Thursday, October 17, 2013


Santos for personal devotion are common in European countries; small metal figures of Christ, the Virgin and patron saints kept in leather pouches or capsules are often carried by mobile devotees, and brought out during times of prayer and reflection. These are different from the Philippine metal amulets (anting-anting)  cast in the shape of small religious figures, that are meant to be worn on the body.

Santo miniatures, however rare are not unknown in the Philippines, as seen from these examples. Much smaller than the standard tabletop santos that range from 8 to 24 inches, these mini-santos of wood can be found in sizes from 6 inches to as small as 2 inches.

There's a quiet legion of mini-santo collectors out there who delight in amassing these small antiques for various, yet practical reasons--budget, limited display space and appeal. Artist Claude Tayag is once such collector, who collects santos under 8 inches tall. Indeed, they make for an unusual collection, and over the years, I have assembled a modest set that are no more than 7 inches high, exclusive of their bases. I am presenting these mini-santos along with a 3.25 inch tall gluestick tube to give you a size reference.

The tiny figure of San Vicente Ferrer stands just about 5.5 inches, without the base. Next to it is an even tinier San Roque tableau, carved with intricate details, so unusual for its miniscule size. San Roque stands a mere 4.25 inches without its peana and base, while its companion dog and angel are  2.50 in. and 2 in. respectively.

 A more colorful version of San Vicente Ferrer is shown above, purchased from Standing on an orb, the 4 in. San Vicente strikes a pose with his emblematic book and raised upright finger. Overall, the santo is about 6.25 inches in height. Next to it is the kneeling figure San Isidro's landlord, Juan de Vargas, with a Lilliputian size of 3.25 inches. This used to be part of a tableau.

 A complete Sagrada Familia tableau carved from heavy wood stands in all its miniature glory on a base just 1 inch high. The adult figures of San Jose and Santa Maria are a shade under 6 inches tall. Both have traces of polychromy on their vestments.

 Meanwhile, the Child Jesus sandwiched in the middle is just about 3.5 in. The figures of Bohol provenance are all well carved and may have been housed in a matching small urna.

Though small in stature, these folk santos evoke the same charm as their bigger tabletop counterparts, losing none of their appeal and attraction--proof positive that big things do come in small packages.

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