La Naval de Manila: the Feast of the Native Virgin
Date for La Naval de Manila 2012 is on the 14th October 2012 (est.)
The La Naval de Manila Festival has been one of the traditional religious festivities that the Philippines have been keeping since the 15th century. Due to its several years of existence, the La naval de Manila was even given the title of the “Native Virgin”. It has been considered as an important heritage that the Spaniards inculcated to the Filipinos. The festival has been a living depiction of how the Filipino community gives importance of its rich customs and gives reverence to the Roman Catholic religion.
The Solemn Feast
The La naval de Manila feast is annually held every second Sunday of October at the Sto. Domingo Parish in Quezon City. However, the entire devotional practice for the feast happens in a span of about 2 weeks long, talk about endurance! During the last Sunday of September, an enthronement of the La Naval de Manila is done, followed by nine days of masses and novenas for the Native Virgin. On the seventh and eighth day of the novena, a tradition called Beso Manto is done by the devotees. During Beso Manto, the devotees line up to kiss or touch the image of the Native Virgin and make their short prayers. The actual feast of the La Naval de Manila is marked on the tenth day of the novena.
The feast day of the La naval de Manila is marked by a holy procession. The decorated picture of the Native Virgin is brought out of the church where it goes around the Sto. Domingo Parish’s streets. It is often trailed by the other statues of the saints that are inside the Parish. The feast becomes a parade of prayers where the devotees follow and walk through the procession until the end when the picture of the Native Virgin is brought back inside the parish. The feast is then concluded with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the sharing of food.
The Image of the La Naval
The sculpture of the La naval de Manila displays a taste of the Spanish Oriental creations. The image of the Native Virgin is dressed with golden accessories which were known to be the Spaniard’s treasures. On the other hand, the face of the La Naval bears mostly Asian features, which tells us about its Oriental influence. Interestingly, this oriental figure may be credited from a Chinese sculptor named Hernando de los Rios Coronel, who brought this cultural masterpiece to life.
Did you also know that the image of the La Naval de Manila has been thought to be the oldest ivory image of our Lady of the Holy Rosary with the Child Jesus? During the festival, the picture of the Native Virgin is usually placed on a ship shaped carriage with classic and elegant lights surrounding it. This signifies how the Native Virgin has traveled from Spain as a gift for the Philippines and also, with the ship being a symbol of the Spanish regime.
What Makes the La Naval so Special?
What makes La Naval special is that it has historically led the Spaniards into victorious battles, even in circumstances when victory was thought to be impossible. One of the first miraculous deeds of the La naval was witnessed in 1571, where a victorious fight for the gulf of Leopanto was won by the Spaniards against the Greeks. Pope Pius V also asked for the divine intervention of the La Naval, to help the Christians stop the Muslim violence. With these successes, the La Naval was given the title as the “Savior of the Christian Navies”.
The practice of devotion to the La Naval de Manila began in 1646, when the Spanish fleet won the battle against the Dutch invaders during the defense of the Philippine archipelago. Imagine the odds of victory, when the battle was made up of 2 Spanish galleons fending off 18 Dutch warships. Nonetheless, the victory that they attained was thought to be through the faith invested in the Virgin Mary, which resulted in the devotees making a barefoot pilgrimage to the La Naval as a sign of thanksgiving.
The miracle brought forth by the La Naval de Manila has not stop from earlier times since. Some say that the touching power of the native virgin was so strong that it led to the conversion of its non-catholic, Chinese sculptor into a Catholic devotee.
The Filipino devotion
Filipinos believe that the La naval de Manila continues to shelter them from harm. Devotees often testify how they survived lethal diseases and disastrous calamities though the intercession of the Native Virgin. These devotees have pledged that they will continue to give praise and thanks for the second life that the Virgin Mary has given to them.
Today, the influence of the Spaniards to the Filipinos continues to shape the culture and identity of the Philippine archipelago. And one of the most important inheritances of the Filipinos that continue to live today is their religious devotion to the La Naval. Where else can you see a population united by the love and the faith for their God? It is only through a firsthand experience of this noble and solemn feast can you truly admire such a rich Filipino culture.