Friday, August 18, 2017

298. ANTIPOLO, by Ileana Maramag

People make yearly pilgrimage to this Rizal town to pay homage to centuries-old Brown Madonna.

By Ileana Maramagpublished in The Sunday Times Magazine, 20 May 1962.

Still drawing a steady stream of pilgrims at this time of year is Antipolo, the small hilly town in Rizal province made famous as the shrine of the centuries-old brown Madonna as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.

Antipolo, however, is not what it used to be. In the olden days, old folks like to recall, the place was no more than an isolated hamlet that could only be reached by carretela or cascos, via one of the Pasig River’s tributaries that wends its way to several Rizal towns. Thus, pilgrimages to the Virgin of Antipolo in those days were more hazardous and involved no small amount of sacrifice.Often enough, the pilgrims had ti hike the slippery trails of the region or cross the difficult terrain in man-borne hammocks. Aisde from this, the pilgrimages were made more festive by the bright parasols, colorful balintawaks and camisas de chino worn by the pilgrims, Today, the practice has all but disappeared; Antipolo is easy to reach via paved highways and modern-day pilgrims make the Maytime trek in buses or drive down the 28 km. road to Antipolo in snazzy cars,

Source: Sunday Times Magazine, May 1962

From Manila, it takes no more than 45 minutes to reach the town proper, and once ed there, pilgrims converge at the modern church which is easily Antipolo’s biggest landmark. Once inside, one discovers that the age-old image of Our Lady of peace and Good Voyage is enshrined in a special niche atop the main altar.

Source: Sunday Times Magazine, May 1962

Annually, on May 1st, by tradition, the Virgin is borne in solemn procession to an improvised altar atop Pinagmisahan Hill, where a mass is said to commemorate the first Mass celebrate by the early Spanish missionaries on the same hill. Devotees also mark the feast of Antipolo Virgin every first Tuesday of May.

Early historians report that the image was first brought to Manila from Mexico on June 29, 1626 by the then newly-appointed Governor General Juan Niño de Tabora to isnure the safe voyage of the galleons against pirates and typhoons.

No one can tell exactly how the Virgin became enshrined in the town of Antipolo. There are two versions. One reports the image was taken to the Rizal town by the Governor general and Archbishop and crowned as Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Another account says the statue disappeared and was found perched atop an antipolo tree, on the same spot where the Antipolo church now stands.

Another legend tells of how the Virgin of Antipolo acquired its dark color. The story goes that during the 1639 Chinese Rebellion (which include Rizal and  Laguna towns), the Chinese burned the statue but somehow the image miraculously remained unscathed. Instead, the carving turned black and has retained its dark hue through the centuries.

When the Japanese commandeered the old Antipolo church and used it as their garrison during the last war, devotees smuggled the image, buried it in a drum, and later transported it to the Quiapo Church where it was enshrined until after the Liberation.

Friday, July 28, 2017

297. Lost for 36 Years: LARAWAN NG SANTISIMA TRINIDAD, of Brgy. Santisima Trinidad, Malolos

It has been a long 36 years since the ancient icon of the miraculous Holy Trinity (“ Larawan ng Mapaghimalang Santisima Trinidad”) of a Malolos barangay with the same name,  disappeared on 27 October 1981. Known variously as “Santisima Trinidad na Orihinal”, “Santisima Trinidad na Antigo”, and  “Santisima Trinidad na Matanda”, it has been enshrined ever since at  the main altar of the visita of Brgy. Santisima Trinidad.

In this 1963 photo, on can still discern the Santisima Trinidad on the top niche
of the main altar of the chapel.

The visita itself was built on 4 May 1863. Stories have it that when the field was being cleared by workers for the erection of the visita, they unearthed an icon bearing the image of the Holy Trinity, painted on 4 wood panels pieces. The 26 x 36” painting shows the 3 divinities—God the Son, God the Father, and God, the Holy Spirit seated together, with hands raised in benediction. As a tribute to the Trinity, the chapel and th barrio was put under their titular patronage.


Since then, three more Santisima Trinidad icons have joined the original one at the visita-- Santisima Trinidad na Mayor, a Mexican painting on canvass, and considered the oldest of the 3 callejeras (processional images); Santisima Trinidad na Bata, an oil painting on rosewood, ca. 1762; and the Santisima Trinidad de Trisagio, a 22 x 27” image placed in the safekeeping of the caretaker or “hermano trisagio”.

