Faith and Spirituality

La Naval, church of 1646 naval victory, prays for West Philippine Sea

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

La Naval, church of 1646 naval victory, prays for West Philippine Sea

LA NAVAL. Santo Domingo Church is formally known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary - La Naval de Manila.

Patrick Dominick Romero/La Naval de Manila

La Naval de Manila, a shrine that honors a 17th-century victory against Dutch invaders, releases an ‘oratio imperata in times of grave tension’

More than three centuries before China fired water cannons on Filipino ships, historic battles between two naval forces erupted in Philippine waters. 

In 1646, the Protestant Dutch sought to invade the Philippines, which had been a colony of Catholic Spain for eight decades at that time. (The Philippines would be a Spanish colony for more than 300 years.)

The Dutch launched five attacks against the Spaniards between April and October 1646, recounted Christina Lee’s Saints of Resistance, quoting a 1693 account by Baltasar de Santa Cruz. The battles took place in Bolinao, Lubang, Marinduque, Mariveles, and Mindoro – and in each battle, the Dutch dwarfed the Spaniards in terms of ships, weapons, and personnel.

Spain, however, eventually claimed a miraculous victory – which they attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary, later called the “La Naval” in memory of this naval battle. A historic church, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval de Manila, better known as the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City – now stands in her honor.

Fast-forward to 2024, in the face of China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea, the La Naval shrine is storming the heavens again. 

On Facebook, La Naval de Manila recently released an “oratio imperata (obligatory prayer) in times of grave tension” in the West Philippine Sea.

The obligatory prayer – often read at the end of the Mass – seeks “peace over that part of our islands and waters,” as well as “wisdom and understanding” for Filipino leaders so that they can “resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue.” It calls the La Naval the “protectress of the Philippines and patroness of the Philippine Navy.”

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The oratio imperata reflects the growing concern of Filipinos, including the religious sector, about the West Philippine Sea dispute. Around 76% of Filipino adults “perceive China as a country that poses the greatest threat to the Philippines,” according to an OCTA Research survey released on June 5.

One of the Philippines’ most prominent Catholic leaders, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, recently launched a 50-day rosary campaign to defend the Philippines from China. The campaign runs from June 27 until August 15.

Hmm, but will prayers help?

In non-religious terms, at least, these efforts bring the West Philippine Sea more into the national consciousness. Everyone’s help is needed. As former navy vice commander Rommel Jude Ong wrote in a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler, the Philippines should respond “as one team, one nation.” 

Certainly a moment, too, for prayer warriors. 


For those interested, below is the full text of the oratio imperata released by La Naval de Manila:

‘Oratio imperata’ in times of grave tension

O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, the sky and the seas, look kindly on us, your children of the Philippine islands, our home, now beset with tensions over our West Philippine Sea.

We pray to you for peace over that part of our islands and waters. We pray that questions over it may be resolved through justice and respect for people’s rights.

We pray that no harm be done to our marine creatures and habitat. We pray that our fellow Filipinos protecting our islands and seas be kept safe from natural and man-made disasters.

Loving God, you are wonderful Creator, our generous Provider of good things. Send your Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding to our leaders that they resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue. 

Help us all to remain faithful to your Word and obedient to your Will always. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval de Manila, protectress of the Philippines and patroness of the Philippine Navy, pray for us!

– Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.