Saturday, June 13, 2015


Artist, painter, culinary chef, restaurateur, watercolorist, furniture designer, food and travel columnist, award-winning author, furniture designer, antique collector--there are so many hats that  Claude Moises Tayag (born 1956, Angeles City, Philippines) wear, and the great thing about him is, he wears them so well--making him a master of everything that he chooses to venture in.

But this Kapampangan "Renaissance Man" describes himself as a self-taught artist, a passion he indulged in as an architecture and economics student at the University of the Philippines. Mentored by another great Kapampangan artist and literary giant, Emilio "Abe" Aguilar Cruz, Claude (pronounced as "Cloud") acquired a taste for all aspects of the creative arts, spurred by his collecting interest--Philippine colonial santos.

Claude started collecting antique miniature santos; he put a ceiling to the height of santos he would buy--no more than 8 inches tall. He would sadly walk away if a santo that initially caught his fancy measured more than 8 inches, and he stuck to this collecting discipline, amassing these Lilliputian santos slowly, but surely.

In fact, they were his inspirations in 1978, when he first barged into the Manila art circuit. Claude exhibited his vivid watercolor santo paintings, collated in a folio of plates, now just as collectible as his artworks.

His art grew to include paintings of Philippine festivals, the landscapes of the northern highlands--all vibrantly painted with characteristic spontaneity and vigor. But though he put on hold his santo collecting, his love for these folk images--he was partial also to primitive carvings--never waned.

In his spacious "Bale Dutung" (House of Wood) in an Angeles subdivision, Claude keeps his collection on a large antique table. The centerpiece urna is flanked by santos--mostly of heavy wood-- of all titles and patronages--but all under 8 inches.

There are Ninos and Virgins, heads of saints and tableaus, mostly with Bohol provenance (santos from this province are typically small, painted with folksy colors and carved from heavy wood.

It is interesting to note that in 2015, Claude returned to his first love--watercolor painting. When he took up his brush again, it came as no surprised that he chose for his subjects once more--colonial folk santos, no less!

On this spread are some santos from his fabulous, but well-selected collection. I had the privilege to personally view them some years ago, when he and lovely wife, Mary Ann, hosted a small dinner for his high school batchmates--which included me! Proud Class of 1973 of Sacred Heart Seminary (now Chevalier School) in Angeles City.

Here we are at the Golden Anniversary of our high school, where we were both named outstanding alumni of  Sacred Heart. Beyond collecting santos...we also collect memories!

Saturday, June 6, 2015


The Santa Misericordia of Angeles is owned by the Evangelistas of this city, known for their pioneering telecom business. It was commissioned by Don Roman Bernardo Evangelista and his wife Dona Francisca Dizon Dela Resma, along with another statue intended for the La Naval celebration—the image of San Miguel Arcangel.

 The Misericordia was completed in 1907 to honor the birth of the couple’s youngest son, Santos Evangelista, while the San Miguel, given to the eldest son, Domingo Sr., was inaugurated in 1916.

The Santa Misericordia, also locally known as “Macapacu Qng Cruz”or the Crucifixion, is a tableaux that depicts figure of the crucified Christ flanked by San Juan and the Mater Dolorosa. Interestingly, there are two other characters atop the ladder another horse-riding soldier positioned at the back of the cross.

With all these santo figures, the Misericordia looks more like another scene known as The Descent from the Cross (El Sagrado Descendemiento), in which San Nicodemus and San Jose Arimathea are shown bringing down the body of Christ from the cross. Could it be that the two figures on the ladder were later additions to transform the Crucifixion into a Descendemiento tableau?

 In the past, Angeles’ Sta. Veronica, for example, is converted into a Sta. Salome on Holy Thursday. I have also seen two-faced Virgins so that using the same body, the image can either be a Dolorous Virgin and a Joyful Virgin, with just a twist of the head.

When the Misericordia was completed, it was given to the care of Don Ramon’s only daughter, Leonora Evangelista (Panlilio) and the aforementioned youngest son, Santos. When the Evangelista siblings passed away, Jesus and Zon Gopiao, became the caretakers of the carroza.

When not in use, the santos and their carrozas are stored in a spacious room designed expressly for their safekeeping.

 Today, the children of Leonor-- Gerry, Mary Ann Panlilio Reyes and William Panlilio, plus the 3rd generation members of the clan—continue the family tradition of caring for these beloved family heirlooms. They regularly participate in the annual Lenten rites of the city of Angeles.

I wish to thank Mr. Ira Jay Evangelista for the pictures and Mr. Josel Suarez for the bacground of the images, both of whom are descendants of Don Roman Evangelista.

Friday, May 22, 2015


IMMACULATE TRANSACTION. This spectacular Immaculate Conception of over 3 feet, appeared for sale on ebay from dealer "robacus" or "losantiguos", who was allegedly involved in church theft sometime in 2003-04.. The case was later dismissed.

