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).
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.
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.
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.