Wednesday, February 22, 2017


OUR LADY OF THE HOLY ROSARY. De Jesus family. by Maximo Vicente
By Nancy T. Lu  /  Photos by Ben Santos
Originally appeared on The Sunday Time Magazine, 16 February 1969 issue. pp. 26-27

The art of decoration by means of needle and thread is an ancient one. But what remained most fascinating is the needlework done in genuine gold.

Elaborate embroideries of fine floral pattern generally adorn the vestments of religious sttaues gracing the altars and the affluent homes of today. The glitter of gold somehow never fails to catch the attemtion of the human eye because of its richness. The leaves and the flowers  as a continuous sheet of burnished metal.

Such an observation calls for a closer scrutiny leading to the discovery that gold threads and lintejuelas are used artistically for decorative purposes.

Fine needlework in the making is shown here as four trained sewers from
the shop of Maximo Vicente embroider gold designs on the silk foundation
material stretched on the embroidery frame.

Gold threads passed and sewn at intervals vary considerably in structure and quality. A closer look that they are made by winding a high-carat gold around some silk thread. Mrs. Soledad Vicente from the shop of Maximo Vicente announced that she uses only threads imported from France. This, in some ways, accounts for the forbidding cost of ordering a santo for private use or for the church.

Furthermore, the gold leafing process used, for instance, on the Our Lady of Guadalupe in Pagsanjan makes it all the more expensive but pious individuals who are devotees of the of the Blessed Mother do not exactly mind the cost.

Some four sewers expertly-trained in the artwork on the embroidery of one assignment for months. Different kinds of stitches are tried after the silk or velvet foundation material has been stretched and temporarily sewn to an embroidery frame.

Designs are patterned after  that of antiques. Enterprising sewers try out original floral patterns. In some cases, the gold embroidery is lifted from centuries-old santos and transferred elsewhere because the original foundation materials fails to survive the onslaught of time.

Embroidering in gold used to be an uncontested preoccupation of nuns in convents. Gradually, lay families took to the trade. To date the tallere de Maximo Vicente which was established in 1908, has tuned out a good number of religious images found in parishes all over the archipelago.

Its most recently-completed commissioned jobs include the Our lady of the Rosary which has a height of one meter and sixty centimeters, including the base. It was finished in time for the fiesta of San Fernando, Pampanga. An even bigger finished work is the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue, roughly 2 meters in size with a diamond studded diadem for its crowning glory.The residents of Pagsanjan are proud of it.

French-imported gold threads varying in structure and quality
are used to bring the fine floral patterns on the vestments
of our Lady of the Rosary.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


The Virgin of the Holy Rosary is one of the most popular figures depicted in Philippine religious statuaries. The most well-known is of course, the Virgen del Rosario of La Naval, housed at  the Sto. Domingo Church, whose October feast day is marked with pomp and pageantry. These Virgins of the Holy Rosary are two of the lesser-known images found in the Philippines, but which nevertheless, inspire the same fervent devotion by the faithful in the local churches where they are enshrined.

OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY, Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental
About 1870, this image of Virgen del Rosario was brought to Misamis by one Fray Roque Azcona, and enshrined it in its chapel until the present church was built in 1881. In 1883, when it was planned to replace this image with a more ornate one, a great storm arose lasting for weeks, changing the minds of the people. During the Moro uprisings in 1894 and 1901, this image was the object of the Mohammedans’ fury. Her shrine was put to flames but before it could do any appreciable damage, heavy rains fell, averting the infidels’ designs. 
OUR LADY OF THE HOLY ROSARY of Misamis Occidental today.
Photo from: Archdiocese of Ozamis website, Parishes

Our Lady is also remembered for saving the the townsfolk from an epidemic of cholera in 1881. After holding a procession in her honor, the plague suddenly ceased. Every year, on October 16, the people of Misamis observe sole,n novenas and holy Masses in honor of their Patroness who has shown Her desire to remain with them and has generously given Her heavenly aid, in their necessities.

This image of Our Lady of the Rosary was found in 1616 on the shores of Iloilo, not far from its fortress, while excavations were being made to prepare trenches for the defense of the City against an invading Dutch squadron under  the command of Admiral Spielberg, which attacked the island on 28 September 1616.

