Wednesday, May 26, 2010


by Gloria T. Leonardo
(Source: ARCHIPELAGO, The International Magazine of the Philippines, 1975 A-22, Vol, II. pp. 28-31.)

Next to wood, ivory was most frequently used in making religious statues for Philippine Catholic churches and home altars from the earliest days of the colony in the seventeenth century and into the nineteenth. A relatively plentiful supply of ivory came to Manila from China, principally from nearby Canton which h was second only to Peking as an ivory carving center.

In fact, most of the religious statues were made in southern China for export to the Philippines—to such an extent that, it was believed until recently, that all ivory statues came from China. This was not so. Investigative studies have shown that some ivory statues were carved in Manila or in Paete, a traditional center for carving in the hills of Laguna, by anonymous artisans. Some of these craftsmen were Filipinos; some were Chinese, which further added to the Chinese identity of the statues even if they were carved and commissioned right in the Philippines. Setting the obscurity even more deeply was the tendency at that time for people to adopt Spanish names; if ever an artisan signed his work, as was the practice with engravings, he invariably used a Hispanized name that masked his origin.

Statues for home altars, in fact, accounted for much of the commissioned work. And what abundant work. Since the early Fifties, when interest in santos, as they are familiarly called, arose in appreciation of their beauty as samples of early indigenous popular sculpture, hundreds of statues—from miniatures to five foot tall carvings—have been brought to light and continue to be discovered. The bigger pieces were from churches. But the greater bulk of the discoveries, the smaller, more portable santos, clearly belonged to home altars.

Great ivory statues for the churches were usually of the patron saints in whose honor, the edifices were built and dedicated. Today, the most famous of these ivory icons is that of Our Lady of the Rosary in Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City. Known as La Naval de Manila to commemorate the sea victory of the Spanish colonial navy over the Dutch invaders in 1654, the statue was commissioned by Governor Luis Perez Dasmariñas from a Chinese artisan who was a catechumen or a convert studying Catholic doctrine in order to be baptized. Only the faces and hands of the Virgin and Child, now sheened by the years into lifelike olive skin tones, are ivory; the body frames are of wood, fully clothes in robe of woven gold.

Nearly every important church has a crucifix with the Corpus carved in full from ivory. This is usually the crucifix used for veneration during Good Friday and is considered in many churches as a true ecclesiastical heritage as well as art treasure.

If ivory santos for home altars are particularly exquisite as works of art, their size is certainly a contributing factor. As a whole, these statues are small; from eight to sixteen inches in height. The features therefore are small and, in some of the best classical examples, are carved in delicate fidelity.

Connoisseurs of small ivory santos single out—with awe and delight—the perfection in details, such as the fingernails carved in hands measuring no more than half or three-quarters of an inch. Or they point to the eyelidfolds on carved eyes as small as fourth of an inch, even less. The eyes in many ivory santos are high points of craftsmanship. Small, finely painted glass was inserted to make the orbs; not only that, eyelashes were also painstakingly glued on—within millimeter spaces.

Moreover, ornamentations were frequently added to the ivory statuettes. When the figure did not include carved garments or even if it did, rich ornate robes of satin or gold weave were fashioned. Halos of gold or silver, encrusted with jewels, were added; sometimes there were even crowns and diadems. Items of jewelry were also added, such as pendants, rings, brooches. It was as if to say that since God is the Creator of the wealth of the earth, nothing is to be spared to His glory, nothing denied that would add to the conviction that His alone is the earth and its fullness.

Just like the religious images made of wood, the ivory santos eventually came to be classified into three types: the popular, the classical and the ornate.

Most of the extant religious images today, particularly those made of wood, are in popular style: a distinctly naïve, unsophisticated style, much like simple line drawings. These images were intended for home altars. While they are simple, they have enormous appeal and charm and are highly prized as folk art. No one of the sculptors who made these popular santos is known by name today. It is, as it should be, for folk art is never signed except by its character.

Few ivory religious images are in the popular style. The material is too precious and expensive to be left in the hands of folk artists, it seemed. This must not be taken as a norm, however.
On the other hand, many ivory statuettes are in the classical style. This is a style distinctively baroque. A classical santo was created as a fully sculptured piece, faithfully carved to include robes and hair. No added-on elements (such as wigs) or other ornamentations (such as garments) are necessary to make it a complete statue.

