Thursday, October 31, 2013

October in Quezon City! A La Naval experience

Viva La Virgen!

October in Manila! The exclamation was Nick Joaquin's who left us historical portraits of the old Manila, the walled city in Intramuros, before the bombs of the American liberation forces of 1945 leveled it to the ground.  What comes to mind was that last scene in his elegiac play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino when the old generation proceeded to the balcony of the Marasigan house to watch the grand procession of the La Naval de Manila.

It's now 'October in Quezon City!'  The Santo Domingo Church of yore moved to Quezon City after the second world war. The iconic ivory image of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario de la Naval de Manila, or Our Lady of the Rosary, popularly called the La Naval, survived the bombs, and is now in residence here.
The sculptural triptych at the facade of Sto Domingo: a historical vignette.

The religious devotion--steeped in culture and history--lives on every second Sunday of October. Many devotees may not know it but when they raise their mobile phones or digital cameras to snap pictures of the antique images of Mother and Child with their jewels and in rich garments, they are capturing a piece of our history. After all, their devotion to La Naval dates back to 1646 when the inferior Filipino-Spanish naval forces sent the invading powerful Dutch armada to the bottom of the sea, a triumph that was attributed to the intervention of Our Lady.  To the Spaniards, their veneration of La Naval dates back much earlier to the Battle of Lepanto of 1571, when Christian soldiers stopped the spread of Islam in their country.  

We've photo-covered the La Naval grand procession years ago.  This year, we tried to attend the rites from the enthronement of the image on October 3 until the grand procession on the 13th, and that includes the nine-day novena-masses between those dates too, but we missed the first two novenas.

The enthronement of the antique ivory image of La Naval de Manila.

There was much anticipation as devotees awaited for the enthronement.  The niche above the altar was vacant, and as soon as the image emerged, the people became jubilant, and pretty soon almost everyone with a camera trooped to the front to take a picture of the Nuestra Señora, while others knelt to pray.    

To us, the highlight of the daily novena prayers was the beautiful rendition of the Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii  with the Tiples de Sto. Domingo, the oldest existing boys’ choir of the Philippines, singing the solo parts, and the Grand Choir of Sto. Domingo leading the choral response of ora pro nobis. 

The daily novena prayers culminated with the celebration of the Eucharist.  The early evening masses had different celebrants including Archbishop Socrates Villegas, and the novenas also had various organizations leading the rosary.  The masses were sung, some days in Latin and some in Pilipino.  It was a matter of sacrifice to stand for quite some time as the choir sung the Kyrie to the Gloria of the Latin missas.  It was nonetheless a joy to listen to different musical versions of the Ave Maria rendered by several sopranos during the Communion.  

The novena-masses were always brought to a thunderous finale with the mass singing of the Despedida a la Virgen.  This is the same song that closed the feast of the La Naval when the image was once again enthroned after the grand procession.

The besamanto, an opportunity to get a close look of the La Naval.

Three novena-masses were followed by the besamanto (roughly, kissing the cape). The image was brought down again for the veneration of the faithful.  Instead of the cape, devotees kissed encased relics from her old garments and medallions tied to the image by ribbons.  The queues were long, even if there was a separate one for seniors and the physically handicapped, and took until about ten in the evening.   

Rain or shine! The grand procession emerged from the church at four o'clock on feast Sunday.  The image of Our Lady of the Rosary was preceded by 27 others--those of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the saints and the blessed from the Dominican community, and of St Joseph, in that order.

The La Naval in procession.

 The procession was interrupted by a brief rain, not more than five minutes, we estimated.  The caretakers of the images had always been prepared. As soon as the first raindrops fell, the raincoats were up to shelter the images.  We caught the La Naval still with her raincoat when the procession on its way back to Santo Domingo passed under the pedestrian overpass where we were perched to take photographs.

Detail from the banderetta.

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