La Naval Fiesta in commemoration of the Virgin of the Holy Rosary whose intercession saw the victory of the Spanish fleet over the Dutch invaders, Angeles City celebrateds this fiesta with typical religious programs and filipino homes display the finest traditions of hospitality in entertaining guests with the finest food and drinks.
he five La Naval battles, fought fiercely at sea from March 15 to Oct. 4, 1646, by the Spanish and Filipino soldiers against the mightier, more heavily armed Dutch invaders, were a painful birthing of saints and heroes. The Spanish and Filipino soldiers were fighting with faith and for their faith. They believed that, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, God could work wonders. That was why they incessantly prayed the Rosary while the battles were raging. Wittingly or unwittingly, they were fighting for their Christian faith that was staunchly Catholic, with a unique devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. That faith faced a grave threat from the Dutch, who by then generally embraced a faith that veered away from the Catholic tradition.
Rosary and Victory
In a sense, the Filipino and Spanish soldiers were waging a war, literally dying, for the faith they wanted to live by. We do not exactly know what became of each of them, except that a few died during the battles. Some of them might have become martyrs, others may have become saints. What is certain was that, by being ready to die for the faith they wanted to guide their lives with, they were actually striving for holiness. From Oct. 2 to Oct. 12, the yearly Rosary and novena prayers will be said in honor of Our Lady of La Naval, in her National Shrine at Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, to commemorate that momentous victory. Once again, the devotees will be treated to nine days of prayer and reflection, with the theme “Maria, Inang Layko, Ina ng Layko” accentuating the role of Mary as the Model and Mother of the laity. The theme was chosen as 2014 has been declared Year of the Laity by the Church in the Philippines as part of the nine-year preparation for the 500th anniversary in 2021 of the arrival of Christianity on Philippine shores.
Holiness and the World
In its pastoral exhortation, “Filipino Catholic Laity: Called to Be Saints, Sent Forth as Heroes,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines enjoins the lay people “to find their sanctification in the world, and to sanctify the world and transform it so that this world becomes more and more God’s world, God’s kingdom, where His will is done as it is in heaven.” The first task lay people can do to sanctify themselves and the world, says pastoral exhortation, is to shun consumerism, that desire to feed one’s self-centeredness with the frivolous pleasures, shutting out others especially the poor and the needy from one’s life. This is rooted in greed and selfishness that create not so much the oppressed or the exploited but even worse—the excluded, the outcast and the “leftovers,” those who are no longer even part of society. Instead of greed, selfishness and consumerism, the lay faithful are encouraged to nurture in their hearts and in themselves the virtues of justice and charity so that they can actively participate in the task of creating wealth, preserving it, and sharing it. Through this, they can “exterminate” the existence of the excluded and form a community, nay, a Church where everyone is welcome.
In the Philippines, the problematic areas into which true and authentic Catholics can infuse their souls are in politics, business and commerce. It is hoped that Catholics who are appointed or elected to public office (and there are many, most of whom are even educated in Catholic schools!) can cleanse our political life of graft and corruption and rid it of political patronage, both of which are closely intertwined with the pork barrel system that should be eradicated. Voters are urged to make educated choices during elections and avoid selling or buying votes as well as engaging in bribery and accepting kickbacks. Authentic Catholic lay faithful are also encouraged to cleanse and free the area of business and commerce from the collusion of tax-collecting agencies with some business people, which generates the further impoverishment of those who are already excluded.
Mary, Model of Heroism
The Blessed Virgin Mary is always looked up to by all Christians, especially by Catholics, as a model of holiness. She exemplifies a devout listening to and reflecting on the Word of God and obeying it. The lay faithful in the Philippines face a formidable battle—against enemies that can wield their power and influence in government, in the justice system, and even in the media, which also needs the healing of its propensity for the news rather that the truth. Often, the enemy is within themselves—in their values, in their well-entrenched practices and habits which, although wicked, are widely accepted by reason of their sheer longevity. The novena to Our Lady of La Naval is an avenue by which the call for the laity to holiness and heroism is echoed. Hopefully, like the La Naval battles won through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, today’s battles of conquering oneself, and of transforming Philippine society and Church, can also see a glimmer of that victory that has eluded Las Islas Filipinas for a long, long time.
