Monday, September 6, 2021

342. CHRISTIAN LACAP: REVIVING ARTS IN THE MONASTIC TRADITION

 
THE HANDMADE MONASTIC-INSPIRED ART OF CHRISTIAN LACAP

When monasteries became centers for learning and religious training, there rose a need for houses of worship, books and devotional objects for the daily life of the community. 

SAMPLES OF OLD MONASTIC ART

Religious houses became enthusiastic patrons of the arts, and the strict commitment to manual work balanced with prayer, allowed many monks and nuns themselves to serve God as creative artists. Thus originated the so-called monastic arts created by men and women of the cloth.

AN ART CLASS UNDER A NUN, 1933

STUDENTS IN ART CLASSES, 1930s

When religious orders began putting up schools in the Philippines, art education became part of their curriculum. Most of the teachers were nuns themselves, and so they introduced many forms of devotional art to their students that require embroidery, painting, decorative paper tooling such as tole and quilling, and assemblages of sacred scenes in shadow boxes.

SAN PEDRO, APO IRO OF APALIT

FRAMED ESTAMPITAS

VIRGEN OF ANTIPOLO

Many of these artistic outputs from the 1920s thru 1950s were used to decorate home altars and rooms, showcases of skilled hands and religious fervor.  In antique shops, elaborate pieces command quite a tidy sum—like those that feature exquisite wired mother-of-pearl floral arrangements that must have required long hours of deft work.

SAN AGUSTIN

STA. ANA, FATIMA, LOURDES

The creation of such art have ceased to be with the advent of modern education, but a few artists are quietly reviving the tradition. Christian Lacap of Mabalacat is one such self-taught artist who is slowly building a portfolio of contemporized monastic art that is gaining notice among a small circle of collectors.

STA. FILOMENA

VIRGEN DE PORTA VAGA

His decorated shadow box art, 2-dimensional representations of dressed santos and biblical characters, old estampitas bordered with quilled paper, among others—are truly inspired creations, cleanly executed, neatly-laid out and beautifully composed.

VIRGEN DE LOS REMEDIOS

SAN JUDAS TADEO / SAN MARTIN DE PORRES

VIRGEN DEL CARMEN / SAN VICENTE FERRER

SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA

His creative flair began years ago as a teenager in Mabalacat when he was asked to help decorate the Divine Grace Parish Church during the annual fiesta, Holy Week and Christmas celebrations. Soon, he was also assisting in the dressing up of santos and floral decorations of carrozas.

STO. NINO DE MALOLOS

SAN LUIS GONZAGA

SAN GUILLERMO

At age 22, he landed a job in the Middle East, working at the King Salman Bin Abdulazizal Saud Palace in Jeddah for the royal household from 2009-2011. As part of the housekeeping staff, Lacap was tasked with the floral arrangements at the social events of the princess.

LA PURISIMA / VIRGEN MILAGROSA DE BADOC

LA DIVINA PASTORA / STA. CATALINA DE SIENA

After the contract ended, he stayed for 5 more years, finding employment in a flower shop in Riyadh, before working as cashier/waiter in a Filipino restaurant in Jeddah. He returned to the Philippines in 2018, and was hired to work under the City Tourism office in 2019.

LA PRESENTACION

Lacap’s  visit to the Archdiocesan Museum of San Fernando which has quite a big collection of Shadow Box Art,  introduced him to an old art form which became his fascination. He studied how to dress up flat pictures using real fabric, folded to simulate real drapes. He also observed the kinds of decorations used, which consisted mostly of paper flowers. These, he learned to make from scratch.

QUILLED ANTIQUE SCAPULAR

1ST WORK: QUILLED ESTAMPITA

It was at this point too that an acquaintance introduced him to the old art of paper quilling. By looking at examples online, Lacap copied and perfected the technique of rolling paper strips, crimping them to form shapes, and then assembling these using glue. His first two attempts of framed quilled art were sold immediately. In time, he was also asked to show his works in religious exhibits.

