Since my younger days, the antique figure of our town’s Sta. Veronica had always been an object of my interest and fascination every time Holy Week came along. Owned by the heirs of Jose Siopongco, it was exquisitely carved, a lonely but lovely figure, with a face conveying restrained sorrow and delicate hands holding a banner with the 3 imprints of the face of Christ.
I t was raining cats and dogs when I got to his warehouse. As soon as I got in, dripping wet and cold, he showed me the santo heads from a Tercera Caida tableau and I was not disappointed. But then he pulled out one more box, and out came this small santa head, which I assumed was another Magdalena as it came with a long brunette abaca wig. My first impression was that it was a newly-made image, even suspecting that it came from the Vecin workshop as it was stylistically similar to his creations. But this dealer told me it came from Unisan, Quezon, and the box, which had been shipped to the dealer, confirmed this. What was even more intriguing was the fact that this head also came with what looked like a set of ‘Veronica’ hands.
And so, for a reasonable price, this ‘Magdalena’ head with ‘Veronica’ hands was added to my Fairview loot. That same week, I brought the image to Mr. Vecin for restoration. I asked him also about the provenance of the image--if this had, perhaps, been a commissioned work for some clients in Quezon. He told me that this was not from his shop, but he was certain that this image was vintage, made in the last 40 years, judging from the wood which had smoothened out with age. He also concluded that the hands were not original to the piece—not only where they small for the image but the finish also did not match the facial painting. This, therefore, must have originally been a Magdalena that had been converted into some other santa.
Nevertheless, I decided to keep the mismatched hands with the Magdalena head and asked Mr. Vecin to make a body for it. My own Sta. Veronica, this image shall be. After a month of on-and-off work, the head and hands were assembled on the finished body.
I requested for some minor adjustment in the arms of the half-finished santa, as I found them a bit long and disproportional. This was immediately done, and so the image was primed for painting, work that would take another two and a half weeks.
A few weeks later, the body and the base were painted. The original encarna of the head was still in excellent condition, so no retouches were necessary.
I tried on the original abaca wig, which was in fairly good condition, and it instantly gave some degree of completeness to the Veronica-in-the-making.
The smallish hands did not look small at all. This slight flaw will further be hidden with the long-sleeved tunic which will be part of Veronica’s wardrobe.
The vestments were ordered from Ramon Gutierrez, and my instructions were to copy the garment styling of the 19th c. Hidalgo Veronica, complete with a turban and one shoulder-drape. We agreed on a light pink tunic and navy blue cape. But when I went to check and bring it home, alas, it was attired in traditional vestments. Mr. Vecin reassured me that it was easy to follow the draping of the Hidalgo Veronica. He already had a ready turban--but which I forgot to bring in my haste, plus the silver antique 'payong' halo that he needed for the Veronica head.
Into my car went my Sta. Veronica. The original wig was askew, the vestments were rumpled, and it was rather difficult to appreciate the image in a reclining position. On that day, I was also in a mad rush, so I had no time to really look at the restored image up close. I even forgot to take pictures of the santa standing up.
Two days after the image got home to Pampanga, I finally had a chance to scrutinize it. In place of a payong, I had an antique French diadem, an ebay find, to place temporarily on her pretty head.
I was satisfied with the way the restoration turned out to be, considering that this was just a reconstituted image--not really an antique--but with an old, traditional look that's enough to evoke memories of our Semana Santa past.
To give my Sta. Veronica sense of completeness, I even taped a scanned paper copy of the Holy Face for her to hold. Oh, you get the idea.
So here is my newest Santa-- lo and behold--Sta. Veronica, finally unveiled!