Photo souvenir with the original Santisima Trinidad

But it is the original “larawan” that remained in the altar mayor for as long as one can remember, around which the people of the barangay anchored their faith, love and devotion. In time, the chapel was shared with two other barangays, Barihan and Pinagbakahan.


Over the years, miracles have been attributed by residents to the workings of the Santa Trinidad—impossible favors granted,  incurable afflictions healed, and babies safely delivered despite delicate pregnancies. The 3 barangays celebrate the fiesta of their revered patron annually, every Trinity Sunday, while in separate feast in October is celebrated for their secondary patron, Birhen ng Santo Rosario.


In 1981, the year when the old chapel was scheduled for demolition to give way to a new, more expansive building, a most unfortunate event happened. On October 27, the original Santisima Trinidad was stolen from the central niche of the altar. All efforts were exerted to find the lost icon and the criminals who committed this dastardly act—to no avail.


When all hopes seemed lost, a generous family from Olongapo—the Bartletts—donated 3 vintage 1950s dressed mannikin images (de vestir) to the chapel of the much-saddend barangays. From Olongapo, the images were taken to Malolos and translated to Brgy. Santisima Trinidad by procession. Somehow, the pain of the loss was alleviated by the arrival of these images that now occupy the main altar.


As if to show its divine displeasure, the Santisima Trinidad Chapel was embroiled in controversies, beginning in 2001 when it was interdicted by the Diocese of Malolos. A different sect took over the chapel from 2002 to August 16, all caused by land ownership discord and the refusal of the barrio to turn their chapel into a parish church. It was only on 27 October 2016—exactly 15 years since the disappearance of the “larawan”—that the chapel returned to the fold of the Diocese of Malolos, where Catholic masses have now resumed.

With this positive and happy turn of events, the people of 3 barangays have become more of hopeful for the safe recovery and return of their patron, Santisima Trinidad. The community of santo aficionados (and that includes camareros, private collectors, antique shop owners and their middlemen, santo carvers and artisans, auction houses, religious stores, priests and church groups, heritage and cultural advocates) are enjoined to be vigilant and to be on the look-out for this image. Like the Blessed Trinity, there is strength in numbers, and together--even after 36 years-- we are confident we can make a miracle happen.

MANY THANKS TO MR. CHRISTOPHER CUNANAN, for the information and all pictures used in this article, and for calling my attention to this lost icon. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


The oldest school-based museum in the Philippines--the University of Santo Tomas Museum of Arts and Sciences—is home to some of the finest collection of santos and other religious arts in the country. Founded in 1871 by Ramon Martinez, O.P., a professor of natural history, the museum showcases both scientific and artistic collections, including sacred objets d’art like religious imags, icons and paintings—a selection of which are featured below.










Thursday, June 8, 2017

295. ALL ‘S FAIR IN LAL-LO, by Nancy T. Lu

By Nancy T.Lu
Sunday Times Magazine, 28 Sept. 1968, p. 38-41

Experienced collectors with a discriminating eye for genuine museum pieces are wont to spot them all over the archipelago whether be in some isolated, weather-beaten ruins, or in some unexplored nooks of private homes. Because many a Cagayan artifact was not meant to be kept unseen, a number of these cultural treasures which can easily swell he Cagayan pride recently left their forbidding enclaves to undergo maximum public exposure in Lal-lo, the site of the Cagayan Provincial Fair.

The preliminaries involved in the ostentatious display of Cagayan’s cultural heritage demanded concerted efforts including no less the governor’s personalized attempts in convincing the reluctant citizenry to loan the valuable family heirlooms they have been hoarding all this while in the privacy of their homes for the provincial exhibit. Which true-blooded Cagayano dared refuse Governor Dupaya’s request when she made it a point to call on the selected families personally? Repetitious assurances of security precautions had to be made in many cases to assuage the concerned individuals’ anxiety over the loss or damage that may befall their cherished properties.

Thus, the the cultural relics were brought in from all over Cagayan. And thus began also the pressing problem of identifying, sorting out, and classifying the numerable items comprising Cagayan’s cultural wealth. While the mian responsibility was delegated to the committee on relics, artifacts and antiques, a supervising authority was wanting. Invitation was extended a museology expert and soon enough, Fr. Jesus Meriño, O.P., of the U.S.T. Museum of Arts and Sciences flew in as the givernor’s special guest from Manila.

