Wednesday, March 21, 2012

102. My First Processional Santo: STA. MARIA DE BETANIA

by Ian Ocampo Flora

As child, I have always been fascinated by santos. Growing up in the conservative and rustic Sta. Rita town, these images of veneration are a constant in every facet of our community life as Roman Catholics.

My childhood is replete with memories of helping in the dressing of santos for the Holy Week procession or during novenarios for the feast days of various saints. I would always stand in owe whenever I see santos riding their magnificent silver carrozas at the old paglimbunan (processional route) in our town poblacion where they are flanked by a seemingly endless sea of candle lights.

Old clans in our town, aside priding themselves of having produced the most number of priests or being a long time member of a church laity organization, old families also pride themselves of being caretakers of the most exquisite heirloom santos that are the center of veneration during the Lenten week processions.

Even today, there has been a surge of interest in owning a processional santo in our town. But today, the ownership of processional images is no longer exclusive to the rich clans.

A couple of hairdresser friends have in fact joined the Holy Week procession last year which again awakened in me that childhood interest of having my own processional image. I have been collecting old santos and house antiques but have never gotten to acquiring my own processional image.

Though our clan is the caretaker of a couple of images, no one can claim sole ownership and decisions pertaining to the upkeep of the images are always decided by old members of the clan.
So in August of 2011, I started the preparation for my own processional image. I knew for a fact that having one requires substantial funds available along with constant consultation with santo enthusiasts to ensure that I would be guided in the right direction.

For the image, Presidential Merit Awardee for Ecclesiastical Art sculptor Willy Layug of Betis was the unanimous choice. There were other santeros that were suggested but most agree that Layug is by far more consistent in terms of quality and artistry of work. However, some collectors have already given me a heads-up about the price tag. Layug’s almost life-like works come with a price. Unmoved, I decided to test my luck.

Fortunately, in one tribute event for an artist that I was covering, I managed to bump into Layug and discussed with him my desire for an image. The discussion was frank and straight to the point; I stated to him my reasons for wanting an image and blurted out the “unrealistic budget” that I had at that time. Amazingly, he agreed!

The next day, I had an early morning meeting over coffee with Maestro Willy Layug at his home cum workshop in Sta. Ursula in Guagua's Betis District. I told him that I wanted an image of Mary of Bethany.

We discussed how the image would turnout. My inputs were primarily on the dimensions of the image. I wanted it tall; with Spanish features and with hair fully carved into the head (I had childhood fears of bald santos). The santa should be set in an andarol with hands, body and proportions following a santo specification that Layug had adapted from his recent trip to a workshop in Spain.

Regardless of his extremely busy schedule, Tatang Willy managed to squeeze time for the image in between his more important and bigger projects. I only visited him trice to look at the progress of the image and on my third visit what greeted me took my breath away. Willy did not fail to deliver for image was indeed beautiful.

Willy had it personally placed into its body and even threw in a base for the image which was not part of our earlier agreement. That same day, I came home with my very own santa.
I posted the pictures of the head on a social networking site and comments began coming in. Santo enthusiasts were eager to suggest ideas for the vestments and pukpok that would best fit the image.

I decided to skip work the next day and started working on the design for the halo and contacted names given by santo enthusiasts. For the pukpok, Patrick Guina Banal, a veteran of Marian Exhibits, wisely advised me to skip known artists and instead scout for the lesser known craftsmen in Apalit town.

I managed to get the service of a craftsman in Colgante, Apalit had my personally designed halo made for only P2,000 and managed to haggle for a medium-sized diadem for P1, 000.

For the vestments, I had the specifications of the image sent to a well-kown burdadera in Bulacan but was told that the santas vestments won’t be finished until May. Rop Syquia of Maimalan came to the rescue and orchestrated a viste hebrEa EnSeMbLe tHat would serve as my santa’s day-to-day clothing while awaiting the Bulacan vestments.

Photographer Ruston Banal managed to show up after the image was dressed and took majestic images of my new santa all set and ready for the coming Holy Week procession.

Days before the Holy Week procession, the image was already visited by a couple of santo collectors and enthusiasts who have seen her photos on a social networking site.

My Sta. Maria de Betania is now housed in a special room in our farm home in Sta. Rita. Each morning, I would stop by the room and spend a few minutes admiring her beauty realizing that despite the cost and trouble of worrying on how to give justice to a wondrous piece of religious art, she was all worth the effort.
Owner: Ian Ocampo Flora
Sculptor:Willy Tadeo Layug
Halo and Diadem:Patrick Glenn Guina Banal
Vesturera: Rop Syquia(Viste Hebrea theme)
Photography: Ruston Banal
Creative inputs: Alex R. Castro, Jeffrey Popatco
Image details: Height is at 5' 7" (170 cm) (5' 10" or 178 cm with base) Spanish features, fully carved head with hair tied in a bun. Crescent gold band holds carved hair together. Proportioned upper body set in an andarol. Movable hands following a Spanish santo design. Halo design patterned after an antique Sta. Cecilia image.
Commission Date: August 2011 to March 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

101. Filipino Holy Week Practices: SALUBONG

By Armando P. Rubin
(Taken from 'The Philippines Herald Magazine', 17 April 1965 issue, p. 7)

PROSESION NG PASKO NG PAGKABUHAY, Pandaka, Maynila, 4 April 1926

One of the most enchanting of local traditions is the “Salubong” (meeting) which is actually a reenactment of the sequence or hymn for Easter Sunday: “Speak Mary, declaring what thou sawest wayfaring”. The entire procession at the first flush of dawn is an elaborate portrayal of “what Mary sawest”.

