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Saint Rose of The Lagoon (Santa Rosa, La Laguna)

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Much of La Laguna’s towns were Franciscan frontier. But among a handful of its picturesque towns, the now bustling City of Santa Rosa earns the distinction of being a Dominican haven. The hardy Order of Preachers gave it the distinguished name of Santa Rosa, named after that young and beautiful beata from Lima, Perú, Isabel Flores de Oliva (some sources say Isabel de Herrera).

Santa Rosa de Lima por Claudio Coello.

Born on 20 April 1586, her name was changed to Rosa a decade later, owing to a claim that her face miraculously transformed into a rose when she was still a child. Later on, she modeled her life to that of St. Catherine of Siena. And as a testament of her linkage to everything holy, Rosa was confirmed by another blessed hispanic: Turibius of Mongrovejo, the Archbishop of Lima.

Despite being one of the most beautiful women of her time, Rosa was often disturbed by that fact. Surprisingly, she treated her beauty to be a distraction and a magnet for temptation especially since at an early age, she had already decided to give her life only to Christ Jesus. To remedy it, she disfigured her face with pepper and lye! Like other mystics and beatas, she also practised corporal mortification and fasting, focusing her mind to prayer.

It is said that beauty invites temptations, and Rosa was no exception to it. As a woman of exceptional beauty, she did many strange things to ward of temptation — aside from rubbing her face with pepper and lye, she cut off her long hair, did manual labor to make her delicate hands rough, wore coarse clothing, etc. And to finally defeat the temptation to get married, she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic, thus taking a vow of perpetual virginity.

After a brief life of holiness, the Lord gave her eternal rest on 24 August 1617. Fifty years later, on 15 April 1667, she was beatified by Pope Clement IX and was finally canonized on 12 April 1671 by Pope Clement X. Rose became the first Catholic in the Americas to be declared a saint.

A statue of St. Rose of Lima fronting the parish church of Santa Rosa City, La Laguna province.

The Dominican missionaries who arrived and preached in Barrio Bucol of Tabuco (later to be known as Cabuyao), La Laguna brought with them the Peruvian saint’s memory and legacy. And when the said barrio separated from Tabuco some time in the late 1600s, it was renamed after Saint Rose of Lima. But the municipality itself was formally founded on 15 January 1792.

Today, Santa Rosa is a bustling first-class city, proud of bearing the nickname “The Investment Capital of South Luzón” due to its many multinational companies and industrial estates, popular malls, as well as high-end residential communities. It is also the home of the world-class Enchanted Kingdom, a 17-hectare theme park.

Truly, this once picturesque Hispanic town –once tinged with pastoral scenes of fresh farmlands, cool forested areas, and a crystal-clear Laguna de Bay– has gone a long way. Sadly, the “curse” of cityhood which sprang forth from nearby Metro Manila (air pollution, congestion, greed and criminality, etc.) has crept up. Nevertheless, Santa Rosa still has retained vestiges of its former beauty through its remaining Antillean houses which still stand around the handsome old church of Santa Rosa de Lima.

Here are the pictures which I took of Santa Rosa’s oldest parts last Easter Sunday (04/04/2010) with my daughter Krystal.

The Santa Rosa Arch.

Iglesia de Santa Rosa de Lima.

Gusaling Museo.

Santa Rosa de Lima Parish Church, since 1792.

A jampacked Easter Sunday mass.

An image of St. Rose (holding an infant Jesus) of Lima, Perú. The town (now a city) of Santa Rosa was named after her.

Paintings of apostles at the ceiling of the church's west transept.

The handsome retablo.

Paintings of the four gospel (New Testament) chroniclers underneath the cupola.

Young choir singers behind Krystal (by the east transept).

Gravestones in Spanish. Gravestones are a usual sight inside old Philippine churches. They are installed inside the sidewalls in honor of a church's patron/donor.

At the choirloft. Many choirlofts today are no longer used for what they are supposed to be.

Inside the churchtower. I was hoping that perhaps renowned metallurgist Hilarión Sunico, who lived during the Spanish times, cast those bells. Krystal and I found out that he actually did, and that they are still in use after all these years!!!

