Rosario Cantada: Prayer Through Music
Have you ever heard that the rosary can be prayed in a different manner? Apart from reciting the prayers, the saying the rosary can be done by singing all the prayers. In the heritage and historic city of Malolos, there is an old tradition of praying the rosary by singing it known as the Rosario Cantada.
Although not all parishes in the city still practice this, this tradition is still alive many parishes like the Parish of the Nuestra Senora del Carmen known as Barasoain Church, and the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion known as the Malolos Cathedral. It is good to know that nowadays, even if this is becoming “forgotten”, there are people who are exerting extra effort in order to revive and make this known to many.
A few years ago, when I attended the closing ceremony of the Marian exhibit in the City of Malolos, one of the highlights was the recitation of the holy rosary in the cantada. I do not have any idea on what a Rosario Cantada is until I heard the choir sang the first ‘Virgen Divino‘ for the first mystery of the holy rosary. I was amazed by the song that is why I tried my best to find a music sheet of the said song. After the said event, I became more curious about the Rosario Cantada in Malolos.
A Series of Songs
Rosario Cantada is the literal Spanish translation of sung rosary. This tradition is usually done during the 9-day novena to the Patron, fiesta, special occasions, and even during wakes and babang luksa. Rosario Cantada is just like the traditional recitation of the rosary. What made it different is there are songs between each mysteries. It is the recitation of the holy rosary wherein before the Pater Noster and the beginning of every mystery, a song is being sung known as Virgen Divino.
The Virgen Divino is a short song/prayer to the Blessed Virgin. During the praying of the rosario cantada, the choir will sing a total of 6 Virgen Divinos. 5 are being sung at the beginning of the 5 mysteries. The last Virgen Divino is sung at the end of the 5th mystery. The finale and the longest part of the rosario cantada is the Letania Ala Virgen (the Litany of the Virgin Mary). The singing of a Virgen Divino usually lasts for 1-3 minutes, while the Letania alone usually lasts for 10 minutes.
This is usually practiced in Malolos as part of the nobenario in preparation for the town fiesta in honor of the Immaculate Concepcion. Check out this short catecism shared by the page of the Diocese: Rosario Cantada.
The recitation of the rosary in the cantada way is not only practiced in Malolos. Actually, in provinces such as Rizal and Batangas, one can also hear the rosario cantada. However, a unique and interesting thing about the Malolenos’ Rosario Cantada is there is a wide range of Virgen Divinos to choose from. There are at least 10 different versions of the Virgen Divino. Although the lyrics are all the same, each piece is different o the other in terms of the tone.
After I heard the rosario cantada for the first time in my life a few years ago, I became more curious and interested in it. I asked my mom who is an organist at Barasoain Church to ask for a copy of the rosario cantada from her mentors. Thankfully, we found a copy music sheet of the rosario cantada! There are 10 Virgen Divinos and the Letania Ala Virgen. I am not sure about who the composer and the arranger is.
As you can see from the scanned copy of the Letania Ala Virgen, the composer or maybe the arranger is a certain “Battman”. One can see a mark on the last page of the sheet of the Letania Ala Virgen saying “M.V. Torralba May 18 ’50”. I am also not sure if “M.V. Torralba” is the composer or the arranger.
Based on the facts that I have learned about the Malolenos’s rosario cantada, I can say that it is truly a tradition that needs to be revived and promoted, or else it might be forgotten and gone forever. The challenge now is to keep it alive so that the future generations can also hear and experience this beautiful tradition of prayer through the music of the Malolenos.