The enthusiastic Dominican friar took one look at all the collected objects laden with dust of the centuries and proceeded to single out slowly the “real wonders of art”. Taking care to jot down the outstanding features of the unique antiques as he went about rummaging for more of Cagayan’s historical possessions, he decided to direct the obliging engineer and helpful architect to classify and arrange the artifacts according to three general divisions: 1). People. Life and History, 2). Home, 3). Church.

Grouped along with the first category were tablewares imported from all over Eirope. There were eighteenth century chocolate cups of Spanish make. Some porcelain plates were German-made as a sopera all the way from Vienna. Certain chinawares had designs that connoisseurs would easily detect as rough British imitations of the fine, delicate artistic Chinese strokes. Gracing the opening of the Cagayan Fair with her very presence, the First Lady was reported to have taken fancy to a platter with a dent for gravy.

An alert guard constantly kept close watch over one of those contemporary glass showcases showing private collections of international coins and currencies. For security reasons, these precious personal belongings had to be locked away elsewhere every night. And for the same reason the owners chose to remain unidentified by name throughout the duration of the cultural exhibit.

Spanish Attires
Sweeping feminine attires of the Spanish era came in different colors tha had faded unevenly with the times. Nineteenth century camisas, panuelos and sayas that lay almost completely forgotten there in dust-colored trunks  and spider-webbed chests that had seen better days were put out once more ahere a fairly strong whiff of air caused that distinct smell of age to permeate the atmosphere. But a real item for Ripley’s Believe it or Not was this sable-hued tapis with romantic Castilian verses woven in white silk thread all over it. Father Meriño obligingly translated the love poem as a love-stricken lovers’ reproach to his loved one never to forget that he is unhappy if should forget him. The Spanish priest volunteered  a surmise that he must have been jilted by the girl. Apparently, the boy must have asked his sister to weave the chiding message into the tapis he later gave his girlfriend as a sentimental gift immortalizing his affections for her. Father Meriño further concluded from the numerous misspelled words that the poetic lover must have been a native and not a Spaniard.

The first recorded museums of old found in Egypt and Greece were reported to have been temples which held community treasures mainly religious in nature. Even today, votive objects for propitiatory purposes constitute a greater bulk of solicited artifacts in the traditional repositories all over the world. By sheer coincidence or otherwise, the recently tagged Artifacts Building found in the Tabacalera Compound in Lal-lo was once a convent-chapel servicing the Lal-lo community. Surviving the earth tremors of the seventeenth century, it had since been converted into some other more mundane use. Nevertheless, the indisputable cracks effected by the earthquake remain visible as the original concrete structure never really gave way to complete renovation. The only incongruous touches contradicting its otherwise incontrovertible claim to antiquity rest in the rust-free galvanized iron roofings and the wooden additions  still fresh with paint. Furthermore, the dimly-lit interior was not stripped of its sacrosanct air.

“I simply directed the architect and the engineer to give a particular portion of the building a semblance of a chapel,” Father Meriño said. “How they would go about it I left it to their discretion for what really mattered was that they should project a suggestion of an improvised altar with all the essential elements that should go with it. It was a pity, however, that the 3-tiered altar could not be reconstructed as such because the ceiling did not extend upward high enough.”

From Tuao, lying ion the boundary of Cagayan and Mountain Province,  had come the curious elements of a once magnificent altar.  For one reason or another, the severely-damaged church of Tuao was neglected for a time by the people and eventually, its gilded altar was exposed to the elements. It took a prudent parish priest to go out of his way to salvage whatever was left of a once beautiful place of worship. Dismantling the whole construction, he proceeded to keep the columns  and the wings of the altar under his house where they would be safe.

Instances of mishandling of the high-priced artifacts were not exactly unheard of. Father Meriño bewailed, for instance, how too much cleaning of the wings of the altarby eager individuals caused the parts of the altra to be deprived of the gold-plated designs of flowers and leaves. The traces of gold sheen came off when the clay beneath got wet and gave way.

Of the twenty one columns chiseled along the pseudo-classic artistic plan, three were not in pairs. Then, too, a number of these elaborated designed columns were as there should be thirty six columns all in all. Also nowhere to be found were the indispensable connecting beams of the altar.

Each pillar was carved from the trunk of the sturdy narra tree. Father Meriño concluded that the columns must have been carved by native artists well-trained in the Spanish tradition. But who supervised these artists? He asked. Could it have been the parish priest who was known to have been an artist himself?

