*‘reyna’ and ‘prayle’ are the Hispano-Tagalog word for ‘Queen’ and Friar’

The Catholic Culture of the Philippines came from the great and heroic missionary activities of the friars, who were the founders of the Filipino society. For them, Manila was the ‘New Jerusalem’, even had become a ‘New Rome’ as it was filled with gigantic churches and non-stop manifestations of Catholic faith. Most of these illustrious monuments are now gone, but there are remnants remaining.

We in Lipa wanted then to take a glimpse of what was that New Jerusalem with those remnants. We had this glimpse last Sunday when we toured Quezon City and Manila, visiting two churches and one university. Of course, our trip was made more special with the presence of Señor Guillermo Gomez Rivera, the most senior member of RAE, and our Filipino-Hispanic culture consultant.

We first stopped at Sto. Domingo Church, the home of Nuestra Señora del Sto. Rosario de la Naval de Manila. It was once in Intramuros but unfortunately it was the first casualty of World War Two in the Philippines. After the war, the friars decided to move the Church in Quezon City (the old site has become a modern building).

The Philippines must be forever grateful to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the year 1646, the Protestant Dutch tried to steal the Philippines from the Spanish crown. The government quickly organized a small navy of two galleon-merchant ships, Encarnacion and Rosario, (against 14 Dutch ships) and was quickly fitted with canon to defend the city. Meanwhile, the Filipinos and the Spanish soldiers on each ship pray the holy rosary in front, invoking Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary for protection.

For almost seven months, these two galleons won the battles and the Dutch ship either sunk or went away damaged. After the battle of October 4th, the Governor General and the soldiers marched on foot towards the Sto. Domingo church and sung Te Deum for the victory achieved through the intercession of the Lady of Rosary.

Here, I would like to recall the words of the Pope Pius XII, recognizing that the rosary is the ‘national devotion of the Filipino people’, and whose paternal cry still resounds in our small archipelago: ‘Philippines! Kingdom of Mary! Philippines! Kingdom of the Holy Rosary! Run to this throne of grace, to this saving devotion, because the storm is raging not far away from you. Remain firm in the Holy Faith of your fathers, that you have received at the cradle, just as your islands remain firm, although shaken by earthquakes and violently besieged by irritated waves. And never let the sacred fire of your love for your heavenly Mother die in your souls, this sacred fire represented by these volcanoes erupting from time to time reveal the furnace hidden in your land.

We then went to San Francisco del Monte. San Pedro Bautista built this town (which is now a district in Quezon City) in 1590 topped with a church dedicated to Our Lady. The saint was one of the early Franciscan missionaries in the Philippines who gathered the natives scattered in the jungles, and placed them under the shadow of the church. He became the provincial of the Franciscans in the Philippines, and went to Japan to evangelize the pagans. However, a strong anti-Christian persecution swept throughout the country and together with St. Paul Miki and twenty four more companions, they were tortured, crucified and two lances pierced to their agonizing body, confessing the name of Jesus Christ. They were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

We were able to pray at the cave where some of the holy martyrs of Japan used to pray, found at the bottom of the old sanctuary of the church. There we marveled the old convento, a typical hispano-filipino structure.

Last stop, the University of Sto. Tomas. It is the first university in Asia, established by Archbishop Miguel de Benavides in 1627 which makes it older than the universities of the United States (who came to the Philippines to ‘educate’ us). The original UST was built in Intramuros but was destroyed during the Second World War. The campus in Sampaloc, Manila built in the 1927 now serve as its main campus. We marveled at the structure of the main building, built with the ‘floating foundation’ technology. We were able to get inside and appreciate the murals inside, depicting the evangelization of the Philippines.

Below, we see Mother Spain embracing with her delicate arms two figures, one is St. Dominic, the other is her daughter, the Philippines. Gathered beneath them are the Filipinos of different races, the natives, the creoles and the chinese.

Another mural depicts a Dominican friar preaching among the natives. (In the time of the Spanish Crown, the Dominicans were assigned to do mission among the Chinese and some native tribes in the north).

Senor Guillermo explained that the Spanish mestizos and Creoles have Our Lady of del Pilar as their patron, the chinos cristianos have the La Naval de Manila and the natives have the Our Lady of Guadalupe, and all of these invocation are united, as was with the races that composes the Philippines, under the tutelage of the Immaculate Conception. May she obtain for us the grace to be zealous for the missionary adventure.