|THE MYSTERY PICTURE OF STA, SALOME, ca. 1920s.|
A decade ago, in one of my visits to a local antique dealer, I picked up this photo postcard of what seemed to be a family before an heirloom wooden statue of Sta. Salome, on a small wooden carroza. The people are dressed in modest clothes, in their Sunday’s best—nothing expensive or flashy. The women on the left looked like they were in mourning clothes, indicating a death in the family, maybe the pater familia. The grove of slender bamboos in the background gives the scene a real, rustic feel. It would appear that they are about to leave for a procession. I liked how this 1920s photo evoked the spirit of bygone days in the province, —simple, unhurried, when people’s devotion to their faith was deeper, more unwavering.
But what drew me to the picture was Sta. Salome herself. It is the plain-ness of the carving that makes her remarkable. She projects a sweet expression, a slight smile evident on her face. The santa who cleaned Jesus’ tomb clasps a broom on one hand—a walis tingting—and a hanky on her left hand. Her vestments, though with traces of gold embroidery, have a homespun quality to the way they were created. The ends of her half-cape are folded over into “palikpik” that extended till her shoulders. She wears a belt that is uniquely trimmed with a ribbon.
On her head, Sta. Salome wears a brass diadem, and an umbrella-type halo or paragua. She stands on an ochovado base, outfitted with spindly albortantes, topped with glass floral shades and adorned with paper flowers.
Who is the family that owns this beautiful Sta. Salome?
Where was this taken?
More importantly, what fate befell the santa and her carroza?
If she survived, where is it now?
For years, these questions remained unanswered. In the meanwhile, I even used the picture as an illustrative example of Philippine processions in an article I wrote for one of my blogs. Sometime in 2015, one blog reader from Bulacan—Yves Paulino-- saw the picture and noticed some startling similarities with the image of Santa Salome of Caniogan in Malolos.
The overall stance of the image—for instance, in the way her hands were posed, were similar to their Sta. Salome. And so were the diadem and the “payong”. The manner in which she was dressed-- specifically, the upright ‘palikpik’—was very similar too. The most telling, however, was the unique belt. Upon closer scrutiny, Paulino noticed that the santa in the picture was wearing a unique ribbon belt—identical to the original belt on the waist of the Caniogan image.
Despite these striking similarities, Paulino wanted to be really certain. Since my blog was about Pampanga, he assumed that the picture came from the province, and therefore the image had a Kapampangan provenance. Besides, I had identified the image in the picture was a “Sta. Maria Jacobe”. He then sent me period pictures of their santa so that could compare the 2 statues myself.
When I saw the picture of their patroness, I could tell right away that this was indeed, the same one as in my picture. I pointed out that I did not identify the image as coming from Pampanga, In the caption, I had written “….A family from Central Luzon rolls out it heirloom image of Sta. Maria Jacobe”. It is also to be noted that certain provinces interchange the names and attributes (broom and hanky vs. censer) of Maria Jacobe and Salome. I had no doubt in my mind that the mystery santa in the picture was indeed, the Sta. Salome of Caniogan, Malolos.
The only missing information are the real identities of the people in the picture. No one in Caniogan seem to know, not even the old folks in the neighborhood. They could only tell that “someone long ago, donated the image for the chapel to use”.
Today, the image of 5 foot Sta. Salome with her bastidor body has her own chapel in Caniogan, and she remains under the care of “hermanos”, who, on rotating duties, take care of the image. An assigned hermano gets to take home the statue, her vestments and even her cabinet where she is kept. Nowadays, the younger set takes care of dressing her up for her “fiesta”. All these years, she wears her original ribbon belt and her diadem, but her halo and her broom have been replaced. She also wears a donated human hair wig.
Not only did the antique image survived too, but even her wooden carroza shown on the picture is still in existence, used by the old Santa Cruz of Caniogan—a slender, holy cross that is also a treasured sacred art of the barangay.
Sta. Salome’s double feast days are observed with festive dancing and celebrations—first, during the Easter Salubong, where she is feted with a procession after her return from the Sta. Isabel Church, and on Oct. 22, her official Feast Day, where a novena is held in her honor.
The only mystery left are finding the identities of the family members in the picture. No one in Caniogan seem to know, not even the old folks in the neighborhood. They could only tell that “someone long ago, donated the image for the chapel to use”. But that is immaterial at this point in time, for in their stead, a whole community of people have come to rally around Sta. Salome, showering her with love and devotion that are sure to last into the next generation and beyond.
Sta. Salome Close Up: flickr via Wenceslao Camigay, https://www.flickr.com/photos/wency_gentrias/2954162271
Picture of Sta. Salome with Sta. Cruz: Sta. Salome (Caniogan, Malolos) FB Page, https://www.facebook.com/stamaria.salome.3?ref=br_rs
Sta. Salome Chapel: Wenceslao Camigay, https://www.flickr.com/photos/wency_gentrias/2958003486/
Photo of Sta. Salome in church altar: Bob Bernabe FB ( posted on Sta. Salome FB page)
Medium shit of Sta. Salome: JehnNel Paulino FB ( posted on Sta. Salome FB page)
Other vintage pictures: Yves Paulino
Photo of Sta. Cruz with Carroza, Jemuel Palacio Paulino