To me, October invariably brings memories of La Naval de Manila—a novena and procession celebrated to honor Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary at Santo Domingo Church. I’m not referring to the one in Quezon City but to the old Gothic Santo Domingo in Intramuros that was destroyed during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Once again I am clad in the long beige-and-red uniform of Santa Catalina College and attending the novena of La Naval. To Filipinos, especially of that time, October was La Naval and La Naval was the fiesta par excellence, at least as far as drawing power was concerned. As early as four o’clock in the morning the huge bells would start tolling. But long before that there would be early Mass-goers waiting for the massive doors to open. Masses would continue nonstop at the main and side altars until almost 10. (Remember that we fasted from midnight. There were no afternoon Masses then.) High Mass was at eight. All these Masses were attended by thousands. Afterwards the crowd would dwindle, only to return in the afternoon for the novena. Devotees came from all over. Out-of-town buses from Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, and Laguna crowded the patio; calesas transported people from nearby suburbs, and residents from Santa Ana, Malate and Tondo, riding on tranvias, alighted at Plaza Lawton and then crossed the Sunken Gardens and the Muralla to get to the church. From black limousines descended society matrons in their elegant ternos, and aristocratic gentlemen in their white de hilo suits. And all of them crowded the church, praying the rosary aloud, singing the hymns, reciting the novena prayers, and listening to the sermons which, to my recollection, were never shorter than 30 minutes. (For your information, all these prayers and songs were said in Spanish and Latin. The sermon was likewise in Spanish, delivered in the florid manner of the times and from the pulpit without a microphone.) The climax of the celebration was the procession in the afternoon of the second Sunday of October. One particular procession I will never forget was when I was 12. We, the students of Santa Catalina, dressed in our white gala uniforms, with veils on our heads and lighted candles in our hands, headed the long procession. My schoolmates and I walked in front of and behind the image of St. Catherine of Siena. We recited the rosary, sang hymns, and marched self-consciously to the music played by the Letran band. I cannot describe the pride and excitement I felt in being part of that retinue. Looking sideways I saw people lined three-deep on the pavements, reciting the rosary, lighted candles in hand. Glancing up I saw faces crowding the wide windows of entresuelos and second floors, all reciting the Ave Maria. The deep, abiding faith of the devotees I could almost taste in my mouth. We arrived at the patio of the church way ahead of the others and stayed by the side to await the arrival of the image of Our Lady. I saw the carrozas of famous Dominican saints being pulled by sweating men, the decorated images swaying in the night whenever there was a rut underneath. And then, at last, after a long time, I heard the music coming from the UST band signaling her imminent arrival. Finally, I caught a glimpse of her statue soaring above the multitude of devotees. In front of her, beside her, behind her walked the Dominican priests in their white habits and black capes looking like the brave medieval knights of old, jealously protecting their Lady.
Before I knew it, the surge of humanity had carried me along with them inside the church where I knelt in one tiny corner trying to catch my breath. Incense assailed my nostrils; O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo throbbed in my ears. Tiny bells rang and I looked up to see the Holy Eucharist floating in a haze above me. I was overwhelmed by a spirit of devotion and reverence I had never felt before. The Holy Eucharist was lowered and I saw the image of Our Lady, in all her splendor, regal, majestic, wearing her crown of jewels, holding her scepter, her rosary, scented by thousands of roses and illumined by hundreds of candles. In her arm she held her Divine Son, who wasn’t looking at her, however, but at us, as though saying, “I am not only hers, but yours as well.” A strong feeling of joy gripped me, held me spellbound, and at that precise moment the plaintive strains of Adios, Reina del Cielo sung by the tiples filled the whole church. I was overcome and the tears fell unbidden. When I could see again I looked up, but the curtain had already been lowered, hiding her from view. When the crowd thinned, I went out the door and was met by a cold blast of October air. I knew I had to hurry; it was late and my parents were waiting for me on Cabildo Street for dinner at the house of Don Paco Gonzalez, my father’s best friend. I tarried in the patio, nevertheless, not wanting the spell to be broken. I lingered by the fruit stalls, smelled chestnuts roasting on the fire, heard the lanzones vendors chanting as they counted fruit by the hundreds, and from the corner of my eye caught sight of the Ferris wheel going round and round…
And then, once more, the huge bells started pealing and the sounds reverberated in my heart. A sense of well-being enveloped me and I felt protected, secure and happy. I felt that I loved everyone. I thought my people to be lovely people and my country the best place in the world.
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