Iloilo. Photo from: Historic Old Philippines website.
The discovery of this image so inspired the defenders under the leadership of Don Diego de Quiñones that they hurled back the invaders in the battle that ensued. Today, after surviving more than three centuries, this image is venerated in the parish church of San Jose, in Iloilo.Simple but beautiful, it shows our Lady with the Child Jesus in one hand and holding out a long silver Rosary in the other. She is depicted standing on a pillar of cloud with angels attending at her feet.

Our Lady of the Rosary,Misamis Occidental:
Our Lady of the Rosary, Iloilo Old Philippines,San Jose de Placer
Marian Congress celebration Souvenir Program, 1954

Thursday, February 2, 2017

283. Marian Image: OUR LADY OF THE BARANGAY of the "Barangay sang Birhen" Movement

Sunday Times Magazine Cover, Oct. 11,1959

“Barangay Sang Birhen” was a lay Catholic movement that was started in Cadiz, Negros Oriental in 1949, by lay person Antonio Gaston with Henry del Castillo. In its frst 10 years, it had become the country’s biggest Catholic mass organization, with aims  to preserve the integrity of the Filipino family, its spiritual unity, cultural distinction and and economic self-sufficiency. By 1959, it had over 2 million member families nationwide.

From the Sta. Monica Parish Minalin FB Page

In the mid 1950s, movement leaders commissioned professional and amateur artists to paint a portrait of a Virgin that they hope would be the official image of their patroness.  None had succeeded in executing the portrait to the satisfaction of the leaders.

ARCHBISHOP  YAP, at a leadership seminar, in Negros Occidental

In 1955, Father Fixner, who ministered to the inmates of the Santa Barbara Leper Colony in Palawan, heard about the search, and presented the idea to Crisogono A. Domingo, a leper in his early 30s, whose only art background was as a laborer-helper to a house painter. He decided to take on the assignment, and, after praying 3 Hail Marys, began painting on a blank canvass.

BALINTAWAK-CLAD LADIES in a Barangay Sang Birhen procession

The finished painting showed the Mother and Child overlooking a village with groups of five houses near the seas. The artist had painted from memory a portion of the shoreline of his native Davao Gulf.  The faces of the Mother and Child were foreign, but the Lady wore the balintawak, a Philippine native dress.

LADY OF BARANGAY local gameboard. 1959

At the foot of the Lady is a rock upon which the initials BV (Barangay of the Virgin) is engraved. The houses—in groups of 5—show the primary unit of the Barangay. Five families (which correspond to the 5 mysteries of the rosary)  living in a barangay together may form a Barangay Group, headed by a cabeza. Three groups become a unit of 15 families, while three units compose a Parish Trinity, who report to the Barangay Center headed by the parish priest and an organizational body of leaders.

A CLOSER VIEW OF OUR LADY, as drawn in the gameboard.

When the painting was brought to Msgr. Emmanuel Yap of the Negros archdiocese,  the scholarly archbishop made a hurried research whether the glowing crowns over the heads of the Mother and Child were faithful to the tenets of the church. They were. He acclaimed it to be a work of art, worthy to be venerated as the image of the Barangay patroness. Thus was born the image of “Our Lady of Barangay” that we know today.

A 1960s image of our Lady of the Barangay
in an antique shop.

On January 14, 1981, the original painting was brought back to Bacolod City for the  visit of the Holy Father where the image of the Birhen Sa Barangay was personally blessed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II.
POSTCARD PHOTO: by Romy Hitosis

Since then, image in the painting has been replicated as sculpted 3-dimensional santo figures, some carved in the round, others to be dressed in the trademark balintawak dress. A shrine “Simbahan Lingin” is dedicated to Our Lady of Barangay in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

282. HOMETOWN BLUES AND 'APO TIAGO', by Blanche David-Gallardo

by Blanche David-Gallardo
Originally published on Inquirer Lifestyle/ 31 July 2016


Last night I dreamt I went—not to Manderley—but to Betis again, the fiesta and holiday haunts of my youth and childhood and my father’s hometown where, like Manderley,  my grandfather’s house is “no more… ours no longer.”

At times looming larger than life, at other times dissipating like morning mist in the harsh light of everyday reality, memories of my grandfather’s Betis home float wraithlike, as ghosts from the past.

