Tuesday, May 15, 2012
108. FRIDAY SHE WALKED
Last 18 April, our family-owned image of Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowful Virgin) joined the Biernes Santo procession of the San Rafael Parish in Mabiga, Mabalacat for the very first time, a significant day for us. It had always been our plan to procession our santo in my hometown, but then, the parish of Our Lady of Grace already had its own Dolorosa. Now, an opportune time had finally come.
I had no idea that in the days leading to the scheduled procession, the people spearheading the religious festivities of San Rafael were frantically looking for a Dolorosa image to accompany the life-size Santo Entierro (the dead Christ) of the Briones family. The comparatively new parish had previously carried out very simple Semana Santa processions with just the Sto. Entierro image in attendance.
This year however, Msgr. Florentino “Ninoy” Canlas, the recently installed parish priest, was determined to have a better, more complete procession, which, at a minimum, should have images of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Having come from Sasmuan known for its deep religious traditions, Fr. Ninoy urged his parish council to look far and wide for a suitable Dolorosa by contacting families who may have in their private homes such an image.
It so happened that Arwin Lingat, an active member of the Our Lady of Grace youth group and an aide at Holy Angel’s Center for Kapampangan Studies where I am a consultant, knew of my santo. He immediately told Arnel Tapang, the indefatigable president of the San Rafael Parish Youth Ministry, who in turn, contacted me. And so, on that last week-end before Holy Thursday, I entrusted our holy image to Arnel’s care.
Our beautiful Dolorosa, a depiction of the Sorrowful Mother at the time of Christ’s death, was created for us by Mr. Francisco Vecin of Makati City, a famed maker and restorer of santos, bultos and carrozas. The works of Mang Kiko, who employs Paete and Pampanga carvers, can be found in major churches in the Philippines. Just like me, he is also a collector of antique santos, but he specializes in images associated with the Passion.
This is the 4 foot vintage Paciencia that was traded for the Dolorosa of Mr. Vecin. It was made in 1952 and purchased from an antique dealer in Pampanga. It is now kept in a chapel in Bicol.
It was this interest that made me seek out the services of this modern-day santero. Three years ago, an old Paciencia image which needed restoration, came into my possession. This rare representation of the seated Christ, all bloodied and scourged, often scared my pangunakans (nieces and nephews) when they came visiting my house.
Virgen Dolorosa, a work in progress at the talyer of Makati santero, Mr. Kiko Vecin, early 2004.
While in his talyer, I saw an exquisite, century-old Dolorosa head, with a moving, yet dignified expression of grief. All along, Mang Kiko too, was eyeing my Paciencia. Without hesitation, we agreed to swap images, and two months later, I was the proud owner of an almost life-size image of a Mater Dolorosa.
Our antique Dolorosa head is all-original, except for the new oil paint encarna. It is fitted with original glass eyes and new glass tears. The open, anguished mouth is deeply carved, a sign of great age, with individual teeth and tongue showing.
Her lashes are made of doghair, while her wig is of fine jusi fiber. She was carved with such details as pierced ears to accommodate zarcillos (earrings) and neck folds, a Chinese influence. She comes with 2 sets of detachable hands, one, traditionally clasped, and the second, open and outstretched (used in Salubong ritual).
Unlike other Dolorosas with facial aureolas, our santo wears a “pinukpok” brass burst on her head, plated in gold, designed after jewelled fittings of santas in Sevilla, Spain. Her dagger-pierced heart is exposed on her breast (the usual iconography shows 7 daggers, representing her 7 sorrows). She is dressed in a white robe with flowered appliques and caped in black velvet.
On that hot, sweltering Biernes Santo afternoon, our Dolorosa stood in quiet dignity atop her lit and flowered wooden carroza (lent by the Pineda family) behind the image of Sto. Entierro, pulled by church “apostles”. The 2 km.+ prusisyun route wended its way from the church, spilling over to the main highway, until just before Golden Land Subd. and back.
This year was a well-attended affair, with hundreds of candle-bearing devotees joining in the ritual procession. The next day—Holy Saturday--our Dolorosa, this time redressed with a mourning veil, participated in the Salubong rites that lasted till past midnight.
Estampita, or prayer card, made especially for our image's 'primera salida' (first outing), given away to procession participants.
Indeed, the first-time participation of our treasured image did not only mark the beginning of a family panata, but also—as my friend and cultural activist Robby Tantingco aptly put it-- the start of a lifelong vocation, which is to keep our cherished religious traditions alive and to be one with the community in sharing the spirit of the Lenten season.
Our Mater Dolorosa, as she looked in 2010 and 2012, in embroidered robes which replaced the simpler ones first worn in 2004. The vestments were done by Sasmuan vestment maker, Ely Mangalindan.
(This article was first published in the book, "Views from the Pampang and Other Scenes", 2006)