Sunico's bell overlooking the town and the lake yonder.

More or less 75% of church bells inside old Philippine churches were cast in Sunico's home in Calle Jaboneros, San Nicolás, Manila.

Unafraid of heights!

The old municipio, now a museum.

Casa Zavalla.

Casa Zavalla.

Casa Tiongco.

Casa Perla.

Another Zavalla house.

Pahiñgá muna. =) But hey, do you see another bahay na bató casualty in the background? Adding insult to injury, campaign posters were posted on the exterior walls. Talk about double murder! Anyway, I think those Langháp Saráp peeps should pay me for this photo. Seriously!

And yes, UnionBank should pay me too, LOL!!!

But seriously, this UnionBank branch should be commended for preserving this bahay na bató. Good job, folks!

Casa Gonzales. This was the home of Basilio Gonzales, a local Katipunan leader who successfully invaded the townhall in 29 May 1898, eventually becoming the leader of the town until the American invaders arrived. What goes around comes around.

What a travesty. But that carving over the gate...

...what does it mean? Cornucopia?

That electrical post is an eyesore. So much for city planning.

An old house with another queer symbol on top of it.

SM City Santa Rosa.

Here’s hoping that the city government of Santa Rosa will also strongly focus on its town’s namesake (and how come it is not a sister city of Lima, Perú?). Although the city bears no roses nor beatas, its holy name still evokes its holy Dominican origins. Aside from Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Rose of Lima is also the Philippines’ patron saint. And may that fact bring around a multifaith sentiment among the people of Santa Rosa City.


22 responses »

  1. Pingback: Global Voices in English » Philippines: Santa Rosa City Photos

  2. Pingback: Tabuco (Cabuyao, La Laguna) « FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES

  3. I like history and love to see photos of years ago. Thank you for sharing these photos of Santa Rosa. My wife Myrna Tiongco comes from Santa Rosa. I have been in that Casa Tiongco many times. I will surely show these photos to her.

    The bells in the church tower, cast by Hilario Sunico reminds me of my youth in Malolos, Bulacan when we climbed up the church tower with the sacristan to ring the bells for the Angelus. And the lapidas on the church walls, a reminder of the Spanish era – Great and thanks again.


  4. This is great, thanks…After a year and half of living in the technopark side of Sta. Rosa from Manila, my family and I finally got to see the town plaza today, a Sunday. Had been wanting to visit the museo. Unfortunately, they are open only Mondays to Fridays. (Museums are usually open weekends and closed Mondays, so this is different and sad for local tourism, I think)

    Got glimpses of some of the old houses and saw Casa Zavalla. We just drove by today, and plan on returning to see more of the houses and museum and church soon. It’s just a drag having to go on busy weekdays though, with busy traffic and tricycle exhaust.

    After seeing those houses, we got excited to research and found your blog.

    Good info on the bells! Felt lucky to hear them as we stopped by the church. Nice feeling. I kept saying “kampana”, and I never really use that word.

    Part of our quest was to find the Sta. Rosa delicacies like “mochi” and “kinilaw na puso ng saging” written about in the Inquirer last year in relation to a My City My SM advertorial. NOBODY we asked along the road–food vendors and shopkeepers, knew what these were or who makes them! We stopped by SM to check the food court, but they only had the usual franchises found in any SM. The SM information ladies tried to help but had no clue either. So, I guess you can add the loss of local delicacies to the urbanization of Sta. Rosa…
    (Mr. Pena if your wife can tell us who sells these delicacies…thanks”)


    • Thanks Ginger for the letter. I happened to read it only now already more than a year since you posted it. I am Pat Gomez of Sta. Rosa Delima Subd. Bgy. Ibaba, Sta. Rosa Laguna. My wife, Alice Alitagtag-Gomez is the one who prepared and catered the “mochi” and “kinilaw na puso ng saging” featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer for the My SM My City event in Sta. Rosa in 2010. She was featured also in Food Magazine April 2010 issue for these Sta. Rosa delicacies. Last October 03, 2011, she was again featured in Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho episode of GMA7 for these kind of food.