In the dim light of faulty recall, and through the idealized prism of advancing years acutely aware of time slipping away, I can still see the 19th-century bahay-na-bato, its stone front steps leading up to the wooden upper story living areas.

Branches of a giant chico tree loomed menacingly over the rail-enclosed balcony, occasionally dropping a fruit or two with a thud in the dead of night, confirming our childhood fears that indeed, kapres inhabited the tree and the nearby towering sugar mill. 

It was there we sat, my cousins and I, whiling away lazy afternoons when we outgrew childish pranks and games.

There I learned to love that magic time between day and night, the melancholy of twilight, and discovered the first stirrings of puppy love.
The balcony opens out, through double doors and carved lintel of Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) to a vast living room. To one side stood my grandfather’s bedroom, perpetually dimly lit with flickering oil lamps and votive candles.

 Velvet finery

There the family santo—Apo Tiago, St. James the Apostle— was kept in its glass case, dressed in simple cotton garment for everyday wear, until metamorphosed for delivery to the Betis church, elegant in his gold-embroidered velvet finery, wig in place, cheeks rouged to soften the pallor of its ivory face, and picked up by several groups of marching bands for town fiestas, Holy Week observances, and/or other special occasions.

Like the year waning into shorter days and longer nights, we of the twilight generation of Betis Davids rarely “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” but rather “go gentle into that good night,” notwithstanding Dylan Thomas’s poetic counsel to his father.

Once in a great while, however, we come face to face with a facet of the past—a moment of truth, as it were—that brings together present reality with fragments of ourselves that we have long lost, like pieces of a puzzle recombining to form a whole picture.

One such occasion came for me more than a decade ago. On the eve of the of Betis district fiesta, when a handful of us cousins, remnants of the David clan from the line of my paternal grandfather Pedro Lampa David, came together for a brief, and largely impromptu, family reunion.

The group included my London-based sister Marita, who was in town for the holidays with her Canadian-born husband and their daughter Teresa, and numerous US-based cousins, home for the holidays and the town fiesta, and to attend the wedding of a nephew. 

As well, there were those of us who, like me, were living in Manila or in Pampanga, many of us no longer carrying the David family name by virtue of marriage.

The reunion was held at the home of a cousin who, through the years, has maintained her residence in Betis, at precisely the spot where our grandfather’s house once stood.  The ancestral home is long gone, as are the once extensive family land holdings.

Erratic memories
Only erratic memories remain, along with larger-than-life perceptions of the elegant four-foot-tall ivory and wood image of the town patron saint—Apo Tiago—around which the remaining generations of our branch of Betis Davids found an inspiring rallying point.

We are all, they say, a product of nature and nurture. Nature is what we are born with—the genes we inherit from our parents and ancestors. Nurture is the superimposed layer upon layer of post-natal forces that help shape us as individuals— the milieu and culture into which we are born and raised, and the attitudes, views and influences that color our world view and continue to evolve and transform us through the years.

In our instinctive search for individual identity, we forget— and sometimes deliberately reject—the roots of our “nurture” which, paradoxically, has the power to draw us back precisely to the point of our true identity as an individual.

Spared from the devastation of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, the municipality of Betis adjoins Bacolor, a town so totally devastated by lahar, only the church steeple and a reconstructed portion remains today as a reminder of where the town once stood.

The fact that the lahar flows stopped just short of Betis is a miracle attributed by townsfolk to the intervention and protection of the town’s patron saint, Apo Tiago. To this day, people from neighboring towns and districts borrow the image from my cousin Violeta—for years the family custodian—whenever any of the nearby towns or villages find themselves threatened by floods, or any other natural calamities.

Whether the statue, imported from Spain, was acquired by my grandfather, or by his father before him, is a matter of conjecture among us. But my generation of Davids and those immediately after us, grew up with the familiar sight of the image housed in its glass case in my grandfather’s darkened bedroom.

Whether we were there for the three-day town fiesta, or the weeklong Semana Santa  (Holy Week), it was the first place we headed upon arrival, to touch the hand of the image upon our foreheads, even before we greeted our grandfather and touched his hand to our forehead.

Preparing Apo Tiago for his church sojourn and the religious procession that followed, and setting him upon the gilded carrosa, decked with flowers and lights, were part of the ritual of my growing up years, an intimate portion of our life, upbringing and family traditions.