Just as attractive was the seventeenth century century retablo from the Camalanlugan church where it served as a screen shielding the interior of the church from the outsiders. Formed from nine enduring narra trunks, the unique relief depicted Our Lady of the Rosary as an intercessor for souls in purgatory. The curious thing about it, however, was in its representation of souls as differentiated from angels flying about freely with wings. The penitent souls ascending into heaven all by themselves were without wings. In had to look closely to see the striking difference.

As borne by the subdued tones of colorings and enamel, artistry was prominent in this work of art. While the planning and drawing , the panorama and the general idea were unquestionably Spanish, the carving itself was adjudged as Chinese,

However, on the whole, the wide array of displayed objects could not boast of outstanding or fine artistry. In several instances, the anonymous creators of these solid figures manifested an obvious lack of artistic academic training. The feet either went out of line thus producing an abnormal effect or the head suggested strongly a mournful absence of a sense of proportion, In one case, the crucified Christ could have passed with fairly good remarks from sharp critics except for the flaw that took the shape of an oversized crown of thorns.

But that was not what really counted. In spite of it all, these classified works of art
Do have a place in national repositories known as museums. They make even more interesting subjects of study.

Trooping in
And so they trooped in—the people from the remote towns all ver Cagayan valley and even the residents of the neighboring provinces. Artifacts galore turned out to be part of Lal-lo’s treat for the day. Garbed in motley attires, they took a close look at Cagayan’s treasured belongings vying for attention: medium sized saints molded along the traditional poses whether it was st. Peter portrayed as a penitent in a sixteenth century carving or St. Thomas Aquinas crushing the malignant church heresies aptly represented by a vicious serpent with seven venomous heads; from Tuao, a sixteenth century pedestal highly suggestive of Kalinga art; round brass candlesticks belying Kalinga influence also; the primitive-looking sitting figure of Our Lord of Patience—an object of special devotion during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries; the priceless ivory images of the Blessed Virgn Mary and the crucified Redeemer of mankind; priestly vestments from Valencia, Spain, such as the chasuble and the dalmatic all sporting embroidered designs in silk and gold threads.

For objects closer to home , there were chairs from Vienna, a dining table reportedly 265 years old; an antiquated creaking trunk, an austere rattan and wooden bed; a harp and even a strange-looking escribania or writing desk with several minute drawers.

The enterprising organizers who set about introducing a pleasantly stimulating aura of culture consciousness not just to an exclusive sophisticated clique but to the public at large had fanned the clamor for a permanent repository of valuable artifacts. The idea then was for the government to subsidize an aesthetic refuge—call it  a museum—where privately-held relics could be brought for safekeeping. Here, too, experienced personnel, trained to engage in research, curatorial and library work will know how to handle best the delicate works of art so that the artistic heritage of a people may be preserved.

Meanwhile, Lal-lo’s Artifacts Building if converted permanently into a veritable showcase of Cagayan treasures portends well for what may , in the long run, emerge as a flourishing cultural institution for the Cagayan inhabitants. It certainly has the prototype shapings of a provincial museum in the making. And who could have thought of a more fitting place than Lal-lo, with its historical background and interesting topography?

The millennium for complete recognition of the the importance of a museum may not have arrived in the Philippines, but many a Cagayano will certainly not object to Lal-lo, nce the provincial capital, as the site where a sanctuary of Cagayan pride will find a lasting place.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

294. VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: From an Image on a Tilma to a Sculpted Santa

VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE, from the workshop of renown
Kapampangan carver, Nick Lugue, 2002

The apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Catholic convert, Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian of Mexico, began in Tepeyac Hill in 1531. There, the 57-year old Juan was told by the Lady to inform the Bishop what he has seen.  Juan Diego succeeded only in talking to the Bishop on his second visit; in turn, the Bishop advised the native to ask the Lady for a sign to prove that she was indeed Mary. In Her next apparition.the Lady asked him to gather roses growing on top of Tepeyac Hill, which Juan Diego collected and wrapped in his tilma, a cape made of cactus fiber.

After the Lady arranged the roses, she sent back Juan Diego to the Bishop. Appearing before the religious leader, Juan Diego let fall of the roses wrapped with the tilma. But it was not the blooms that stunned the Bishop, for there,impressed on the tilma, was the picture of the Blessed Mother—just as the native described Her.