Through referrals and word of mouth, Lacap managed to get commissions from customers, mostly sacred art collectors. He did a lot of experimentation in the absence of materials. For example, he simulated “lagang” flowers (mother-of-pearl) using ordinary masking tape.  He has also looked into the use of feathers, flowers made of strung beads, and found objects such as twigs, embroidery scraps, old metal halos, and even human hair! 

    RETOOLED LEAVES & PAPER FLOWERS

MASKING TAPE FLOWERS

By mixing and combining quilling, fabric manipulation, appliquing and unique floral decorating, he could transform a flat base paper figure in one or two weeks, into a treasured work of art, worthy to be a museum piece. In the absence of old holy pictures to frame, he uses pictures and prints from old religious programs, calendars, and similar sources. The antique frames are mostly provided by his patrons. His basic tools are the usual glue gun, paper, floral tape, fabrics, trimmings--and lots of patience.

STO, NINO DE MALOLOS

VIRGEN DE CANDELARIA

SAN JOSE

Recently resigned from his government job,  Lacap has decided to pursue his creative passion full-time. At the moment, he is still finishing some commissioned works, and he hopes to open his on-line FB-based small sacred art business soon, under the name “ARTE SAGRADA”.

MINIATURE STO. NINO

SAN PEDRO / STO. NINO

On this spread are some of the works completed by Christian Lacap, who, in his own special way, without formal training and background in fine arts,  is reviving the vanishing tradition of monasteries from centuries past.

CREDITS: ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN LACAP

For inquiries, contact: https://www.facebook.com/xtian.lacap.5


Thursday, January 7, 2021

341. Santo Stories: LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION of Guagua (under the care of the Tiongco-Villacorta Family)

LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION, Guagua

The story of the beautiful LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION of Guagua begins over a hundred thirty years ago, and has come to involved extended families beginning with Hipolito de Mesa Leoncio and wife Francisca Simon Chingcoangco, the first known owners of the image of the young Virgin.

The couple had acquired the image, and several others, in 1910, from Fr. Maximo Veron, the then-parish priest of La Natividad de la Virgen Church (now known as Immaculate Conception Paris of  Guagua). The other icons included the lifesize  Sto.Entierrro (“Apung Señor), Sto Niño Dormido (sleeping Child Jesus), and San Jose.

STO. ENTIERRO

NINO DORMIDO
 
More of these santos were acquired the same way by the couple’s cousins like the San Juan (Songco Family), Sta. Maria (Lozano Family) and Sta. Filomena (Lagman Family). 

LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION, was often described by the old members of the family as “beautiful beyond compare”, a most appropriate description as the face is exquisitely carved, showing the highest level of the carver’s skills. When descendant,  Johnny Tiongco Villacorta was cleaning the image, he found on its base the carved notation--AÑO 23 ~ 12 ~ 89, which dated the making of the santa to Dec. 23, 1889. 

When the family became Aglipayan converts, LA PURISIMA was transferred to the Aglipayan Church of Guagua and enthroned there. During World War II, LA PURISIMA, along with the family’s treasured images, were spirited away for safekeeping. The Virgin and the sleeping Niño were kept under the kamalig of the Gamboa Family, also kins of the family. The San Jose figure, however, did not survive the onslaught of war, when the Japanese burned the house.

LA PURISIMA used to wear a halo with 12 stars (“Dose Estrellas) which has now been lost, but she still has her star-designed, diamond-studded rostrillo (facial aureole), silver earrings in the shape of cherubs, and a gold pendant. Thankfully, she also has retained her century-old  “tiso de oro” vestments. 

In her old age, Lola Pacing Lozano, the eldest child who died at age 95 in 2004, once wistfully said to her twin siblings Minang and Sidang: “Ikwa tana mengatwa at mangamate obat, ing Virgen tamu sidsad ya parin keng lagu” (We have all grown to this ripe, old age, and some of us have passed away, but our Virgin still remains as beautiful as ever). Indeed,  through all these years, she has remained “beautiful beyond compare!”


