Santo Domingo Church, A National Cultural Treasure

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The Dominicans in the Philippines have known it all along, but now, it’s official: Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City, Philippines is now a National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines. Dr. Jeremy Barns, the Director of the National Museum, made the declaration on October 4, 2012, coinciding with the enthronement rites for Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval.

The National Museum in its citation mentioned that the Church, “possess(es) outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is significant and important to the country”, among them the works of National Artist Carlos Botong Francisco, various liturgical objects that testify to the heritage of the nation, and of course, the image of Our Lady, the oldest Marian image in the country. The Church itself is a testimony to the development of modern architecture in the Philippines, having been designed by the foremost architect of the post-war era, Arch. Jose Zaragoza.

A good number of dignitaries graced the occasion: Sen. Edgargo Angara, Mayor Herbert Bautista, Ms. Lourdes Zaragoza Bauzon, the daughter of the architect, and officials from the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and Arts. Congratulations to Br. Gaspar R. Sigaya, OP, Conventual and Provincial Archivist, as well as the brothers of Santo Domingo Convent, for this milestone in the history of the church.

Acceptance Message

The Honorable Officials of the National Museum, the National Archives of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts,

The Honorable Government Officials here present

Distinguished Friends, Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In the name of the fathers and brothers of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, I accept, with great honor and profound gratitude, the Public Declaration of Santo Domingo Church as a National Cultural Treasure.

What are the implications of this official acknowledgement by the Philippine Government? In addition to the provisions of Republic Act 10066, today’s public declaration also means that when you pray here in Santo Domingo, you commune with God inside a national treasure; when you fall asleep while praying, you are taking some rest in a cultural treasure; when you get married in this beautiful church, you make your solemn vows inside a sanctuary valued by the entire nation; when you donate to the restoration of the stained glass windows, you contribute both to the Church and the Nation, for this house of God is also a national treasure; when you die and your relatives inter your ashes in one of the niches at Sactuario de Santo Domingo attached to this church, you finally become part of the treasure of the nation!

Although the entire Santo Domingo Church and its liturgical objects are declared national cultural treasures, the image of Our Lady of the Rosary La Naval de Manila is the main treasure of this church. Our Lady makes us one people. We can pray the rosary in the privacy of our room but it sure feels a lot better to pray it with others in this beautiful church where we know and feel we belong. When we do so, we are not just in communion with everyone here present. For when we prayerfully gaze upon the image of Our Lady of the Rosary, we are looking at the very same image those soldiers beheld after the miraculous battle four centuries ago; the same image in whose presence the Dominican missionaries, including San Lorenzo Ruiz, prayed the Salve Regina before going to missions in China and Japan; the same image beheld and prayed to by countless devotees through the centuries. When we lovingly look at her beauty and grandeur, it is as though we are in communion, we become one with all those who looked at her with love and devotion through the centuries, who gazed at her the way we do now.

However, in a more profound way, we realize that the real crown and jewels of the Virgin and the gems of this church are the ardent love and devotion lavished upon the Blessed Mother and her son Jesus by countless generations. The miraculous naval victory in Manila bay, the numerous  experiences of healing, inspiration and help attributed to Mary’s intercession form part of the precious treasures of this church. Jesus wisely tells us in the Gospel of Matthew (6:21) For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. When the government declared this church as a national cultural treasure, the government acknowledged where the heart of the nation ought to be. The faith of our people is a treasure that neither moth nor rust can destroy, that no thief can ever steal.

Ang ating pananampalataya at pag-ibig kay Jesus at pagmamahal kay Maria ang katangi-tanging yaman ng ating lahi. Nagpapasalamat po ako kay Padre Giuseppe Arsciwals, OP, Prior ng Santo Domingo at kay Padre Gaspar Sigaya, OP, Archivist, mga kapatid kong Dominiko na siyang nagpunyagi upang maitanghal ang Santo Domingo bilang natatanging kultural na yaman ng Pilipinas. At muli po kaming nagpapasalamat sa ating pamahalaan, sa pamamagitan ng National Museum, sa pagkilala sa buong Santo Domingo bilang yaman ng ating bayan. “Sapagkat kung saan naroroon ang iyong kayamanan, naroroon din ang iyong puso” (Mateo 6:21).

Fr. Gerard F. P.Timoner III, OP

Prior Provincial

Acceptance Message

October 4, 2012