Upon his return to the village, Juan Diego was surprised to find a sick uncle cured, who told him of his meeting with a young woman bathed in soft light. This Lady told him She had sent his nephew to see the Bishop with a picture of herself.  She then told Juan Diego’s uncle that she and the image be called “Sta. Maria de Guadalupe”. It was clear that She was one and the same woman--the Blessed Virgin--seen by both Juan and his uncle, the same one whose likeness was now on the tilma.

Thus began the spread of the worldwide devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The devotion is centered on the tilma with the miraculous imprint of the Virgin’s image that shows no sign of being painted or sketched. It is enshrined in the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has become the most popular religious pilgrimage site in the Western Hemisphere.

For centuries, attempts have been made to replicate the image sculpturally—and it has always been a challenge to represent the image tri-dimensionally, as it has quite a complex iconography.

The Lady stands upon a crescent moon, in reference to the woman of Rev. 12:1 who has symbolically the "moon under her feet",  a symbol of her perpetual purity. An angel supports her,  a testament to her royalty. The Lady’s mantle is blue-green or turquoise, the color of eternity and immortality. The limbus or gold border of her mantle is another sign of nobility. The stars on her mantle are indicative of her supernatural character and her personage as  the Queen of Heaven. They are the pre-dawn stars of the winter solstice that appeared on the morning of 12 December 1531.

The bow, tied high around her waist, is a  symbol of new life. Its  position and the slight swelling of the abdomen indicates that the the Lady is infanticipating,  almost ready to give birth, which would further confirm her identification with the woman of Rev. 12 who is about to deliver her child. The whole figure is surrounded by a strange light, a mandorla, with scalloped edges.This representation, crafted by award-winning religious sculptor Nick Lugue of San Vicente Apalit, was commissioned by a patron from Batangas, who donated the 4-foot image to a local church where She now reposes.

Picture of the Guadalupe Virgin:
Pictures from Don Sevilla III, Nick Lugue

Monday, May 8, 2017


In the ancient barrio of Saluysoy, in Meycauayan, Bulacan, there kept in the visita of the barangay, two old images revered since one can remember: the image of Santo Cristo (Crucified Christ) and San Pedro (Saint Peter).

Saluysoy, located adjacent to the heart of the town, takes its name from a slow-flowing gurgling brook which cut northwards at the eastern side of the original location of the barrio. “Saluysoy” means the sound of a brook’s steady water flow.  But when the water dried out, residents relocated to the west of the barrio where  a faster-flowing river was found. People dug up wells to ensure that they do not run of water anymore in their new place, which retained the name “Saluysoy”. The former abandoned site was named “Palanas”.

The barrio played a small, but significant part in the second world war. In 1941, when the Japanese Army broke through the USAFFE lines en route to conquering Manila, the barrio folks put on a gallant resistance that delayed the march of the invaders to the capital city by 11 days.

In the 1950s, it was said that indolence was unknown to the hard-working people of Saluysoy. Though small in size, the barangay thrived on many industries—shoemaking, wood carving, blacksmithing, goldsmithing, farming, fishing, and making of religious images.

It would seem that the two processional images were carved locally for the chapel, as the people were also known for being devout and religious. The chapel itself was rebuilt after the war, and at one time was considered to be the most beautiful in the whole province of Bulacan. It was fully funded through the efforts of “Samahang San Pedro”, a leading religious organization.

Today, Saluysoy is one of the more prosperous barangays of the city of Meycauayan, its prosperity driven by its jewelcraft and goldsmithing industries. Every year, the images of the barrio patrons—Santo Cristo and San Pedro—are brought out for processions during the May 4 barangay fiesta. San Pedro’s feast day is also observed separately by Saluysoy folks every June 29.

Many thanks to Mr. Robby de la Vega for the photos and for the background on brgy. Saluysoy from the Historical Data Papers of Meycauayan

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

292. OLD PIECES FROM HEAVEN AND HELL: Luis Ma. Araneta’s Venerable Virgins

Text and Photostyling by Felice Sta. Maria
Photography by Ben Laxina, Originally appeared April-June 1980 issue

Collecting is addicting: Luis Ma. Araneta started out as a young boy saving his father’s cigar bands and today owns among the finest assemblages of Philippine paintings, religious sculpture and houseware.

