A batel was plying its usual route from Mindoro to Manila when it encountered a strong typhoon. The big merchant’s boat was battered by strong winds and tossed around by giant waves. Great terror engulfed the crewmen as water entered their boat. Their only recourse is to tie themselves to the boat to avoid being thrown overboard. Their captain, as he checked the goods that could be saved from the terrible storm, saw the image of the Virgin Mary. The sight of Our Mother moved him to pray for her help. He promised that he will build a chapel in her honor as soon as they landed safely to the shore.
The stormy night was followed by a sunny morning and calm sea. The crew found themselves along the shores of Sitio Mojon (now called as Barrio Muzon) of Barrio Salinas-Marsella. Knowing that their prayers were answered, the boat crew built a makeshift chapel out of bamboo and the altar was made from the lumber of their boat. The crew entrusted the chapel and the image of Virgen del Rosario to the people of Mojon.
I didn’t know that image of Mama Mary at the altar of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Queen of the Caracol Church in Rosario, Cavite has a very interesting story. That image came to the people out of the storm and it served as the beacon of faith and hope to the people.
Since the makeshift chapel is not a good place for a miraculous image, the townspeople built a new church for it. That church is fittingly placed under the patronage of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.
Salinas-Marsella was once part of the town of San Francisco de Malabon (now known as General Trias). Salinas means salt beds while Marsella is the Spanish word for the seaside French town of Merseille. Salinas-Marsella is famous for its salt beds that lined up it shore. The barrio produces clean salt that were traded in the province of Cavite and Manila.
Salinas-Marsella became a separate town in 1845 by the order of Governor General Don Narciso Claveria y Zaldua. The new town was named as Rosario, which fits the townspeople’s deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.
|Old photo of Rosario Church. (Source: Rosario Church website)|
The age of the church is obvious. Its walls made of adobe blocks and the façade harks back to the Spanish period. However, based on the old photos the church, the porch and the bell tower were later additions.
According to historical accounts, the first parish priest of Rosario is a native Filipino. He is Don Mamerto Ner Mariano. Unfortunately, he was later on replaced by a Spanish priest from the order of Augustinian Recollects. The change was made under a royal decree and was meant to stem the tide of nationalism that is sweeping through the whole Philippines. It was a futile decree since it alienated the natives and illustrados because they considered it as proof of unfair treatment by the Spanish government against native Filipinos. The move, in fact, resulted to the creation of a schismatic sect called the Aglipayans.
Just like old churches in the Philippines, the church in Rosario became witness to the historical events of the town. During the height of oppression by the friars, many Caviteños turned to banditry and ransacked the church and even the houses of the poor people of Rosario. On April 1, 1987 the members of Katipunan burned the church. During the Filipino-American War, the convent of the church was used as camp of the Filipino soldiers. Fortunately, this church was spared during the Second World War.
I found the church of Rosario to be quite narrow but with a long aisle. The lack of space was compensated by side pews that are outside of the main body of the church. The side pews were not only meant for additional seats but also a space where devotees can do homage to the miraculous image of the Virgen del Rosario, who is also called as the Queen of the Snail.
Actually, the Virgin Mary’s title in Rosario is Nuestra Seῆora del Santisimo Rosario de Caracol. Mary was given this title because of the snail paced procession held by the townspeople in her honor.
|People celebrating the feast Reina de Caracol (Source: Rosario Church website).|
The Caracol begins at the church wherein the Virgin Mary’s miraculous image is borne on the shoulders of her devotees. Hundreds of people from Rosario and neighboring towns participate by dancing to the tune of fandango. The image is later on boarded on a beautifully decorated boat that will pass along the shores of the town. The fluvial procession ends at Barrio Muzon, as if to commemorate the first landing of the Marian image on that very site.
I was awed the first time that I saw Virgin Mary’s image in Rosario Church. I didn’t know the history of that church that time but I know that there is something worth knowing about her image at the altar. I just found it weird that the altar was covered during my visit. Old photos show that Rosario Church’s altar is beautiful.
|(Source: Rosario Church website)|
The side pews to the left of the main church faces directly to the tabernacle. I was disappointed when I saw this. The tabernacle should be placed at the altar and not at the sides.
Well, I guess placing the tabernacle at the side is a common practice in Cavite. I have seen the church in Noveleta where the tabernacle was also placed at the side.
Rev. Fr. Virgilio Saenz Mendoza, former assistant parish priest of Rosario, lamented that the old values and tradition of the town are dying. The rapid industrialization of the town and the entry of people from various parts of the Philippines, and the emigration of native residents of Rosario to other countries caused the change of values of the town. The devotion to Nuestra Seῆora del Santisimo Rosario de Caracol is getting weak and the town’s feast is no longer as festive as in the past. The younger generation are no longer interested with the Caracol.
It is sad that centuries old tradition is doomed to extinction. But I guess the whole Philippines is experiencing this. It is a challenge to the Church to make the faith valued again. I do hope that Catholics will move faster than a caracol to achieve this.
Information about the Rosario Church came from the website of the The Most Holy Rosary Parish (Rosario, Cavite)