An antique dealer in Padre Faura sent me this cellphone photo of two ivory-faced santos for my consideration. I was drawn, of course, to the San Jose, which, despite being just a mask and without hands and base (it had been put on an old polychromed base) showed some promise to me. The clincher, of course, was the price, which was more than reasonable—surprising for a shop that is known to have pricey stuffs.
I was already happy with my San Jose find, intending to have it restored. On my way out, I casually asked him to be on the look-out for a small ivory Niño. To my delight, he brought out another santo fragment—a small ivory Niño head that was set on a new, grotesquely chubby wooden body.
Immediately, I had an idea—what if I can have this San Jose assembled with a Christ Child instead? I checked the proportions and the two ivory faces were a match! For just a few thousands more, I went out of the shop with both a San Jose and a Niño Jesus!
To Dr. Raffy Lopez, I did go next, of course, the santo restorer who had been helping me fix my broken santos for years now. I brought with him an unpainted antique base which I had kept in my baul, and Raffy immediately sent this to one of his contractors for painting and gilding.
When he set the San Jose and the Niño on the repaired base—the two looked comfortable up there! The San Jose body quickly underwent restoration—new ivory hands were carved and set on wire armature arms. The Niño’s body was whittled down to its proper size. Meanwhile, work began on the vestments. We decided on an olive green color for the robe and a light brown colored cape for San Jose. The design drew inspiration from gothic lines.
As always, wigs and metalworks (halo, potencias and flowered staff) were ordered from the workshop of Dodong Azares. Just a few weeks later, the assembly was complete and the amazing results are shown on this page.
My San Jose and Niño Jesus are now encased in a hurricane glass shade (locally called “coca cola virina”) that I found separately in another shop, with a replaced base and topper.
I am glad I bought these santos, and even happier that I had them restored and preserved, and they are proofs that everything—and that includes even damaged, cheap, and seemingly ugly santos--have divine possibilities.