What takes place on Easter Easter morn is one of the most unique and beautiful dramatizations of the ‘meeting’ ever conceived. In many towns of Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan, just outside Manila, the colorful custom survives. Long before dawn, the village is astir with preparations for the spectacular event. Wit incredible ingenuity, the drama and pageantry of the miracle of Easter starts to unfold.

PROSESION NG PASKO NG PAGKABUHAY, Pandaka, Maynila, 4 April 1926

At early dawn, the “salubong” or meeting of the risen Christ and His Sorrowing Mother is reenacted. Two processions issue from separate church doors, one composed of males and headed by the figure of Christ, the other composed of females led by the image of the Virgin Mary. The processions converge on the town plaza, where the main rites take place.

Brass trumpets blare forth. As soon as the notes die down, a ceremonial dance called “bate” begins. This is performed by young girls on top of a platform facing the images. The dance is followed by the “tula” or declamation of verses in praise of the Virgin.

Immediately after the “birds” come sliding down along the wires, piercing a papier-mache heart which opens up to reveal a little girl or “angel” dressed in white, two of the birds glide along the wires onto a bag of confetti which they tear open with their beaks, spilling the contents on the dancers below.

In a series of rapid movements, the angel is lowered, lifts the veil from the Virgin Mary, is pulled up again while a censer is swung, perfuming the air. The Virgin Mary stands revealed in splendid glory, her rich robe sparkling in the sun.

The band plays on, and the little angel sings the “Alleluia”, all the while scattering rose petals on the images below, bringing this elaborate spectacle to a close. In the evening, the people flock to the last performance of the ‘senaculo’, which officially ends the Lenten Season.


The two principal images of the “Salubong” are that of the Risen Christ (Resurrecion) and the Virgin Mary (Virgen de Alegria).

FIGURES OF RESURRECTED CHRIST AND MARY, Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, Pandakan, Maynila.
Most antique “Resurreccion” images are small in stature, a little over 3 feet in height. It depicts the figure of Christ resurrected, right arm raised in blessing, the other arm holding his standard. He is usually shown bare from the waist up, displaying his wounds, and wearing an embroidered “tapiz”. He can also be shown caped and sashed, for modesty’s sake. The Christ figure stands on a cloud base to symbolize His rise and passage from his earthly death.

The shrouded image of Mary represents her at her moment of sorrow. When the mourning veil is lifted, we see her joyful expression, hence the “Virgen de Alegria” (regarded as the opposite of Virgen Dolorosa). She is shown standing, with clasped hands or crossed hands over Her chest. Most of the time, the standard image of the Immaculate Conception is used for this purpose.

100. SANTOS MILAGROSOS: Miracle-Working Saint Figures

Since time immemorial, Christian history is replete with extraordinary accounts of sacred images involved in unexplained and supernatural happenings—statues weeping, bleeding, walking and talking while providing divine cures for all sorts of diseases while converting sinners and bringing them back to the Christian fold. Through the years, there have also been reports of ‘miracles’ associated with Philippine santos as these photographic evidence show, creating mass hysteria in their time and developing cult followings that many continue to this day.


In Barrio Tikay, Malolos, province of Bulacan, a spring miraculously appeared in the mid 1920s at the back of the ‘visita’ that was attributed to a San Pedro figure housed in the small chapel. The visita became a local shrine of some sorts, visited by devotees and the sick who bathed and drank the water from the site in the hope of finding a cure, much like the waters of Lourdes. The spring is still there to this day.


On 23 March 1922, on San Juan St., Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila, a laborer split open a tree trunk and found the figure of a cross both faces of the split trunk. The crosses were clearly delineated on the tree trunk halves, showing two perfect crosses standing on their bases. The discovery of the crosses created quite a stir all over the city, and the trunks were eventually encased in metal sheets and glass, for public display to throngs of devotees who believed the event to be great miracle.


In 1910, a resident of Sta. Cruz, Laguna was sawing a molave tree for his house construction, but was stumped when he could not cut the mulawin hardwood. With the aid of several workers, he managed to cut half the wood, which, to his surprise contained the outline of what appears to be the Blessed Virgin. He used the wood anyway, as house posts.

In two instances, however, he was saved twice by a mysterious voice from certain danger. The first was when he was roused from his sleep by this voice who warned him of a fire in the house. On another occasion, the same voice warned him of thieves barging into the house—which was successfully averted when the man woke up and drove the thieves away.

Soon, Laguna folks came flocking to his house to see the “Nstra. Sra. De Molave”. One man even offered P3,000 to buy it. It was also whispered about that Mons. Gregorio Aglipay, head of the Philippine Independent Church, even offered to build a church to house the sacred wood.