      Thanks for your interest in native Sta. Rosa delicacies. Our restaurant ALICE FOODHAUS is just located at the back of Union Bank, opposite Jollibee, on the same road as Casa Gonzales. Although the mochi and kinilaw na puso ng saging are now not common daily food, Alice can prepare them on order basis. You can contact us at:

      Alice Foodhaus
      Tel. No. (049) 534-36-43
      Mobile: (0927) 217-7377


  5. Pingback: Bay, the lake’s padrino (Bay, La Laguna) « FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES

  6. Great photos you got here. It really shows how beautiful our city is (except for the electrical wires around Brgy. Malusak. I love the concept of your website. Thank you so much. I appreciate all the photos you uploaded.


  7. Can’t imagine how nice our ‘old’ town of Santa Rosa was transformed into a magnificent new city of the modern times. Loved the new parish church renovation. During my years back then at our town, we usually play kite flying at the patio of the church. How I wish to return and settle again at our hometown.

    Some of the old houses are still familiar especially those Spanish houses near the church.

    However, can’t you publish pictures of some BIG companies, great subdivisions, and new schools and all public and business establishments that made Santa Rosa into a city?


  8. I’ve been a resident for quite a short time in sta rosa & have fond memories to cherish.proud to be a volunteer catechist for 7 years & an active parishioner of sta rosa de lima parish.I trully missed those days,the place & its people especially my friends.


  9. The name of the bellcaster is Hilario Chanuangco – Sunico y Santos


  10. Hello sir. Casa Perla I believe should be Casa Perlas. The owner of the house is Philip Perlas, my mom’s second degree cousin – Minette (Perlas) Coronel – Castañeda.


  11. Pingback: The Seven Lakes of San Pablo, La Laguna « FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES

  12. Only one picture really caught my attention and it is Unionbank. Thanks for posting UBPH unique bank in the world hehe. I always recommend this fastest and safest bank in the Philippines. You did a great job!


  13. Casa Zavalla (the one across Casa Tiongco) was built in 1876 I think. That house holds a lot of good memories for me & my cousins. We often visited Lolo Inggo (Domingo Tiongco Zavalla) & Lola Salud (Tiongco Carteciano-Zavalla) after Sunday masses at the Sta. Rosa de Lima Parish Church. Up to now, we still hold our annual Zavalla clan Christmas Day reunion luncheon at that house. 🙂


  14. Fr. Gabriel Ma. Delfino

    Salamat po sa mga larawan ng mga bahay sa Santa Rosa. Yung ilan na walang captions are: Arambulo House, Avenido House, Delfino House and Lacerna House (Union Bank). Taga-Santa Rosa po ako. Umuuwi pa rin weekly. Have talked with some of the owners. Poverty of the owners and the nation + lack of cultural-historical education are the reasons for their neglect. Fr. Gabby, Church Historian


    • Hi Fr. Gabby.

      We already met last year. Me and Ronald Yu interviewed you for the coffee table book that I am writing. The information you shared with us is truly valuable and has helped me a lot in framing the main chapter (general history).

      Are you still in Loñgos? Or are you now assigned in another parish?

      Thank you for your time to reply here.

      Best regards,


  15. What a wonderfull city!! Greetings from Lima, Peru to our brother of Santa Rosa la Laguna. I feel so happy to know about you. When I was a child always heard , that Santa Rosa de Lima was officially declare Patron Saint of Lima, Peru, America and The Filipinas, but never I saw any celebrations in your country about Santa Rosa. So, do they celebrate her? Here in Lima, is holiday. I hope you can tell me more about this celebration in the Filipinas… Thanks


  16. Jose R. Velasco

    My gratitude to the Author of this post Pls contact me Thanks Jose 🙂


  17. Hello!, I’m peruvian. It’s a great feeling to see a Saint from my country is respected in other part of the world so far away from here. I really hope to visit the Philippines soon. Awesome post Pepe!


  18. im from Binan, Laguna now based in Qatar. Your blog made me appreciate Laguna more. So much of information and history. Keep it up. 🙂 God bless. I’ll be reading more posts.



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