The custody of the image of LA PURISIMA CONCEPCION (fondly called “Apung Puring” by the elders),as well as Apung Señor, the Niño Dormido and the replacement image of San Jose has  been entrusted to grandson Johnny “Buda” Tiongco-Villacorta, exacting a promise from him  to continue the family tradition and never to sell them. “Sadsad mula… pakyapusan at sundu mu ing gagawan mi karela agyang magdildil na kayu mung asin.  E yula pamisali, pangaku mu kekami yan” (Carry on..,care for them the way we did even if you go hungry, and have nothing to eat but salt. Promise us never to to sell them..).

CREDITS: All information and photos courtesy of Mr. Johnny Tiongco Villacorta

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

340. SAINT MARTHA, THE DRAGON TAMER: Inspired by the Image Venerated in the Town of Pateros, Metro Manila

By Tereso “Terry” Raymundo Garcia, Guest Writer

STA. MARTA OF GARCIA FAMILY

Saint Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, is famously known as the patroness of cooks and housekeepers because of the Gospel narrative of her unselfish service to Jesus. 

STA. MARTA PATEROS IMAGE

It was in 2013 when I first saw the somehow peculiar image of the patroness of Pateros. This small and fully sculpted figure of Saint Martha stands on top of a crocodile, reminiscent of a local legend wherein the saint saves the town from a reptile that has been terrorizing the place and jeopardizing the livelihood of the inhabitants.

The Pateros image is similar to how Saint Martha is depicted according to French lore. Saint Martha’s attributes are derived from an event of principal significance in the traditions of Provence, France: the slaying of the beast known as the “Tarasque”. 

According to pious tradition, Martha and other disciples were banished from the Holy Land after the resurrection of Jesus. She, her siblings, and other disciples were put in a boat without oars which subsequently landed in Provence. Martha first settled in Avignon then went to the region that is now called Tarascon. Martha was approached by townspeople seeking her aid in combatting a fierce dragon,half beast and half fish, which had plagued the Rhône region between Arles and Avignon. 

With a cross in her hand, Martha doused the monster with holy water with a sprig of hyssop. Through her efforts, the monster was subdued; Martha bound it with her belt and it was put to death by the onlookers. The place was later known as Tarascon to remember this event. Saint Martha lived the remainder of her life in this place, and her relics are presently venerated in the town church. 

STA. MARTA, the commissioned image

In gratitude to an answered prayer through the saint’s intercession, we commissioned an exact replica of the Pateros image in 2015. The “de tallado” image was then dressed in traditional beaded vestments known as “abolorio”. 

RESTORATION WORK BEGINS

By March 2018, our devotional image was in need of restoration. We approached the well-known santo-restorer, Dr. Raffy Lopez, for this project. Dr. Lopez suggested on how the restoration will be done so as to make our image unique but still faithful to the traditional iconography. 


The head and hands were re- done in ivory and the painted wooden body was dressed in vestments embroidered in gold threads. The brass metal works were replaced with jeweler-made silver and gold accoutrements designed by Dr.Lopez. 

After two months of meticulous work, our Santa Marta is again ready for veneration. Dr. Lopez and his team did a superb job in redefining our family’s image. Beautiful would be an understatement; a restoration truly beyond expectation. 

In the gospels, Martha was portrayed as someone diligent and meticulous; she was surely one of the first to believe in Jesus. The Lord was often a guest in her home, especially during the time of His public ministry in Jerusalem. 

Saint Martha also gives us a strong witness of faith. We see, in her response to Jesus’ questions after the death of her brother Lazarus, a total belief, a faith that does not hesitate, does not doubt. Martha has complete confidence in God, even in the face of what seems impossible on a human level.

ABOUT THE GUEST WRITER: TERESO “Terry” RAYMUNDO GARCIA is a University of the Philippines graduate who currently write content for an online site. Previous to this, he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Angeles City, and DBP. An avid santo enthusiast, he is a devotee of Sta. Marta, Sta. Teresita de Nino Jesus, Padre Pio, St. Charbel Makhlouf, San Luis Gonzaga and Sto. Nino.