HomeManilavol. 5 no. 1 (2009)

The Intangible Heritage of Pre-War Manila: The Santo Domingo Images, Rites and Rituals

Romeo B. Galang Jr.

Discipline: History



Intangible heritage is defined by UNESCO as “the practices, expressions, knowledge and skills that people recognize as part of their cultural heritage.” This paper will focus on the rituals and festive events which were celebrated in the former Santo Domingo Church in Manila, drawing upon the various insights provided by the UNESCO Conventions. The historical events and disasters in Manila will be seen against the practices in Santo Domingo in order to show how the images, rites and rituals, specifically the La Naval and the Good Friday processions, were relevant to the people’s way of life. In pre-war Manila, very few of the great celebrations rival the richness of traditions and multiplicity of meanings which were an inherent part of these rituals. The images were not just objects of ritual devotions. They are also a testament to the historical events in the country, like during the Spanish-Dutch Wars (17th century) and in times of natural disasters. They show other aspects of political life, like that of the great patron of Santo Domingo, Governor General Luis Dasmariñas. They reveal the wealth of Manila as an entrepôt in the midst of the galleon route, as seen in the fabulous oriental products that flowed into the capital. These various aspects were unraveled, when during the great feasts, the images were brought out in processions, which had come to define Manila’s pre-war calendar. They were once a cultural heritage that were the products of the political, economic, religious and social life of Manila.