Classical ivory statues are much valued. To begin with, statues carve dout of a single piece of ivory are rare—since ivory does not often come in adequate enough sizes. Usually, the head and hands were pegged on and joints are easily detected as thin brown lines.

Finally, the ornate style of statues is the elaboration of the classical by a rich, multiplicity of details and by the addition of garments and other ornamentations. Some ornate ivory statues consist of a plain wood body frames to which are pegged the head and hands. Other ornate statues are classical pieces of sculpture, complete with carved garments and hairs, but to which were added extra ornamentations.

The art of religious statuary in the Philippines bears two distinct influences: Spanish and Chinese. To these is added another distinct style, a way of elaboration and detail, a way of workmanship, which is markedly Filipino.

Precious because pure ivory from elephant tusks is never in plentiful supply, elegant because of its sheen, texture and incomparable grain, outstanding because of its durability (it does not burn or rot in water), ivory is nevertheless, easy to carve. An ax, an adz, a chisel, a saw, perhaps a lathe or a dentist’s drill; these are all the tools necessary in the deft and sure hands of an ivory carver. In the past, as it is today, the most proximate source of ivory for the Philippines is China; the only other source is Africa from where the Spanish artisans of old obtained the ivory they crafted into the exquisite santos that began the tradition of religious imagery in the Philippines.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

11. Santo Stories: STA. VERONICA NG CAINTA

ni Michael P. delos Reyes

Ang imahen ni Santa Veronica ay minana ni Dominga Omaña, ang naging kabiyak ni Baldomero Perez. Mula noon, ang mag-asawang ito ang nagtataguyod sa paglalabas ng imahen tuwing sasapit ang Mahal na Araw. Nang pumanaw ang mag-asawa, natigil ang paglalabas sa imahen at ito’y tumagal ng humigit-kumulang sa apat na taon. Muling naisama sa prusisyon si Santa Veronica nang maikasal ang isa sa mga anak nina Baldomero at Dominga, si Lino Perez, kay Lumen Javier noong Mayo 1929.

Ang mag-asawang Lino at Lumen ang nagpatuloy sa paglalabas ng imahen. Noon, andas ang pinaglalagyan ng imahen, at ito’y naiilawan ng mga kandilang nasa mga viriña. Ang mga bumubuhat sa andas ay ang mga kaibigan at kalaro sa “basketball” ni Lino na sina Loge (taga-Ibaba o Baryo San Roque), Yayong Jacinto at Totoy Garcia (taga-Baryo Dayap), Perocle, Victorino Buisa, Dionisio “Doneng” Cruz at Paulino “Poleng” Mariano (taga-Bayan). Ang mga ito’y halinhinan sa pagpapasan ng andas. Ang asawa’t mga anak naman ni Lino ay naghahanda ng inumin para sa mga bumubuhat na ibinibigay pagsapit ng prusisyon sa panulukan ng daang J. Buenviaje at M.L.Quezon. Nagpatuloy ang paglalabas ng imahen hanggang sa sumiklab ang Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig noong 1941.

Taong 1942, ang bayan ng Cainta ay sinunog ng mga sundalong Hapon. Kabilang sa mga nasunog ang tahanan ng mga Perez sa daang Buenviaje. Lumikas ang mag-anak kasama ang imahen patungong Santolan, Pasig, na kung saan sila’y namalagi sa loob ng dalawang taon. Pagkalipas ng digmaan, bumalik sa Cainta ang mag-anak nina Lino at Lumen noong 1945. Pinagsumikapan nilang mailabas muli ang imahen pagsapit ng Mahal na Araw. Sa tulong ng pinsan ni Linong si Dra. Brigida “Binday” Omaña, nahingi ang isang karo mula sa angkan ng mga San Juan (taga-Ibayo).

