Sunday, October 21, 2012

127. Visualizing Sanctity: SAN PEDRO CALUNGSOD by Thom Joven

The country is thrilled to see the courageous teen "beato" raised to the rank of a saint--San Pedro Calungsod--only the second Filipino saint after San Lorenzo Ruiz. San Pedro Calungsod (b.1654 – d. 2 April 1672) was  a young sacristan who worked alongside San Diego Luis de San Vitores and who was martyred  in Guam for preaching Christianity to the Chamorros through catechism.

Beatified on 5 March 2000 by Blessed Pope John Paul II, Calungsod was  canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on 21 October 2012 together with 6 others: Jacques Berthieu, a Jesuit martyr-priest ,Giovanni Battista Piamarta, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Maria Carmen Sallés, founder of the Conceptionists Missionary Sisters of Education; Marianne Cope, a religious who worked among lepers, Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American Saint and Anna Shaffer from Germany.
San Pedro Calungsod's most well-known representation is based on a portrait modelled by then 17 year old Ronald Tubid, a basketball player from Iloilo. This same portrait became the basis for artist Rafael del Casal's artwork done in 1999 that was used as the official picture for the canonization rites in Rome. Del Casal's portrait is the first to feature a Christogram, the seal of the Society of Jesus with which San Pedro was associated. Sculptors Francisco dela Victoria and Vicente Gulane (Cebu), Felix Baldemor and Justino Cagayat Jr. ( Paete, Laguna), also created statues of Calungsod in 1997,1999 and 2012, respectively. Most images show the saint wearing a white camisa and trousers, with his characteristic palm, a rosary,a crucifix or a Doctrina Christiana book pressed to his breast.
Pampanga's most accomplished ecclesiatical artist, Thom Joven of Bacolor has also been commissioned by Bishop Angel Lagdameo of Iloilo to execute his santo version of the teen martyr, following his approved iconography. Made by a local carver under his stringent supervision and personally painted using traditional encarnacion technique, San Pedro Calungsod stands all of four feet and bears a strikingly young, lifelike and saintly mien. He pensively looks at an open book of Christian doctrine, with another hand holding a palm branch in brass--his official attributes.

It is impeccable in its simplicity, and appropriately so, for the saint lived a life of austerity and hardship while catechizing in the Marianas. Just like San Lorenzo Ruiz, he is similarly attired in a camisa chino-daily wear for most Filipinos-and a pair of loose, hanging pants. Carved in the round, he is shown unshod, unlike other representations where the saint wears sandals.
Thom Joven is well-known in the santo circle as a leading figure in saving and restoring the altars, niches and wooden saints of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, heavily damaged by the Pinatubo aftermath. He has likewise worked on the San Vicente de Zaragoza Church, also in his hometown. His prized works and restorations are in private collections and have even reached the Vatican--an image of of Nuestra Sra. de Guia, was chosen by then Pres. GMA and given to  Pope Benedict XVI as a "Gift from the Filipino People". His interpretation of the likeness of San Pedro Calungsod is indeed, a most apt artistic tribute to one who now belongs to the pantheon of saints of the Catholic Church.
FEAST DAY: Celebrated every 2nd day of April, the anniversary of his martyrdom. If the date falls within Holy Week or Easter Week, the feast is observed on the Saturday that immediately precedes Passion/Palm Sunday. If April 2 falls on a Sunday of Lent or on a Sunday of Easter, the feast is celebrated on April 1.

Blessed Pedro Calungsod, young migrant, student, catechist, missionary, faithful, friend, and martyr, you inspire us by your fidelity in time of trial and adversity, by your courage in teaching the Faith in the midst of hostility and by your love in shedding your life’s blood for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus. 

We beg you, make our cares and troubles your own [here mention the special intention you are asking him to bring to the Lord] and intercede for us before the throne of Mercy and Grace, so that as we experience the help of Heaven, we may be encouraged and strengthened to proclaim and live the Gospel here on earth. AMEN. 

 (Imprimatur: Ricardo Cardinal J. Vidal) 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

126. SAN JOSE & STA. MARIA: Santo Shopping on Buy and Sell Free Ads

Before ebay, I had long ago been a fan of Buy and Sell Free Ads, that tabloid size magazine full of classified ads, with long listings of services and products for sale, of the wide and wild variety. My toy collection for instance, was expanded by my purchases of vintage Batman figures, Fischer-Price toys, Mattel dolls and tin lunchboxes, all obtained from advertisers on this paper. One man’s junk, is another man’s joy, so they say, and my joy of the moment happens to be antique santos, a quest that has led me to all sorts of places, from Kamuning shops to cyberspace and to the pages of Buy and Sell Free Ads.

While 95 percent of the items are of no consequence to me, I do pay attention to the listings under “Antiques”, “Collection” and “Arts” every now and then. Two and a half weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Buy and Sell from a sidewalk stall and checked out the entries under “Antiques”. Lo and behold, almost lost among the ads selling Rolex and old coins was an ad announcing “4 foot processional santos for sale, P120,000”.

