STA. INES, Patron Saint of Barangay Sta. Ines, Mabalacat, Pampanga. Heirloom image of the Dela Cruz Family,
Sta. Ines is one of the more than 20 barangays of Mabalacat that is perhaps, the most popular among motorists passing the newest chartered city of Pampanga. It is here that one can get out of the North Luzon Expressway—via the Sta. Ines Exit—and into the old McArthur Highway. For many years, the Sta. Ines Exit was considered the end of the NLEX, and another alternative entrance to Clark Field.
Along the narrow exit stands the ancestral house of the Dela Cruz Family, in which an old image of the town patron is kept in an altar by the descendants. The Dela Cruzes figure prominently in the creation of this barrio, which was founded as early as 1842, according to the Historical Data Papers of Mabalacat, although an alternative year—1878—is more realistically ascribed as its foundation year.
BARANGAY STA. INES, Maytinis 2012 Procession.
The original owner of the future Sta. Ines belonged to one Don Francisco Pamintuan, and the land was inherited by his son, Camilo. Mariano de la Cruz later bought the land and settled it. One of the early settlers of the barrio, Ines Basilio, gave the place its name. She, in turn, asked that the place be held under the titular patronage of the child-martyr, Sta. Ines or St. Agnes.
St. Agnes, from a noble Roman family, was just 13 years old when she was martyred for her faith. Refusing to marry the son of the prefect Sempronius, she was beheaded and her blood flowed on the stadium floor. Sta. Ines became a patron saint for young girls and has become a symbol of chastity and purity, represented by the lamb that also has come to stand for her name (Agnus).
Mariano de la Cruz married Simeona de la Cruz (no relation) and their union resulted in the following offsprings: Emiliano, Librada, Sebastian, Antonino, Pilar, Vicente and Rosario. For their young girls, the couple commissioned an unknown santero to make them a small image of their holy patron, carved in the round (talyado). The image of Sta. Ines, almost pumplish, stands 2 and a half feet tall at most. It originally came with a carved lamb at her feet, but a replacement animal now accompanies her, which suspiciously looks like an old dog of San Roque.
Over time, to protect and preserve the original image, a duplicate statue was made, faithfully replicating the antique Sta. Ines.
THE REPLICA IMAGE OF STA. INES. (From the Sta. Ines Chapel FB Group.)
On one hand, she used to hold a palm of martyrdom, but a fresh olive palm leaf plucked from some garden has now become her attribute. She is carved from soft wood, and wears her original gold-plated pukpok halo with very intricate relief patterns. The image has been painted many times—the vestments in green and yellow. It has finely carved features, apparent even through its thick layers of encarna.
Meant for the family’s private devotion, Sta. Ines once resided in an urna alongside another small but older heirloom santa—Sta. Maria Magdalena—which was cared for by one of the daughters, Rosario de la Cruz (Angeles), who donated it to the barangay of Sta. Maria Libutad. The Sta. Ines image was bequeathed to Pilar, who, upon her death, passed it on to her daughter Iraida de la Cruz. It was also Pilar’s way of showing her gratitude to a daughter who unselfishly cared for her spinster sister, Librada.
APUNG INES, being processioned at the annual Maytinis of Mabalacat City.
The two santas go out on procession at different times of the year; Sta. Magdalena joins the Holy Week processions while Sta. Ines is borne on her own carroza during the December Maytinis festivites. She also comes out regularly on her feast day, January 21.
INTERIOR OF STA. INES CHAPEL, where the image of Sta. Ines used to reside for many years. The chapel was a donation of the Policarpio Family. (Form the Sta. Ines Chapel Facebook Group)
When the Sta. Ines Chapel, a donation of the Policarpio Family, was constructed in the late 70s, the Dela Cruzes generously allowed their precious family image to be enshrined there. A new, larger Sta. Ines image was commissioned by the barangay in 2011, and the antique Sta. Ines reverted back to the heirs.
The current owners, siblings Socorro, Alda, Ernesto Jr. and Concesa de la Cruz, have returned the image to their ancestral house, to be used once more for their own personal family devotion. In the prayer room of the Dela Cruz home, now being beautifully restored by Concesa and her family, Apung Ines is permanently housed in her own urna, resting on a cotton-filled floor to simulate her heavenly abode.
Sta. Ines images are also venerated in such places as Bulacan, Bulacan; Camarin in Caloocan and in Sta. Ines, Bacolor, Pampanga.