During World war II.Araneta’s involvement as treasurer and fund raiser of a guerilla unit was discovered. While imprisoned in the looter’s cage between incarcerations at Fort Santiago, Araneta was visited regularly by Don Alfonso Ongpin who braved the hecklers to inform his collector friend on who was disposing what treasure. Araneta purchased several pieces in this manner. Gifted with sentiment and a passion for the past, he recalls that fellow connoisseurs of the postwar era through the 1960s thought him mad for redeeming battered santos.

Painted wood with glass eyes and hair eyelashes, 62 cm.
Among the most lovely and charming interpretations of the Virgin Mary is the Divine Shepherdess, based on the metaphor of Chirst the Godd Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep and who seeks out the lost of the flock.Araneta’s high relief was carved from wood—the Virgin from one solid piece, the angels from separate pieces later pegged into place. In keeping with Biblical contest, angels are pure spirits despite their masculine names; the duo hovering above the Virgin are sexless. Artists worked estampitas, engravings and a few sculptural examples as models; santos were displayed on altar tables pushed against a wallor in wall niches. Both conditions de-emphasize the importance of carving a realistic backview. The face of this santo is European and far removed from naïve, popular renditions made by untrained carvers or by members of a family for their own use. Both Mother and Infant have glass eyes with lashes. A metal crown, symbolic of Mary’s reign as queen of heaven, threatens to slip over her head. Even if it were veiled: her regal rank is exaggerated just as the crown id of unrealistic proportions. Other Divina Pastoras are depicted not only with characteristic shepherd’s staff. But a wide-brimmed hat and costume of an Alpine lass.

Santo-collecting began as a salvaging effort. After Liberation, island churches lay in disarray. As ivory hand fell from wooden arm, and decapitations continued, substituting modern images for old ones seemed th natural remedy. Many a churchman felt obliged to remodel and beautify his parish. As new plaster of paris statues appeared on altars, antique ones were turned into kindling or buried in unmarked graves; others have turned up as parts of chicken coops and fences. Parishioners followed suit, some even leaving heirloom images to survive uncared for on home altars.

Ivory and polychromed wood. 41.5 cmfigure with an 11.5 cm. detachable base.
Whereas the featured Divina Pastora is European in rendition, this santo exemplifies Chinese standards of loveliness. Both Mother and Child have ivory heads and hands joined to wooden bodies. Collectors say that old statues carved by the Parian artisans (and later their descendants no longer confined to the Chinese quarters after 1860) have “bulging eyes”, although other santos reveal their Oriental craftsmanship because of epicantic folds. There are their signs: beauty rings run along the long, swanlike neck; the Virgin’s face is an exaggerated oval; and the fingers of both images are long and tapering.

The Holy Child may have been an afterthought since the babe hangs miraculously without aid from the Virgin’s graceful hands. This santo is Eurasian: the Oriental figure is clad in a western farthingale typical among royalty of the early Renaissance. Rendition is highly sophisticated with a head-to-body ratio of 1:8 , much more than the natural physical proportions of the times. Both images have holes in which haloes or crowns could be attached. The composition detaches from the cloud-and-cherub base; the plain bottom-most brown base is a recent addition.

As the cultural value of santos became clear to the public, old images acquired escalating commercial value. By the mid-1960s, cocktail and creative circuits decreed it fashionable to own Chinese porcelain and Sta. Ana diggings as well as a representative number of limbless, many times decrepit and unidentifiable wooden images; bejeweled ivory-faced dolls evolved the epitome. Chaplains and caretakers were enticed to part with church fixtures as competitive buyers offered new, and sometimes questionable substitutes, in payment. Religious art collectors and imaginative interior designers took to recycling altars, parts of santos, pews  and the like.

These santos depict the evolution of religious sculpture from the naïve to the sophisticated as well as the growth of Marian devotion. Mary is multi-faceted : virgin mother, heavenly queen and mankind’s hope. Her cult finds its roots in the Holy Family. The Philippine-carved Ntra. Sra. Del Rosario is a naïve sculpture-in-the-round made from a heavy solid piece of wood. The folk interpreted their saints and virgins and Jesuses as they thought fitting. This rendition combines the Immaculate Conception’s crescent moon with the Del Rosario prayer beads. The Imaculada is done in an advanced popular style; amorini such as those on the base  are characteristic of Imaculadas from Bohol, Negros, Laguna, and Batangas. The Virgin of Caysasay served as local prototype for Imaculadas. In 1570, the Manila diocese was created and put under the protection of the Imaculada;  only in 1854 was the Imaculada Concepcion defined as a dogma of faith. Imaculadas are usually depicted above a globe or a crescent moon, with their hands in prayer.

