The Coronation Jewels of the Santo Rosario
A love story between a Queen and a People
by Francis Jason Díaz Pérez, III
published in the Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Souvenir Program of the Foundation Day of Quezon City on October 1997 to mark the 9th Anniversary of the Canonical Coronation of the Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de la Naval de Manila.
October 5, 1907 was, in the religious history of the Philippines, an important one for Marian Devotees. On that day, the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de la Naval de Manila was canonically crowned – a pontifical concession that was unprecedented in the Far East.
As early as April 4, 1906, the people expressed their deep sentiment to have the image of La Gran Señora de Filipinas crowned canonically so the Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines, Rev. Fr. Santiago Paya, O.P., beseeched His Holiness, Pope Pius X (now a Saint) to grant the Canonical Coronation of the Santo Rosario. The letter of petition noted among other things the hope “that the devotion of the Filipino people to the Virgin of the Rosary may increase day by day, that the Blessed Mother of God may be honored, and that the faith, piety and devotion of the Filipino people may flourish.”
The subsequent approval of the Supreme Pontiff was jubilantly received by the country. The proclamation of the great event was later announced by Church authorities and furthermore, exhorted the faithful to pay her due homage: “this Pontifical concession for the honor and glory of the great lady of the Philippines, while satisfying our legitimate aspirations, bids us as the children of the Church, to surround the act of coronation with all the splendor possible and with that pomp and magnificence which great countries with deep religious sentiments have always displayed whenever it is sought to honor her who is the ornament of our hearts, the august protectress of our ventures, and the happy safeguard of our uprightness and prosperity.”
Sparked by this religious sentiment and the appeal of the National Committee for the Canonical Coronation, our people showed their love for the Queen of the Rosary and spontaneously donated jewelry, precious gems, their dearest heirlooms to become a part of the coronation jewels – assayed as the most valuable of their kind in the world. After the jewels were inventoried, the famed jewelers of the time, Gregorio Bartolome and the Macario brothers cut and set the stones. Following the design of Prof. Vicente Rivera of Letran, the famous goldsmiths of La Estrella del Norte fashioned a masterpiece, where the best stones and the noblest of metals blended into a harmonious artistic whole, proclaiming the sum and substance of our people’s love for the Queen of the Rosary.
The Santo Rosario de la Naval is said to be the richest in the country because the fire of her devotees’ love for her made it so, and even made more resplendent by our people’s unceasing faith and devotion. She has so many gems, but her wealth cannot be measured in terms of diamonds and gold alone, for in the words of Quijano de Manila “around her famous jewels – tribute of four grateful centuries – there hovers a brilliant cluster of legends, each rare stone having a romance behind it.” For offering her these gifts, be it simple or elaborate, was the outlet of that true and unadulterated spirit of homage from loving hearts. Thus had the Santo Rosario been attired as “a royal lady of the court of the Felipes” magnificently adorned, wearing exquisite vestments embroidered in gold and dazzling jewelry befitting a queen.
But these tributes are pale in comparison to the various times she made her presence felt by her people, but the fact that they were engrossed all their lives doing this for her is, the gift that she treasures most dearly. Shown here unmistakably was the pure quality of her devotees’ sentiments for her, the strength of their faith and devotion. It is not the external glitter that counts but the evermore shining example of undampened ardor that matters.
On the 5th of October, 1907, her subjects found their way to Intramuros. In solemn procession the Santo Rosario was escorted by her thousands upon thousands of faithful devotees from Santo Domingo to the special platform erected by the side of the monument to Ferdinand Magellan close to the former Intendencia Building. The faithful upon seeing her face recalls the recorded miracles brought by the Queen of the Rosary: the sick were made whole and the dying and the dead brought back to life with the touch of her mantle, or the holy water in her shrine or by praying before her.
On that day as the faithful crowd raised their prayers of thanksgiving to her, that act of faith signified, too, how her devotees pledged themselves to offer her lasting homage in recognition of her loving intercession as they recall the two galleons emerging triumphant over the superior Dutch forces. That victory, indeed, meant much to them. Were it not for the Virgin how could the defenders have triumphed over the enemy? But, because she was their Protectress, the Islands were saved from being overrun by the Dutch hordes. The battle cry of the defenders remained in the hearts of our people for in times of need, they would utter the prayers of the soldiers of La Naval de Manila invoking her intercession: “Long live the Faith of Christ and His Mother, the Queen of the Rosary!”
As Providence would have it, at that time, the American Governor General of the Philippines James F. Smith, was a Roman Catholic. He, therefore, could very well stand as a sponsor in representation of our people without doing violence to his conscience or dampening the warmth of our own faith on that momentous occasion “replete with elaborate ceremonies of a regal function and yet somber with the solemn rituals of the Church.”
The heavens rejoiced with us and wept. What started as a drizzle soon became a torrent. Yet the ceremonies went on as scheduled. The Apostolic Delegate, Most Rev. Ambrosio Aguis, OSB, received the two dazzling bejeweled crowns from the Governor General. He placed the first on the Child and the second on the Mother, amidst the deafening shout and applause of those present and the tolling of church bells, as if to voice out for all to hear the promise of her Filipino beneficiaries to remain what they had always been throughout the years – her children and the children of her Son.
How much must have been Our Lady’s joy then, seeing so great a crowd before her and acclaiming her Queen? And, her people, in this solemn occasion, have exerted their best efforts to manifest their undying faith and devotion to her. Rich and poor, elite and workman – all of them were in attendance to express how deep-rooted was their love to the Santo Rosario.
This monumental story of love will continue to be told through the ensuing years as the faithful cease not to gather around her as they are held by the bond which ties together in harmony the children of but one Mother, the wards of but one Custodian. Such will be the unchanging relationship between a loving Queen and her faithful subjects. It is a love story which will continue to be told to generations more to come, but even when it may be told so often, never will it lose its flavor, ever enduring and always fresh. And, those who will relate them, as well as those to whom it will be told will not fail to feel that responsive chord in their hearts so tugged, so that, whenever any opportunity arises, there will be that urge to come and that willingness to render tribute due to an ever solicitous Queen and devoted Mother.
On the 90th year of the Canonical Coronation of Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de la Naval de Manila, that pledge of love and devotion will be renewed, perhaps with less splendor but certainly with greater fire. As the Santo Rosario steps out once again in the “procesión de las procesiones”, let us all take a second look at her coronation jewels. It is not the run-down version of a tiara or diadem. It is indeed more than just a set of crowns.
It is a people’s faith, a people’s love, and a people’s dream, all compounded into an external manifestation, as brightly dazzling and warm and palpitating and soaring as the Filipino devotion to Mary most holy, the Lady of the Rosary, Queen and Mother of the Philippines.