Ang paglabas taun-taon ni Santa Veronica ay pinagtutulung-tulungan ni Lumen at ng mga nabubuhay pa niyang anak (sina Lolita, Leticia, Lino Jr., Lorando, Lydia, Lamberto, Liwanag, Lilia, Leila, Lorna at Luzviminda), kasama ang kanyang mga apo. Isa itong pagkakataon para sa angkan ng Perez na magkatipun-tipon. Bukod sa mga magkakamag-anak, nagkikita-kita rin ang mga namamanata (humihila o tumutulak sa karo). Ang mga kagawiang isinasagawa kaugnay ng paglabas ng santo ay ang mga sumusunod: pabasa tuwing Huwebes Santo, pamimigay ng pasadyang t-shirt, at paghahandog ng caridad sa mga kamag-anak at namamanata. Ang paghahanda sa imahen ay pinangangasiwaan ng isa sa mga apo ni Lumen, si Michael delos Reyes.

Ang imahen ni Santa Veronica ay makikitang may hawak na birang na kung saan ay nakalarawan ang naghihirap na mukha ng Panginoon. Sa Miyerkules Santo, isang mukha pa lang ang nasa birang. Pagsapit ng Biyernes Santo, hawak na ang birang na may tatlong mukha. Inilalarawan nito ang unti-unting paglalahad ng birang na may tatlong mukha ayon sa salaysay sa Pasyong Mahal. Bukod sa mga prusisyon ng Miyerkules Santo at Biyernes Santo, sumasama na rin sa Dakilang Prusisyon ng Pagkabuhay si Santa Veronica magmula noong Linggo ng Pentekostes 2007.

PANALANGIN* Panginoong Hesukristo, tinanggap Mo ang pagpapamalas sa Iyo ng tapat na pagmamahal ni Santa Veronica. Bilang gantimpala, itinakda Mong siya ay maalala ng mga susunod na salin-lahi sa pamamagitan ng kanyang pangalan na sumasalamin sa kanyang ginawang kagandahang-loob sa Iyo. Itulot Mong ang aming mga gawain at ang mga gawain ng mga susunod sa amin ay makatulong upang kami ay maging Iyong kawangis, at makapag-iwan sa daigdig ng bakas ng Iyong walang hanggang pag-ibig. Sa Iyo, O Hesus, na luningning ng Ama, ang lahat ng papuri at luwalhati magpasawalang hanggan. Amen.

* Halaw sa panalangin ni Papa Juan Pablo II (Via Crucis 2000, Roma).



The image of Sta. Veronica was inherited by Dominga Omaña, who became the wife of Baldomero Perez. From then on, the couple sponsored the image’s participation in the annual Week processions. When the couple died, the image’s participation stopped for four years, more or less. The image of Sta. Veronica joined the processions once again when one of the children of Baldomero and Dominga, Lino Perez, married Lumen Javier in May 1929.

The couple, Lino and Lumen continued the tradition of bringing out the image. Before, the image was shoulder-borne on an “andas”, lit with candles inside virinas. The carriers of the “andas” were friends and co-basketball players of Lino like Loge (from Barrio San Roque), Yayong Jacinto and Totoy Garcia (from Barrio Dayap), Perocle, Victorino Buisa, Dioniso “Dioneng” Cruz and Paulino “Poleng” Mariano (from the town proper). These volunteers alternated in carrying the “andas”. Lino’s wife and children, on the other had, were in charge of preparing drinks to the volunteers, when procession time came, which began on the corner of J. Buenviaje and M.L.Quezon Sts. The image continued to be procesioned until the outbreak of the second World War in 1941.

It was in the year 1942 that Cainta was burned by Japanese soldiers. One of those gutted by the fire was the Perez home on Buenviaje St. The family evacuated to Santolan, Pasig, bringing the image with them, and there they stayed for two years. After the war in 1945 Lino and Lumen’s family returned to Cainta. They strove to bring out the image again for the Holy Week. With the help of Lino’s cousin, Dra. Brigida “Binday” Omaña,, a "caro” (processional carriage) was donated from the San Juan clan (of Ibayo).

The yearly Lenten outing of Santa Veronica was made possible through the combined efforts of Lumen and her surviving children (Lolita, Leticia, Lino Jr., Lorando, Lydua, lamberto, Liwanag, Lilia, Leila, Lorna and Luzviminda) It was also a chance for the Perezes to be together. Aside from the relatives, assorted devotees (like the pullers of the carriage) got to see and socialize with each other. The usual activities that go with the santo’s Holy Week participation include: the “Pabasa” (reading of the book depicting Christ’s passion) every Maundy Thursday, the giving away of customized T-shirts and the offering of “caridad” (charity) to family relatives and devotees. The preparation of the image is now under the supervision of one of Lumen’s grandchildren, Michael delos Reyes.