Thus it was with a rediscovered sense of belonging and oneness that, a decade ago, our assembled kith and kin awaited the marching bands that were to fetch the image from my cousin’s house and escort it to church.

Listed as a national heritage, the St. James Church of Betis is one of the oldest in the country and the only one with wooden floors.  Built by the Agustinians between 1610 and1670 in typical mission architecture, with frescoes on the ceiling, murals on the walls, and carved, gilded wooden altars and pillars, the Baroque church is also one of the country’s most beautiful.

I have often watched with a tinge of nostalgia those Italian, and/or Spanish movies depicting religious processions wending their way through narrow, winding streets, “oompah-pah” brass bands setting the funereal pace, and masses of candle-carrying devotees following hard at the heels of saintly images borne aloft on carriages, or upon the shoulders of devotees.

These are scenes straight out of my childhood, and on that eve of the San Miguel district fiesta, reality and memory came alive in what I can only describe as a “moment of grace” when we, as remnants of a now scattered branch of a Betis David clan, candles lit in the fading light, joined the marching band and the “Coraldal” dancers in escorting our Apo Tiago to the Betis church. Faith in action, glorifying the Creator through an earthly ritual.

Every few meters, the procession stopped to allow the dancers to express their exhuberance and joy before the image of St. James in a mock routine of clashing swords and shields—a reference to the mythical James who fought and triumphed over the Moors.

All along the route, people lined the streets, greeting the approach of Apo Tiago with awed reverence, or a burst of firecracker salute!  It was as I remember the event from childhood, and yet different from what I remember! I was told that my memory regarding the “Coraldal” dancers was flawed, because when we were kids, the dancers were elderly, and not the young men who perform the “Coraldal” today.

Perhaps it is only in the twilight of our years that we can appreciate—or be reinvigorated—by our half-forgotten beginnings. But I do hope that one day soon, my own children (and grandchildren) will find the time—and the inclination—to join me on a visit to Betis on the eve of a town fiesta to discover for themselves an undying family legacy that will outlive us and our generation, as it did my father and grandfather before him.

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Monday, January 16, 2017


ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, the patron saint of Baliwag, Bulacan. From
a souvenir fiesta prayer card, 1973
The San Agustin Parish Church of Baliuag stands in the town’s poblacion, an age-old church that was counded by Spanish Agustinos in 1733.  The parish was placed under the patronage of San Agustin de Hippo, as expected, and has come to be the mother church of five other parish churches in Baliwag town.

Associated with the church are three known religious images of San Agustin in varying sizes—one, a private image that used to be loaned to the church but which the family has taken to Manila; the second, a lifesize de vestir san Agustin which occupies one reredo of the church (known as San Agustin Bata), and third—the most ancient  and smallest of them all—a  3 foot  de bulto image that goes out on processions on the saint’s two feast days in May and August.

SAN AGUSTIN., an ivory replica owned by Don Allan..

The third San Agustin image is also the most familiar of them all, as it has existed as far back as one can remember. Town lore has it that this church-owned image is what is brought on processions when farmers seek divine intervention to ask for more rain for better harvests.

SAN AGUSTIN with mother, Sta. Monica.

The antique image is well-carved with just a characteristic hint of folksiness.  It sports a long beard, and is leaner than your usual San Agustins that are often depicted as stockier and with a bulkier frame. As the bishop of Hippo, the saint wears a cope, a silvered metal mitre and holds a maquette of a small church, in reference his being a Doctor of the Church. He holds with his right hand a brass baculo (crozier). It is believed that the santo once owned a set of silver accessories, but the whereabouts today are not known.
SAN AGUSTIN, Then and Now.

Every second Sunday of May and August 28, San Agustin is taken out and is borne on his flower-decorated carroza owned by Mr. Allan Tengco, who is designated as the caretaker of Baliuag’s most revered image.

FROM A PRAYER CARD, San Agustin Fiesta, 1973.

These are special days for the people of Baliuag to remember and honor their patron saint who has generously showered the town with his graces: “DAKILANG ARAW NG PAG-GUNITA KAY SAN AGUSTIN, Obispo ng Hipona, Pantas ng Simbahan, Tagapagtatag ng Orden de San Agustin (OSA), Patron ng Bayang Baliuag, ng mga Teologo, at Isang Mainam na Halimbawa ng Pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos”.

