Tuesday, February 16, 2016


SAN CLEMENTE, patron of Angono fishermen. Also called
"San Clementeng Putol" because the half-bodied santo was meant to be placed
in a pulpit, thus requiring only the upper half of the body to be seen.

The ancient town of Angono, which had its beginnings in 1575,  is famous for its resident artists (Botong Francisco, the Blancos), colorful Gigantes Festival and caves with mysterious petroglyphs. But it is also known for its patron—San Clemente--whose unique, half-body image can be found enshrined in the church located at Poblacion Ibaba.

A legend has it that the image of the pope saint was fished out of Laguna de Bay by  fisherman Justino Villaluz a long time ago. His net caught something heavy as he was fishing for kanduli (catfish), and when he hauled it back to the boat, he was surprised to see a portion of a log caught in the net.

But greater was his awe when he saw, upon closer inspection, that the log was actually a carved bust of a man with a crown—the image of the papal saint of Rome, San Clemente. Because the lower half of the body was presumed missing, it earned the monicker San Clemente Putol (or San Clementeng Matanda). It was only later that Villaluz  learned that the figure was actually carved that way, representing the saint preaching while in a pulpit, which hid the lower part of his body.

From the home of the Villaluzes, the image of San Clemente was taken to the town’s first church on a hill in Biga, constructed in 1751, which had already been dedicated to San Isidro Labrador. A second church at Ibaba was finished in 1854, and it was here that San Clemente was enthroned, amidst protests from Biga townsfolk who laid claim to the image. Hacenderos pacified the displeased residents.

Eventually, a full-bodied replica was made of San Clemente, which is the image brought out for Angono’s colorful and raucous fiesta, held on the saint’s birthday, November 23 ( a second thanksgiving fiesta held every February has long been discontinued).  To differentiate the two San Clementes, the older, half-bodied version is also known today as San Clementeng Matanda.

The fiesta is capped with a procession of ‘gigantes’—giant, paper mache figural creations, representing popular characters—including San Clemente and his family. This Higantes Festival has become inextricably associated with Angono—along with San Clemente who seemingly chose the town himself to be the seat of his papal mission in the Philippines.


The Life of San Clemente
 San Clemente (or St. Clement of Rome) was the Christian world’s 4th pope. His time was marked with persecutions against Christians, resulting in his deportation to Crimea.There, he ministered among Christian slaves who were forced to work in barren salt mines.  Upon imploring God’s mercy for the slaves, pure, clean water inexplicably flowed from the stones—a miracle that converted many Crimeans.

As a result, Emperor Trajan had St. Clement arrested and put to death. An anchor was tied to his neck and thrown into the Crimean Sea. But angels appeared to retrieve the body of the martyr pope from the sea, which miraculously floated already in a marble tomb, along with his anchor. He died in c. 98.

Iconography and Emblems
The papal saint is represented arrayed in papal vestments, wearing a papal tiara, or more often, a mitre. Emblems and attributes include an anchor on his side, palm of martyrdom, papal staff, keys to heaven (symbols of his papacy).

San Clemente is the patron saint of marble workers, anchor smiths, blacksmiths and seamen. Angono has had a long fishing industry tradition, and at one point was dubbed as  “Imperio ng Kanduli” (Catfish Empire). There, San Clemente is recognized as the patron saint of Angono’s fishermen.

"Heritage Discoveries in Angono, Rizal", by Edgar Allan Sembrano, 21 Dec. 1015, Philippine Daily Inquirer

 Various Religious Beliefs and Practices in the Philippines, Vol. 1.