Friday, December 17, 2010


By Arwin Paul Lingat and Peter Joseph Nepomuceno

(originally published in Singsing Magazine, Folk Arts Issue)

The early processions of our ancestors used ‘andas’, platform-decorated floats borne on the shoulders by 2 or 4 people. Eventually, in the middle of the 19th century, economic growth paved the way for the people to build big churches, enabling them to provide their ‘santos’ with more elaborate processional floats vestments and accessories.

Pampanga is a good example of how new-found economic affluence changed the religious rituals of the province. It is very common for rich families here to award their santos, land titles of their own, most of which are farmlands, to help with the upkeep and defray the expenses for the annual processions. It was also a common practice for devotees (‘namamanata’) to give jewelry as a form of thanksgiving for prayers answered and wishes granted.

It was also around this time that ‘andas’ were converted into ‘carrozas’, by mounting them on wheels. Another term used in the Philippines is ‘caro’ (Spanish for ‘expensive’, but others say it is a diminutive of ‘caruaje’, a carriage).

There are of course, different types of processional carrozas, and in recent years, they have been given coined terms to best describe these types.

OCHOVADO: The name is derived from the basic carroza shape that has eight sides, with one or two layers. It is probably the most common shape, as it was easy to mass-produce. It is the most versatile among carrozas as it can be used for almost any single santo.

CAKE: No traditional name exists for this type of carroza; the contemporary term is ‘cake’, because of its layered look, and its similarity to a traditional birthday cake. Eight or ten-sided, with two to three layers of graduating sizes. The layers can be executed ‘lusutan’ style (open fretwork) or paneled with ‘pukpok’ (beaten metal) sheets.

PLATFORM: Rectangular in shape, colloquially called ‘basketball court’. The flat top is good for 2 or more figures and is the most familiar type of carroza seen in Southern Spain, Mexico and Latin American countries.

CALANDRA: A funeral carroza used exclusively by the Santo Entierro (Christ lying in state) on Good Friday processions. It is patterned after the horse-drawn funeral coaches of Europe. Extant examples from the early 20th century can still be found in the Philippines.

TRIUMPHAL: Commonly referred to as ‘chariot’, this 20th century invention that is inspired by the shape of a grand chariot is the equivalent of a stretch limousine for the grandest of santos. The triumphal is usually reserved for the Blessed Virgin Mary and also for certain Cristo images like the Santo Niño and the Cristo Resucitado. Examples of this type of carroza can be found in the Kapampangan region, northern Bulacan and Bataan and western Nueva Ecija. There are Tagalog versions, often copied from the Pampanga examples, but are flatter, and more sled-like.

The triumphal carroza can also mimic the shape of a galleon, hence some variations are called ‘balsa’ (boat or a ship). These elaborate carrozas were thought to be adapted from Spain, but the style is virtually unknown in that country. In fact, one pre-War issue of Excelsior magazine featured a triumphal carroza from Intramuros bearing the image of La Milagrosa which Europeans raved about.


1. Sayal – carroza skirt to conceal the wheels of the carroza.
2. Sobresayal – an overskirt, usually of lace, placed over the sayal.
3. Sinepa – the borderline between the sayal and the carroza body
4. Pescante – branches of light around the carroza, usually equipped with virinas (glass globes) in which candles or lights are placed.
5. Albortante – branch of a candelabra

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