MANY THANKS to J. Alcaraz Roberto, Lance Silva, San Agustin de Baliuag Fiesta FB page,  for the use of their photos.

Sunday, January 8, 2017



Every year, in January, Quiapo becomes the center of fervent religious attention during its fiesta. The devotion revolves around a dark, life-size, cross-bearing image of Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Poóng Itím na Nazareno) that is enshrined in the district’s minor basilica.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

The image comes out thrice in a year—on New Year’s Day, on January 9, and on Good Friday. The Januaray 9 “prusisyon” is the largest of the three, when the re-enactment of the image’s solemn transfer (Traslacion) to the basilica from its original location in what is now Rizal Park.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Religious veneration of the Nazareno—so-called because Jesus is identified as having come from Nazareth, in Galilee is profoundly  rooted among Filipinos who identify with Christ’s sufferings as represented by the statue.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Alex R. Castro Photo

The black Nazareno image was brought here in a Mexican galleon which sailed from Acapulco. It was carved by an unknown Mexican sculptor  in the mid-1600s. Its dark color is not due to the black fumes of votive candles, or to being scorched by fire that occurred in the galleon  as widely believed,--but because of the dark mesquite wood used.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Because the Nazareno had attained national popularity as early as the 18th century, it has inspired replicas all over the country. The older and more popular copy belonged to the Recoletos, but this was destroyed during the last War.

Photo courtesy of Froilan Guanzon

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Today, practically every church in every Philippine town has a Nazareno image, many of which are also antiques. Outside of Quiapo, there are similar “Traslacion” processions  being carried out, using official replica images—like the one in Cagayan de Oro.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano
Overseas, copies of the Nazareno could be found in Australia and in parishes in the United States, where Filipinos gather to process their images around the church grounds.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

While Quiapo has become the focal point of homage to Christ, the Nazarene, its fiesta has also become a season for all men, for all Filipinos, a nation of worshippers still coming to grips with the conflict of God-inspired rituals and human chaos. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

279. Vanishing Traditions: DIA DE LOS TRES REYES (TATLONG HARI)


Time was when the Feast of the Epiphany or  3 Kings was a fixed date—January 6—which also marked the end of the Christmas season. With the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar,  the date has become  variable,  celebrated on the first Sunday of January.

THE 3 KINGS, part of the Nativity Set of the Three Kings Parish, Gapan, N.E.

Gapan, Nueva Ecija has the distinction of having a parish named after the 3 Kings—and, together with the Virgin Mary as Divina Pastora, are considered patron saints of the city—even if the biblical Magi are not saints. 


There are at least three sets of the kings known in Gapan—the antique, dressed festejadas that are processioned every January 6, the all-wood images in the altar of Nativity, and a set of devotional images of the Adorable family, now in the U.S.


In the Philippines, the 3 Kings were looked at as gift-givers, the way Americans looked at Santa Claus. This began in the Spanish times when the “Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos” was celebrated in Filipino homes with feasting, merry-making and gift-giving. Children would leave their buffed shoes all in arrow outside their rooms to find them stuffed with gifts the next morning—courtesy of the 3 Kings!

CASA ESPANOL'S TRES REYES MAGOS, in horseback, Manila. 1935.

The Spanish community kept the custom alive, even after the Americans introduced their own Christmas, through the efforts of Casino Español de Manila, a socio-civic-recreational club founded in 1844 for Spaniards living in Manila. On January 6, Spaniards dressed like Melchor, Gazpar and Balthazar, take to the streets lined with Spanish children to distribute gifts.

JUAN SOUCHEIRON, as Baltazar, 1935.

 Instead of camels, the Kings ride horses, wending their way as children cheer. To this day, Casino Español has continued to celebrate the 3 Kings’ gift-giving tradition without the pompous street parade, limiting the activities at the Casino de Español grounds.  The Feast of 3 Kings is also known as “Araw ng Matatanda” in the Philippines.

Vanishing Christmas Tradition, "FilipiKnow" by Alex R. Castro

“Celebration of 3 Kings”, The Philippine Free Press,  12 December 1936, p. 28-29

Many thanks to Reichardt Lionel (Richard Dino) and John Kevin Ligon for the use of their 3 Kings photos from their facebook page.

youtube: Three Kings procession, Gapan City, uploaded by nejournal, 5 January 2009. Three Kings of Gapan