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Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Iloilo

Four hundred years ago, on September 30, 1616, the statue of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, now venerated in San Jose Church, Iloilo City was discovered among the debris in the Cotta, known as “Fuerte San Pedro.” This discovery was made on the evening of that day by Don Diego Quiñones, a leader of the small garrison of Spaniards and Ilonggos manning and defending the Fort then under the heavy attack by a very large Dutch Force which was determined to take possession of the Philippine Islands.

This happy finding was looked upon as good sign of success in the then-raging battle. After three days of unequal and bitter fighting, the enemy fleet fled at full sail, leaving behind on the battlefield 80 dead and hundreds wounded.

Among the defenders of the Fort were two Augustinian Priests, Father Jeronimo de Arevalo and Father Juan de Morales, who bolstered their morale and rendered them spiritual help. When the battle was over, the two priests organized a religious procession to carry the statue of Our Lady of triumph into the chapel, which was established in the Fortress with the permission of General Alfonso Fajardo.

Veneration to the newly found statue immediately followed and soon they proclaimed the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary as the Patroness and Mediatrix of Iloilo. For over three centuries now devotees of this City have been paying homage to our Blessed Mother under this title.

The Cofradia del Santo Rosario was organized with the soldiers of the two companies of Spaniards and Ilonggos as nucleus. Favours from our Lady began to flow and devotions to her grew in such a way that it extended beyond city limits in no time. Also due to the ardent and loving zeal of the army chaplains and a Jesuit priest, who later came to help, this devotion soon spread all over Panay and Negros Islands. Wherefrom, the whole year round, pilgrims come to pay homage to and in a most fitting manner, venerate the Blessed Lady by their prayers and supplications for which many received great and instant favours.

The statue was enthroned in the present San Jose Church soon after its construction. Ever since Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary has been venerated there.

Through the efforts of the then parish priest, Father Ambrosio Galindez, OSA, and the members of the Cofradia del Santo Rosario, a replica of this venerable image was erected at Fort San Pedro, on the very place where it was found and was unveiled and blessed on September 13, 1970 by the late Most Reverend Jose Ma. Cuenco, Archbishop of Jaro, Iloilo City.

Finally on October 11, 1970, this same image was canonically crowned by His Eminence, Julio Cardinal Rosales, then Metropolitan Archbishop of Cebu. [1]

The crowning happened on a Sunday, which is the traditional day of the celebration in San Jose Parish in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary.

By tradition, the celebration of the feast of the Holy Rosary is the following Sunday after the church-sanctioned celebration every October 7.

Members of the Cofradia dela Santisimo Rosario lead the novena prayers.
Members of the Cofradia dela Santisimo Rosario lead the novena masses at the San Jose Parish Placer.

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the world starting in 2019, religious activities resumed. Consequently, the celebration of the feast of the Holy Rosary in San Jose Parish now observes the church-sanctioned celebration of October 7, which started in 2022 during the time of Fr. Vicente Renchie Senoro, OSA as parish priest (2021-2024).  

There are only two religious activities organized by the parish in honor of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary: one is the holding of a nine-day novena mass leading to the feast day, which is presided over by the Augustinian pastors, and the other one is the procession on the feast day.

The original image of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, enshrined at the retablo menor on the right side of the main altar, is neither being brought out from its glass case nor included in the annual procession. This is to secure and preserve the integrity of the centuries-old image.

[1]Decree of Coronation of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary as Patroness and Mediatrix of the City of Iloilo printed in the book Salve Regina, On Crowning Images of the Virgin Mary by Michael P. Delos Reyes

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