Tuesday, February 27, 2018


The church of Tanay, dedicated to San Ildefonso de Toledo, has a long history, but its seeds were planted by Franciscan friars as early as the late 16the century. Tanay itslef—known a Monte Monte Tan-ay in ancient times, was a visita of Pililla, until it became an independent parish in 1606. The town was eventually relocated to a place called San Antonio in 1620.
1.      Pilate condemns Jesus to die
2.      Jesus accepts his cross
The church of Tanay, was we know it today, evolved from a series of structures—at first, from a bamboo and cogon structure,  to a stone church erected in 1678, under the initiative of Fray Pedro de Espallargas. The stone church was completed in 1680. But subsequent damages wrought by nature necessitated the construction of a new, sturdier church—and this is the present-day church that was built from 1773-1783.
3.      Jesus falls for the first time
4.      Jesus meets his mother, Mary
The impressive church is a fine showcase of baroque architecture, evident in its profusely-decorated retablo mayor or main altar (finished in 1785), naïve relleves folksy (relief carvings) and retablos. Spaniards took note of the excellent woodcarving skills of natives and employed them in creating decorations and religious articles for the church.
5.      Simon helps carry the cross
6.      Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
The most well-known examples are the 14 Stations of the Cross rendered in wood reliefs. The Stations of the Cross are a 14-step Catholic devotion that commemorates Jesus Christ's last day on Earth as a man. The 14 devotions, or stations, focus on specific events of His last day, beginning with His condemnation.
7.      Jesus falls for the second time 
Note Caiaphas, holding a pince-nez with dark lenses.

The works are not dated nor do they appear in church record, but it is believed that the first twelve stations were carved by a local artist from Tanay. This can be gleaned from the folksy features of the characters, flaws in proportions and perspectives.  They also look Malayan, with dark features, and some characters carry native objects like the carabao horn “tambuli” and the native bolo, instead of the metal trumpets, lances and swords of the original Biblical figures.

8.      Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9.      Jesus falls for the third time
Another often-noticed anachronism can be found on the 7th Station (“Jesus falls for the 2nd time). If one looks closely, behind the crossbar is the High Priest Caiaphas, who seem to be holding a pair of dark glasses, that look like a pince-nez.  
10.  Jesus is stripped of his clothes
11.  Jesus is nailed to the cross
The last two stations (Jesus is taken down from the cross, Jesus is placed in the tomb) have marked Caucasian features. The carvings are more proportioned,  refined and detailed—from the facial features to the musculature of Jesus. These are clearly the works of a trained artisan.
12.  Jesus dies on the cross
 13.  Jesus is taken down from the cross (no photo)
14.  Jesus is placed in the tomb
Note the Caucasian features of the characters. This
indicates that a different carver made the last 2 stations.
The 14 Stations of the Cross, reputed to be the most beautiful in Asia,  are prized treasures of the Tanay Church, which in itself is a historic masterpiece, declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts on July 31, 2001.

From the Feliciano Album Collection at the Center for Kapampangan Studies.

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