Images are either ecclesiastic or secular, and function in processions or on altars. Araneta has the entire range. T is difficult to determine the provenance and date for each and every piece, a collector is sure only if he has first-hand data on his side. But Araneta’s staff records what it can. Aside from the approximately 1,500 catalogued objects including antique paintings, salakots, furniture, kitchenware, silver and porcelain, Araneta has at least 500 santos.

There are approximately 100 statues of Virgin Mary in his mansion-museum. First-floor wings contain specially built section for Our Lady of the Rosary, Immaculate Conception, Mother and Child, and the Divine Shepherdess. Heaven and hell surround the visitor,; cherubs gaze down along with elaborate icons; there are paintings, estampitas, and books on the life of Mary as well as Roman Catholic saints and martyrs.

The Collector reads the life of one saint a day. When asked by a firned what he wul save from the ultimate deluge, Araneta pointed to his favorite santo: a gold-dressed Nuestra Senora del Rosario dangling a delicate set of prayer beads and encased in an antique virina.

These two santos were purchased in Mexico. The Del Rosario is symbiotic virgin, again combining crescent moon with rosary. The mother and child is a sophisticated treatment of a traditional theme. Despite attempts at classical finesse, the sculptor failed to master the effect of wind on the virgin’s garments. Strangely, there is a gold cross on this santo; the Latin cross was not a Christian symbol until after the Christ Child grew and was crucified.

The Virgin Mary is a Filipino gauge for feminine beauty: “Marylike was once the college- girl cliché for gentle lady propriety. Among the most available sangos for sale on the market are Del Rosarios, Imaculadas, and Del Pilars. Hyperdulia remains intense; Filipinos are intimate with their saints—what more then with the Mother of Christ, who appeals to the traditional importance accorded family units and the matriarchal title. How many miracles are attributed to the Holy Queen! She has turned away the Chinese and Dutch invaders from Philippine shores, protected galleon runs, stemmed off typhoons, headed the sick, and appeased the heartbroken. Women, and even men, such as Araneta, are named Maria in her honor.

Dulia reaches back into the early years after the Crucifixion when martyrs were secretly paid homage in the Roman catacombs by followers who laid palms on their corpses, and after burial on their graves. When Mary died, she was idealized. Clement of Alexandria encouraged using pagan symbols in the second century. During the reign of Cosntantine, Christianity was accepted and the building and ornamentation of churches began. Representations of the Virgin Mary were among the earliest, including those of Christ and the Family. In 787 A.D., he Council of Nicaea allowed the veneration of images in answer to Emperor Leo the Isaurian’s attempted iconoclastic schism.

It is not uncommon to find an antique figure clad in new clothes such as the one pictured ; a meticulous collector like Araneta, however, commissioned garments that resembled the frayed, authentic one, down to the gold thread. Many antique processional santos are still found with their wardrobe complete although hey are in various stages of decay. Old folks believe harming a santo or its clothing will bring bad luck.

Throughout the Medieval Age, Marian devotion continued; eleventh century chivalry is in fact and offshoot of the Virgin;s cult that has helped elevate woman (whose status suffered tremendously from Eve’s recorded curiosity). It was only in the 13th century, however, that Marianology crescendoed: the Assumption, Immaculate Conception and Intercession were philosophically highlighted by the Spanish thinker Ramon Llul (1235-1315); Scotus of England provided theological buttressing.

Renaissance art glorifies Mary; by the 17h century, cloth garments, glass eyes, real hair and jewelry were used in creating baroque santos also referred to as flamboyant. Throughout Europe, ivory faces and hands were pegged into wooden bodies and transformed into elaborate images for church and home veneration, figures lost in ornamentation.

Ornate santos, as well as  a number of classical renditions, are usually enclosed in a fine glass dome or giant candles shade. Both protective cases are called virina in the Philippines. The term is likely a corruption of vitrine, which in Spanish means not only a glass and wooden showcase (the vitrine became a highly popular piece of furniture in Europe from the 17th through the 19th centuries for displaying Chines finds, antiques and Victorian knick-knacks). Although new virinas are available, they are thicker than antique ones and come in plastic as well as glass. Bell-jar like covers grew popular after the Suez Canal opened in 1956 and facilitated the export of fragile European ware to Manila; travel time was cut in half. Virinas appear in various sizes—from those for miniatures to large ones that can house an entire Holy Family complete with magnificent glass entourage of palm trees, people and animals blown individually in the mid 1800s by Bilibid prisoners.

