Sunday, January 5, 2014

179. TAKEN: The Ivory Niño of the Virgen De La Correa of Betis, Guagua

LOSS OF LEGACY. The revered image of the Virgen de la Correa, of Betis, Pampanga, as she appeared on her carroza, en route to her procession. The Nino Jesus in the embrace of Our Lady was stolen on 30 Dec. 2013, during the town fiesta. Ca. 1930s.

 The December 30, 2013 fiesta of Betis turned out to be a most lamentable day for the people of this district, when the antique ivory Niño Jesus that accompanies the revered Ntra. Sra. De la Correa (Our Lady of the Cincture), was stolen between 3:00-3:30 p.m. from the Santiago Apostol Church, before the scheduled procession.

Picture of theVirgen de la Correa taken in the morning of Dec. 30, 2013, Betis fiesta. In the aftrenoon, between 3-3:30 p.m., the ivory Jesus the Virgin holds, was taken.

 The image of the Virgen de la Correa is one of two precious images of Betis church, the other, being the ivory figure of its titular patron, Santiago Apostol (St. James). Devotion ot the Virgen de la Correa is rooted in 3 historical events: the founding of the Order of St. Augustine (OSA) in Italy, the erection of the San Agustin Church in Intramuros in 1608, and the establishment of the first batch of cofradia devotees under this advocacy.

 Augustinian missionaries came to Betis in 1572 where they founded a mission. The ivory images of the Virgen de la Correa and the Niño Jesus are among the treasured legacies left by the said order. The medium-sized images of the centuries-old Virgen de la Correa and the Infant Jesus feature ivory head and hands. She wears a cloth band (correa) around her waist, which is also part of the monastic habit of Augustinians.

Members of the Pecson Family of Guagua, designated caretakers of the treasured Virgen de la Correa image, tasked with dressing up the image, and preparing her carroza for the annual procession. Ca. 1930s.

For the longest time, the designated camareros (caretakers) were the Pecson family of Guagua, in whose house, the Virgin and the Holy Child are dressed and prepared for the procession. Our Lady wears real gold jewelry donated by devotees through the years and the duo have their onw carroza of silver. During the Lenten season, the ivory Virgin, minus the Niño, is transformed into a Virgen Alegria (The Joyful Mary) who greets the resurrected Christ in the annual Salubong rites. She is borne on another silver carroza for this purpose.

 Immediately after the discovery of the theft of the ivory Niño, the Archdiocesan Commission on Church Heritage posted a message on the social networking site Facebook, to report the loss of this image and to seek for help in its recovery. The auxiliary bishop of Pampanga, Pablo Virgilio David, who hails from Betis, also sounded a call for the search of the Infant Jesus of the Virgen de la Correa, which is considered a significant part of Betis’s religious heritage. So far, no leads have been received.

 We hope and pray for the eventual and safe return of the Infant Jesus image, the same way that the once-lost images of the Sto. Niño de Romblon and Ntra. Soledad de Porta Vaga, were found and recovered.

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