This spread of fabulous santos appeared on the ebay page of Rory Bacus, who sold antique santos under the name "robacus" and "losantiguos". After some objects were found in his house, the Cebu archdiocese sued the dealer for fencing various religious artifacts in October 2003.

In April of the next year, a decision was handed down by the Cebu Regional Trial Court dismissing the case against Bacus.

Regional Trial Court Judge Ireneo Lee Gako Jr., in a Feb. 20 order, exonerated  Bacus of the charges of violating the Anti-Fencing Law. The court also ordered the release of 278 religious icons and artifacts to Bacus.

The dismissal of the case greatly disappointed Church officials who expressed their disgust over the outcome of the case. Fr. Carlito Pono, head of the Commission on the Cultural Heritage of the Church, admitted that while some of the parishes that reportedly lost icons had refused to cooperate, others could not find any evidence to prove ownership of the stolen items.

While the case was dragging, Bacus returned to eba,  although this time around, his posted items were smaller, primitive santos--the kinds one can readily find in downtown Manila antique shops.

Ninos, such as these, obviously carried by bigger santo figures like San Antonio, Virgen del Rosario, etc. were also listed on ebay. Some were sold, others withdrawn for sale even after a winning bid had been placed. The dealer sent explanatory messages to the effect that the item had been sold in an antique fair and that he had forgotten.

The noted antique dealer, Rory Bacus, passed away, sometime in 2013. The whereabouts of his remaining antique santo stock remains unknown.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


SEÑOR DESMAYADO OF THE DYCO FAMILY, Guagua. Photo by Dr. Raymund Feliciano.

In Guagua, Pampanga, the last time the processional image of Christ sprawled and tied to a column was processioned, was in 1942. The Dyco family that owned it had decided that the image was going to be an heirloom to be bequeathed to descendants, so for a long time, it was kept at home. A fire that razed its carroza sealed the fate of the treasured Desmayado. It would take 62 years for the image to be processed again, coming out for the Lenten rites only in 2004, borne on a carroza obtained fortunately from the L.M. Subdivision chapel.

 The antique Desmayado image itself was commissioned by one of Guagua’s leading citizen, Don Tiburcio Dyco, carved by hand in 1882 by the accomplished sculptor, Sotero Dionisio Garcia (b. 12 Apr. 1844/ d. 10 Jun. 1917) of Quiapo, Manila. The young Sotero trained under the tutelage of Jose Arevalo, and, after mastering the craft of woodcarving, he set up his own taller at the entresuelo of his house along Sta. Rosa St. With the help of Juan Sales who helped source projects for his shop, Garcia started to receive important commissions for religious statuaries, carrozas, retablos and altar pieces.

Some of his known works include the four figures on the façade of the Manila Cathedral; the statues of Saints Peter, Paul, and the Immaculate Conception enshrined in the central niches of the same Cathedral; the images of Sta. Maria Magdalena, San Juan, Veronica and Oracion en el Huerto (Agony in the Garden) at the Recoleto Church of Manila.,

For the Dycos, he carved a most expressive Desmayado—a figure of an exhausted Christ, writhing on the floor, his left arm tied to a pillar by the wrist, his body bloodied and covered with welts. Christ’s s eyes are drawn up in supplication, his mouth agape, grimacing from his indescribable torture.

 Five years after its carving, the Dyco patriarch decided to add three “Hudyo”soldiers to surround the fallen Christ figure. The task fell to Eulogio V. Garcia, son of Sotero with Petrona Velarde, who carved the characters in 1887, inscribing the neck with the date and his name. The heads and hands of these figures are still extant, but with bodies gone; they are no longer in use.

 The elder Garcia became a local politico, served several terms as gobernadorcillo, and eventually turned over his religious statuary business to Eulogio. Eulogio would go on to become a successful carver and sculptor, as his father.

 Today, as in the past, the Desmayado of the Dycos-Carreon—along with the Santo Sepulcro of the Ynfante-Velez family, the Mater Dolorosa of Limson—are among the Guagua’s most revered and most prized objects of veneration, around whom the devotion of the old town revolves, all during the days of the Holy Week.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


HEADS WILL ROLL. All these exquisite antique santo heads from the Philippines were auctioned off on ebay, by the controversial antique dealer, Rory Bacus. The fate of unsold santos remain unknown. 

One of the most controversial dealers of Philippine religious antiquities was the late Rory Bacus of Cebu, who listed his business as an exporter-importer of woodcarvings. In the early 2000s, Rory Bacus, under the name "robacus", posted regularly on the international auction site, ebay, many religious artifacts, examples of which are shown here on this page.

Bacus has been associated with the loss of many old religious images from Cebu parishes, which includes figures of Virgen Dolorosa, Baby Jesus of Mount Carmel, San Jose, Nazareno and Sta. Monica, from the Santa Monica Parish in Dalaguete, Cebu.

These, along with 158 icons, including 58 crucifixes and other sacred artifacts, were recovered in a raid conducted in the house of Bacus in late April 2003. Bacus had also been allegedly involved in the disappearances of many images from different churches in and outside Cebu.

