varsitarian. “It is notable that Filipinos give high regards to the Blessed Virgin.”

La Naval festivities 2007

Last month, the Dominican Province of the Philippines together with the Marian devotees celebrated the centennial anniversary of the canonical coronation and the feast of the miraculous image at the Sto. Domingo Church, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Several activities served as prelude to these grandiose celebrations of La Naval, which started last Sept. 7 with a Marian vigil at the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City.

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Again, UST joined in the celebrations with its major contributions marking this year’s La Naval festivities.

The Santissimo Rosario Parish with the help of Nicolas hosted the first Marian exhibit in line with the La Naval celebrations titled “Regina Sacratisimi Rosarii,” featuring different images of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

Nicolas designed the La Naval Memorabilia Exhibit at the Museo de Sto. Domingo, which was displayed from Sept. 29 to Oct 31.

Also, the most extensive and complete account of La Naval titled The Saga of La Naval: Triumph of a People’s Faith was made through the consorted effort of alumni and professors of UST headed by Joselito Zulueta, editor in chief of the La Naval coffee table book.

Launched last Sept. 7 at the Sto. Domingo Church, Zulueta said that this book may not be the last account regarding La Naval but he hopes that this work may be useful for the next hundred years.

In addition, professors of the UST Conservatory of Music and the Psalterion of UST Central Seminary together with classical and popular artists blessed the Serenata with their vocal prowess. Serenata was the concert series, which preceded the novena for La Naval from Oct. 5 to 13.

Being a former member of the Tiples de Sto. Domingo, Eugene de los Santos, present maestro of the choir and a part of the UST Conservatory Faculty, wrote that he always look forward to participate in the feast of La Naval.

“The Tiples played a significant part in La Naval celebrations,” de los Santos wrote in the Saga of La Naval. “This role dates back hundreds of years ago.”

Thomasians also took part in the Grand La Naval Procession last Oct. 14. Different student organizations participated in escorting Our Lady of La Naval and the icons of Dominican saints and martyrs, which include UST’s patron St. Thomas Aquinas.

Indeed, these Thomasian tributes to Our Lady bring to life the message of the official hymn of the centenary of the Canonical Coronation of La Naval titled Salamat, Maria:

“Salamat sa iyo, sa mga pagdamay mo/ Kami’y patuloy na magmamahal sa’yo.”


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