 I learned never to be fazed by exorbitant price tags attached to items for sale; there is no such thing as fixed price especially if the item remains unseen and uninspected. A few years ago, a lifesize Agony in the Garden Cristo together with a Salome and a San Isidro Labrador were being sold as a lot for a six figure sum, but I successfully negotiated for the sale of the Cristo alone for a fraction of the desired price. I just wondered if my magic will work again for this pair.

I called the number and I managed to talk to the Seller, who was from Pasig. I asked him to describe the images and he said they were a Mary and Joseph, both family heirlooms that were once processed before. I asked if there was a Nino and he said, as far as he could recall, the pair never had a Niño, as the standing images had separate bases. I asked if it were possible to send me pictures by mms or by e-mail, but the Seller was not savvy with either both cellphone and computer. Nevertheless, he said he will ask a relative to send the photos via the internet. I gave my e-mail address and waited.

Three days after, I received an e-mail from him with the attached pictures badly taken from a cellphone camera. But even then, the quality of carving was very much evident in the faces, as well as the encarna, moreso on the San Jose image. The only thing that worried me was the size; they did not look at all like 4-footers to me; they looked shorter. I delayed giving him a call for fear that I might sound too enthusiastic, and it was only the next day that I gave him a ring.

 When he answered, the first thing I confirmed were sizes of the images—if they were indeed 4 feet tall. He said they were—but with the bases. It turned out that the images were 38 inches tall, with 10 inch bases. My minimum requirement for a processional image is that it should be at least 42 inches tall, without the base. But the Seller maintained that these are processional images, indeed and the holes on the bases prove that. My guess is that that these may have been oratorio or chapel images, meant to be placed on both sides of a major image. The holes may have been use to bolt the image to the niche. But whatever, I still found the images to be small for my taste.; However, I said that I would drop by to do an ocular check on a Sunday weekend, my only free time. I made sure my sigh was audible for him to hear when I hung up the phone.

So one recent Sunday, on my way back to Makati, I swung over to Pasig to meet the Seller. Thank God for my new driver who was familiar with the area; I don’t think I can locate the address on my own. We parked the car at McDonald’s in front of the Cathedral, and in a few minutes, the Seller came a-knocking at my car.

He looked pleasant enough, not the serial killer that I imagined him to be. He took me on a labyrinthine route that led to his place--a small, overcrowded apartment full of house parts, furniture and other indescribable stuff. In the garage was the half of a big arched carved door, an antique piano, a couple of rundown cabinets and stacks of newspapers and magazines. Inside the living room, I found the other half of the arched door leaning on one wall, a broken altar table before it. A platera with old bottles was next to the window partially covered with a stained glass divider. As it turned out, he related that the lot on which their ancestral house stood was brought by a fast-food chain, so now the contents of their home were crammed into this shoebox apartment.

When I turned to one corner, there were the santos, finally, atop another table overflowing with house décor and houseware. It was bedlam in here, but thank God, I did not have trouble focusing on inspecting the images before me. The images were dirty and in a state of disrepair, the bodies had peeling paints and the bases were missing some border trims. Sta. Maria’s hands had multiple broken fingers, but all the digits were intact. What was most important was that the heads were preserved, and what beautiful heads were they! They were genuine antiques, carved from light wood, with smooth pegs and flaking encarna indicating their age.

 I felt that San Jose was the better image, as the carver had to carve more details like facial hair and beard. It bears its original dark encarna. The Sta. Maria had plumper cheeks, and in fact, looked bigger and heftier than San Jose. It looked like it had been painted over once, which would explain its fuller look. It still had details like pierced ears, which had on a pair of old rhinestone earrings.

I had actually devised a visual test for ascertaining the beauty of santos, and this is to view the heads at a quarter-turn. You not only see the profile, but you also get a better look at their expression, rather than when the santo faces you up front with a blank, pointed stare.

When I did that to the Sta. Maria head, she looked so sweet and amiable while the San Jose had the most perfect nose and chin! I was sold on this pair, but the challenge was how not to show my gung-ho enthusiasm.  “I don’t know, “ I told the Seller, “they’re good pieces, but honestly, your price tag is too steep for such small pieces..”.

 “What you’re saying is, you like them”, he surprised me by saying, “ except the price? Maybe if you could give me an offer, one that would make me and you happy. I really need the money to rehabilitate our Baguio property...” . I put in my offer, and at that point the Seller became jumpy. When a Seller behaves this way, believe me, it means that you are close to the price that is already acceptable to him. He said, “Oh, but if you could add a little more..”. And so I did.

 We sealed the deal with a shake of hands. I paid him and I lugged the two dismantled santos to my car, together with their tattered wigs and replacement brass halos—my purchase of the year! The bodies went home to Pampanga, while I brought the heads with me to my Makati place for me to further ponder on. I can’t wait to have them restored; when repaired, repainted and dressed, they will look perfect in the altar of our Pampanga home. True, the best things in life may not be free, but some are on the FREE Ads of Buy and Sell.