In October 2003, the Archdiocese of Cebu charged the noted antique dealer of fencing various religious artifacts. Included in the complaint at the City Prosecutor’s Office was an affidavit of Rosa Navarro, the treasurer of the Badian pastoral council who testified that she was able to recognize a cherubim icon, among the  icons seized by the police from Bacus’ house in a previous May 2003 raid.

On April 25, 2003, prior to the serving of the search warrant, the police were also able to retrieve ten antique religious icons at a house in Guizo, Mandaue City, reportedly owned by Bacus. Agapito Torrentira, councilor of Inabanga town in Bohol, and barangay captain Emiliano Divino, of the same place, came to Cebu and identified two of the icons recovered as among those stolen from barangay Cambitoon chapel, of the town.

A second police raid conducted later yielded  the images of San Isidro Labrador, San Agustin, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, verified by the 2 Bohol officials as items stolen from their place.Carcar residents, Josefina Roldan, Angeliza Tanodtanod, and Silvina Francisco had also stated that they had identified another icon from Bacus, as the one stolen from a chapel in barangay Perrelos of the town.

However, Bacus’' lawyer had earlier questioned the search that the police had conducted, arguing that they used a general warrant, which was not specific as to what objects will be searched. The lawyer also contended that the police were not able to establish that icons seized were indeed stolen, as alleged. She said those icons could not be declared as illegally possessed if there is no evidence to show these were stolen somewhere. (TO BE CONTINUED)

All pictures were grabbed and saved from actual postings on ebay between 2000-2003.

Monday, April 20, 2015


EL STO. ENTIERRO DE GUAGUA. Considered as one ofthe most beautiful and most opulent in the country, the Sto. Entierro of the Velez-Ynfante Family is shown here during the Good Friday procession in 20__, Phot courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano.

 The Santo Entierro of Guagua has been the soul of the Velez family over the last 250 years. It takes a week to prepare, polish, assemble, clean and light up this elaborate silver carroza for the Good Friday procession. 150 volunteers are chosen each year from the Barangay Santa Filomena, Guagua to serve the Senor Milagroso.

The Santo Entierro in its magnificent calandra, in 1949. Picture source: Budhi: A Journal of Ideas and Culture, Vol. X, No. 2, 2006. "Guagua to Quiapo", by Ramon Ma. Zaragoza. p. 22 

Sampaguita garlands are the only floral decorations allowed. When lighted candles proved to be unsafe for the crowds during the procession, electric lights were installed in the virinas of the carroza, requiring power from 11 heavy duty truck batteries. In addition, thirty violinists volunteer their services. The image of Jesus in repose is reputed to be the most beautiful of its kind in the country.

Saturday, April 4, 2015



The original image of Apalit's Sta. Maria Magdalena had ivory head and hands, owned by Dr. Joaquin Gonzales (+1900) and Florencia Rodriguez Sioco (+1925). This 120 cm. Magdalena had her owned giltwood carroza. Bot image and carroza were inherited by their son, Augusto Sioco Gonzalez, who married Rosario "Charing" Arnedo, daughter of Pampanga's provincial governor, Macario Arnedo.

According to the recollections of the late father of descendant Mr. Toto Gonzalez, this original Magdalena was capeless; it was dressed entirely in embroidered burgundy velvet. It had a tiara of silver as well as a perfume bottle. Her accessories included real gold and diamond jewelry --- earrings, necklace, ring, and bracelets. It was always dressed by the female retainers of the family (never by the family members themselves) and was kept assembled the whole year through inside its glass case in a guest room filled with ivory santos in virinas.

This  Gonzalez-owned Sta. Maria Magdalena was unfortunately destroyed when the Americans dropped a bomb on the Gonzalez house in barrio Sulipan where Japanese army trucks were parked
(the bomb was actually intended for the Apalit bridge) on New Year's Day, 01 January 1942.

After the war, in late 1945, Dna. Charing commissioned "Talleres de Maximo Vicente"  to make a new Magdalena image and carroza, for Apalit, to replaced the lost ivory image. Maximo Vicente asked Charing Gonzalez for a photo of the original Magdalena but she had none; she simply gave him carte blanche to produce one. The result is a beautifully carved wooden image with an expressive face and hands, with an "encarna" that made her look Jewish. She stood at 5'6" tall without the 4" base.

The famed santero arrayed her with long hair of "jusi", a burgundy vestida and golden yellow cape with brass flowers dipped in silver then gold, and a double-plated (silver and gold) tiara. She holds her attribute, a  glass perfume bottle,  Vicente also provided a classical wooden carroza with silver-plated brass decorations and 1940s milk glass virinas. Mr. Toto Gonzalez remains the current caretaker of this exquisite Sta. Maria Magdalena, and she continues to lend her regal presence in the annual Holy Week processions of Apalit.

(Many thanks to Mr. Toto Gonzalez for providing the background information on Apalit's Sta. Maria Magdalena, and to Dr. Jojo Valencia for the 1973 photo.)