My Good Friday pilgrimage to religious sites near Mega Manila has become an annual personal tradition that started with my unplanned 2013 visit to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan. Followed by Regina RICA in Tanay, Rizal and Kamay Ni Hesus in Lucban, Quezon last year.
This year, I have decided to look for pilgrimage sites in Metro Manila that are of great religious importance and are often overlooked because, well, a lot of Catholics who lives in Metro Manila prefers to go out of town and mix summer outing, road trips and religious obligations during the Holy Week. For some, the long travel is also part of the devotion, and I tend to agree that pilgrimage sites outside Metro Manila seems to invoke a more authentic religious experience for those who embarks on the journey.
However, there are still some churches here in Metro Manila that may come as a surprise to many pilgrims. Like for example the three shrines that are in the Vicareate of San Pedro Bautista under the Diocese of Cubao in Quezon City.
My journey starts at the most known among the three – The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila or the Santo Domingo Church.
Located along Quezon Avenue near G. Araneta Avenue in Quezon City, Santo Domingo Church was built in 1954 but the origin of the original church can be traced back to 1587 when the Dominican Friars erected a small chapel in honor of the miraculous image of the Our Lady of the Rosary from Mexico. The image however and the original church was lost to natural calamities.
The image of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila that is currently enshrined in Santo Domingo was carved by a Chinese artisan convert who gave the image as gift to the Dominicans. Believed to be the oldest ivory carving in the Philippines, it once rested at one of the churches in Intramuros and was later transferred to the Santissimo Rosario Church at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) after it has survived World War II devastations.
The image was enshrined to the new Santo Domingo Church in 1957 and was proclaimed as the patroness of Quezon City during her Feast on October 1973. The National Museum declared in 2012 Santo Domingo Church and the Shrine of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila as National Cultural Treasure.
Now aside from the enshrined image, Santo Domingo Church is also an architectural wonder. Once called as the biggest church in Metro Manila and one of the biggest in Asia, it’s modern baronial design was made by then UST architectural student Jose Ma. Zaragoza. The giant relief of Santo Domingo at the facade was designed by italian sculptor Francesco Monti while a high relief of the story of La Naval welcomes catholic pilgrims at the main entrance.
The nave of the church features the murals of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco depicting the life of Santo Domingo while artist Vicente García Llamas’ murals of the four evangelists. Galo Ocampo made the stained glass windows depicting the different ecclesiastical seals, the original 15 Stations of the Holy Rosary as well as the Battle of Lepanto and La Naval de Manila, and the martyrdoms of San Vicente Liem de la Paz and San Francisco Capillas.
During Good Friday, Santo Domingo Church is also known for its grand commemoration of the Seven Last Words of Jesus which is televised nationwide. Aside from Baclaran Church or the National Shrine of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Santo Domingo is also a favorite place for confessions and solemn reflections during the Holy Week.
The church of Santo Domingo also has its own museum (Museo de Santo Domingo), a Dominican Library and a columbarium complex called ‘Sanctuario De Santo Domingo.’ It also has a big courtyard as well as a new building called San Pio V near the Church’s main exit.
I’ll visit the Museo de Santo Domingo some other time. NEXT stop is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes!