Tuesday, January 22, 2013

135. SAN ANTONIO: Patron of the Lost, Found.

And you thought fine quality, century old-santos could not be found in second-hand shops and thrift stores. Well, I just found one in Bangkal over the holidays—a 22 inch softwood San Antonio, that plumpish Franciscan invoked by devotees when they lose something—car keys, books, money, perhaps, even sanity. Evangelista St. and its dizzying side streets offer bargain hunters and thirll seekers like me, the chance of unearthing treasures amidst its heaps of domestic refuse, broken furniture, used books, ukay-ukay clothes, bric-a-bracs and gewgaws.

On a Monday afternoon—a holiday—and under a searing sun, I took off for the famed thrift shop capital of Makati. I was not disappointed at the first store I went to—I found old oval frames which I bought for the school museum, 50 bucks each. The next store yielded a pair of pink ceramic ballet dancer figurines, typical 50s camp, my cup of tea! But with my limited budget, I was focused on finding antique religious items, as I had been on a santo spree lately. Kitsch had to wait.

So off to my old suki’s store, which often had a stray santo now and then, but Belinda was nowhere to be found. Instead—the next-door shop sitter popped in and asked me to look around her shop. Sure enough, I saw a pair of fine altar candlesticks, which excited me for about 30 seconds. ..until the price dampened my enthusiasm.

 But lo and behold—on a chair, partly hidden by dama juana bottles—I saw the peeking head of a santo, which I mistook for San Nicolas—until the owner pulled it out, revealing the unmistakable form of the friar saint.

Here he is, relatively intact, sans a pair of hands, complete with a separate wooden base, with primitive triangular patterns. He may have held a book, or a Nino at one time, but that's okay; what I don’t see, I won’t miss.

One look and I knew it was a certified antique—from the bulging eyes of the saint, the classical profile, to the delicate and detailed flow of the garments and the primitive-style orb-like peana. The santo had lost its paint totally and only traces of gesso remained. Traces of gilding could be seen on its robe.

 At the back, someone affixed a paper tape with the following information: “St. Anthony, patron saint of those who losses (sic) things. Came from Bicol region, southern part of Phil. Island. Age over 100 years old. Carved by early Christian Filipinos”. Bless the dealer for adding this information. True or not, it adds to the mystique of this ancient santo. The santo carried a hefty price tag, but I was not intimidated. I asked the shop attendant to call the owner, and I made a ridiculously low offer that she vehemently refused. Having set an asbolute limit, I prepared to go and say goodbye to San Antonio. But wait---she said if I added P200 more, I could have it.

My only problem was, I only had a thousand bucks in my wallet. Please San Antonio, find me an ATM machine! Poof! I found a working BPI ATM just across the street. Praise the saint! As they say, seek, and ye shall find.
 Wait till the next holiday week-end..

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