Slender giant hurricane shades that bulge out at their middles accommodate solo saints because of their slender proportions. Candle covers, like te dome versions, fit perfectly to an elaborately carved wooden base that is usually gilded; the tube type’s top is sealed off by a removable and an equally elaborate, matching wooden crown. Clocks, secular sculpture, beadwork and silk flowers were likewise displayed dust-free under glass covers, particularly during the Victorian era when a profusion of decoration ruled interiors.

Much of the Araneta collection is in wood, this having been the popular medium. The priests themselves,  Chinese artisans and a vast number of Filipinos are responsible for wooden santos.

Glass and wood-encased engraving, mounted on silk.
30 cm x 24.3 cm x 4.1 cm.

Collectors refer to the simplest renditions as naïve or popular. Untrained carvers knew little of anatomy; their images add the most basic attributes of the chosen saint to a very rigid, usually symmetrical and extremely unhumanlike body. Improvisation is common; folk santos combine what is genre with imported doctrine.

An unschooled worker’s guide was whatever example the local curate could offer: costly image bought in on a galleon from Mexico or Spain, a tiny one tucked away by a zealous missionary who foresaw his needs in the sculptureless Orient, but more commonly estampitas, escapularios, and prayer book engravings. The result of the non-artists’ endeavors are highly imaginative representations of how early converts envisioned God, the Church, Purgatory, Heaven, Hell and the super humans that became saints.

The folk carved hard, medium and soft woods with whatever tools were available. Collectors point out that when a knowledgeable buyer hefts a possible purchase at an antique shop, he is not just checking for kinship with the image; heavy woods are rare today and buying a substantial santo carved from a solid block lessens the chances of owning a reproduction.

While flamboyant images hide their material in an attempt at realism, sophisticated santos do not. Done with more skill than naïve images, a sophisticated or classical piece, is a sculptural creation; in the case of ornate santos, “decoration” to quote Fernando Zobel de Ayala, “is the statue itself, not classical styles”.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


RESURRECCION. Photo courtesy of Mr. Leo Cloma

 Holy Week in the Philippines culminate in the pre-dawn Easter rite called “Salubong”—a pageant that dramatizes the reunion of the Risen Christ with His Blessed Mother. The religious figures are separately borne on andas or on carrozas, followed by a segregated crowd (men follow the Jesus icon, women, that of Mary) and the two processions converge together, resulting in the meeting of Mother and Son.



Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

One of the highlight is the undraping of the Virgin’s black mourning veil by an “angel”—performed by a chosen young girl dressed with angel wings. The Virgin is then called the Nuestra Señora de Alegria ("Our Lady of Joy"), and the joyous rites are capped with a shower of flowers from other participating angels.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Punzalan Sagmit

Photo courtesy of Jvlian P. Liongson

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

 The figure of the Risen Christ, on the other hand, is also called Cristo ng Muling Pagkabuhay or Resurrecion. He wears a loincloth, sometimes with a cape or a sash, and holds his standard in His left hand and His right hand, raised in benediction.

Photo courtesy of Jose Talapagobra FB page.

Photo by Alex R. Castro

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

On Christ's head are tres potencias, symbol of His faculties. He stands on a cloud base, fancifully called "ensaymada" base, especially the antique ones, for the resemblance to the swirly pastry.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Leo Cloma

Photo courtesy of Mr. Jejomar Roberto

Photo by Yuu Miyamoto FB page

Traditionally, the images of the Risen Christ are small—antique ones seem to have a standard size of 39 inches. That’s because Christ is meant to be shoulder-borne on a wooden platform, which can be maneuvered easily to move back and forth, or to lean—so that the Christ figure can be made to appear like it is animated, leaning or nodding when it meets the statue of Mary. 

Photo from Nuestra Senora de Loreto picssr page.

Photo courtesy of El Rey-Guapo FB page.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Leo Cloma

The Risen Christ is then enshrined in the altar for the Easter Mass to remind us all of the doctrine of Christ's resurrection and of the reward of life after death.

Photo courtesy of Romain Garry Evangelista

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Resurreccion of Villa Escudero

 On this pages are images of the Resurreccion, from different towns and provinces, many still used for the festive Salubong easter rites.