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Visita Iglesia (2023): Santa Rosa de Lima Church (Santa Rosa, Laguna)

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During the Second World War, when Japanese soldiers ravaged the land, residents of the lowlands of Laguna claimed that a lady in black and white appeared to them and told them to seek refuge in the town of Santa Rosa. They said that the lady told them that they will not go hungry because rice and fish are plentiful in the town of Santa Rosa. Upon reaching Santa Rosa, they realized that the lady who talked to them is Santa Rosa de Lima, who is the patron saint of the town. This story is just one of the miracles of Santa Rosa de Lima for the residents of the town named after her.

Statue of Santa Rosa de Lima Church at Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

Santa Rosa de Lima Church is the oldest church in Santa Rosa City. In fact, the church’s history is intimately connected to the city's history because the church was established with the town.

Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

Santa Rosa de Lima Church, just like in the typical old towns of the Philippines, is located at the center of the town beside the plaza and the government buildings. The church is now partially covered by Santa Rosa City’s Rizal Park.

Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The church started as a visita of Bucol, which is the old name of Santa Rosa when it was still a barrio of Biñan. The construction of the current church structure began in 1790 by the Spanish Dominican friars, who recruited Chinese laborers for the project. It is claimed that the old Chinese families in Santa Rosa descended from these Chinese laborers.

Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The construction was finished in 1792 and the Dominican friars selected Santa Rosa de Lima, also a Dominican, as the patroness of the new parish. Simultaneously, Barrio Bucol was also made a new municipio or municipality of Santa Rosa on January 18, 1792.

Bicentennial Plaque of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The first Mass honoring Santa Rosa de Lima in the new church was done on August 30, 1812 by Fray Francisco Favie, who was the first parish priest of the new town. August 30 is formerly the feast day for Santa Rosa de Lima.

I felt the centuries of history when I visited Santa Rosa de Lima Church. It is clear by just looking at its exterior that it is a very old church. The walls are of adobe blocks, which is similar to the ones used in the much older Saint Polycarp Church in Cabuyao. However, unlike the Cabuyao Church with a big bell tower, Santa Rosa de Lima Church has a smaller and less prominent bell tower.

Bell tower of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

I read that Santa Rosa de Lima Church has 8 majestic bells, with each of them having their own name.

The facade is made of gray adobe blocks, which is typical of the churches made during the Spanish period.

Facade of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The facade features the four Evangelists and other saints. I think at the top is the image of the Virgin Mary.

San Juan and San Marcos at Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

In front of the church is the statue of Santa Rosa de Lima flanked by the statues of Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Martin de Porres, and two other saints.

Statue of Santa Rosa de Lima at Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The statues of Santa Rosa and other saints were erected to commemorate the visits of two ambassadors of Peru. The first Peruvian ambassador who visited was Victor Aritomi-Shinto in 1999 and the second one was Julio Cardenas in 2000.

Commeration plaque for the visit of Peruvian Ambassadors to Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The church’s door is simple, not as ornate as the ones in Manila Cathedral or San Agustin Church in Intramuros.

Door of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The church is cavernous and much spacious compared to Balibago Church.

Inside Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

What immediately caught my attention upon entrance to the church are the tombstones on the wall.

Tomb of Perfecta Custodio in Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

I consider tombstones on the wall as proof that a church is old. The practice of burial of the dead inside the church was a common practice during the Spanish Period. Such practice was discontinued during the American Period when the Americans instituted their health and sanitary laws that prohibited burial of the dead within the church premises.

The oldest tombstone that I saw is dated March 28, 1898.

Tomb of Marcella Caballo de Perlas in Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

It is Holy Week when I visited so all of the images, excluding the Crucified Jesus, are veiled. 

Altar of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

What’s interesting is that the parish kept the altar rails in front of the altar. The rails are used to separate the pews from the holiest part of the church.

Altar and rails of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

Another purpose of the rails is this is where the faithful kneel to receive the Holy Communion. Note of the kneelers in front of the altar rails.

The painting of the four Evangelists on the ceiling reminded of the similar painting in St. Polycarp Church of Cabuyao.

Painting of the 4 Evangelists of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

On the side ceiling are the paintings of the apostles.

Paintings of the Apostles of Jesus in Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

At the end of the ceiling is the image of Judas Iscariote. The word “Iscariote” was painted over but I can still read it. 

Painting of San Juan and Judas Iscariote in Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

The image is definitely of the traitor because it is the only whose name is not preceded by an S., which is the abbreviation for the Spanish word "San" or saint in English. I guess this is the only church where Judas Iscariot was depicted positively.

The current paintings on the ceiling are not the original ones. It is said that the original paintings were great attractions from 1923 to 1960. The said paintings, which featured the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Coronation of the Apostles, San Roque, and other Biblical scenes and saints, are comparable to the ceiling paintings of Quiapo Church. The original paintings were removed because they were destroyed by old age and bats. The only original paintings that remained are those of King David and Saint Cecilia at the choir loft. I do hope that these remaining paintings will be preserved.

The old paintings were replaced by the modern giant electric fans!

At the side is the spiral staircase to the choir loft.

Spiral Staircase of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

Sadly, the caretakers of the church did not permit to climb up the stairs to have good look of the choir loft and the remaining original paintings.

The church also has the baptistry that has a marble baptismal font, an image of Jesus holding a thurible, Santo Entierro, and the veiled replica of the Pieta.

Things inside the Baptistry of Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

My visit to Santa Rosa de Lima Church was just short. But in that brief time I felt the intensity of history that the church represents. The church of Santa Rosa de Lima is the witness to the birth of the town, its sufferings during wars, and its growth into a city that touts itself as the Lion City of the South.

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Visita Iglesia is a Catholic tradition of visiting seven or fourteen churches during Maundy Thursday. For each day, this Holy Week, I will feature one church as a sort of virtual Visita Iglesia.

Read about the churches that I visited this year

Palm Sunday: Immaculate Conception Church in Concepcion Uno, Marikina

Holy Monday: Santo Niño de Paz Chapel in Greenbelt, Makati

Fig Tuesday: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel in SM Makati

Spy Wednesday: Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

Maundy Thursday: Saint John Paul II Chapel in NAIA Terminal 3

Good Friday: Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo, Manila

Black Saturday: Quiapo Church in Manila


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References:

1. A Brief History: The Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church in the Santa Rosa de Lima Parish

2. Santa Rosa City Laguna: Lion City of the South

3. City Government of Santa Rosa, Laguna

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