The image of Santa Veronica is seen holding a cloth (“birang”) imprinted with the tortured face of the Lord. On Holy Wednesday, only one face is seen. Come Good Friday, the image now holds a cloth with three facial imprints of Christ, as narrated in the Pasyong Mahal (Holy Passion). Other than the Holy Wednesday and Good Friday processions, the image also joins the great procession of the Resurrection since the Pentecost Week of 2007.

(MICHAEL P. DE LOS REYES is an educator, a happy husband and father. He is the author of 4 books and an article: 1) Poon at Santo: ang mga Banal na Imahen ng Mahal na Araw sa Cainta (2004)2) Prusisyon: Paghahanda at Pagdiriwang (Claretian Publications, 2006), 3) Virgen ng Caliuanagan (2006)4) "Ang Simbahan ng Cainta" in Community and Service, vol. 1, no. 1 (Dec. 2006).5) Poon at Santo: Kuwaresma at Paskuwa (2009. He also revised the novena to Our Lady of Light, Patroness of Cainta (2007), the novena to St. John the Baptist (2008, and the novena to Santa Marta, Patroness of Pateros (2009). Thanks, Mike for sharing this article and the pictures for this blogsite.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

10. The Saintmakers: FRANCISCO VECIN

This exclusive interview series first appeared as SSF Personalan on Semana Santa Filipinas, the biggest online group of santo owners and enthusiasts. It features personalities directly involved in the “santo trade”: ecclesiastical artists, carvers, artisans, encarnadors, painters, lateros, bordadors, costureras, cultural activists and avid santo fans. It is also aimed at recognizing the unsung contemporary talents behind our religious arts—how they started, how they honed their skills, and how it is like to run a santo business today.

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Our featured subject has been in the santo business for over 20 years. To set the record straight, our subject is not a carver, but an owner-proprietor who skillfully orchestrates the work of a platoon of artisans—from carvers to wigmakers, from metalsmiths to painters. In that span of time, he and his team have created devotional images that have been enthroned in the altars of 52 churches in Metro Manila alone, and in 40 other churches nationwide. His works can be found in private collections and in religious institutions in Rome, England, Madrid, Montreal, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Indonesia and India. He continues this tradition of excellence today in a small, nameless workshop along D. Osmeña St., at the back of the Makati City Hall, that also doubles as his office. It is here that we sat down one late afternoon with the esteemed santero, MR. FRANCISCO “KIKO” VECIN.


MR. KIKO VECIN: I was a member of the corporate world, working as a Sales Manager for KLM-Royal Dutch Airways from 1970 to 1986. But even before that, from the age of 18, I was already a collector of antiques. I have always been fascinated with santos, especially processional ones, because I grew up in our house in Makati Poblacion surrounded by Semana Santa images, like the “Kiss of Judas,” which we still keep.

I prefer life-sized images because they are full of expression, almost life-like. I managed to amass about 180 images, which I had to keep in different places. Today, ten carrozas featuring my images regularly participate in the annual Lenten processions of the Saints Peter and Paul Parish here in Poblacion.


KIKO: It was a case of burn out. I felt I had run out of space to grow where I worked. My antique-collecting provided me with the impetus to turn my hobby into a business. By then, I had established quite an extensive network of people who helped me in the restoration of my antiques — from excellent sculptors and encarnadors to plateros and wigmakers. I quickly learned the ropes of the business. With this stable of artists, I started doing small santo projects for friends and acquaintances.

The turning point was when I gave a Sacred Heart image to a priest-friend, Monsignor Chito Bernardo, the director of Bahay-Pari at the San Carlos Seminary. He placed the image in his office, which prompted a lot of inquiries from impressed visitors. Fr. Chito next allowed me to set up a small display in his office, and the orders came along, mostly from word-of-mouth advertising. I started operations in our house, then I moved to this apartment building 17 years ago, and I’ve been here ever since.


MR. KIKO VECIN: I am an exacting person. I formulate in my mind what I want to create. So I make it a point to tap the right kind of people, who, under my strict supervision and watchful eye, can be trained to deliver the best high-end, devotional images that anyone would be proud to own. Training them myself is a challenge. To encourage them, I pay my people more than the usual, even if I too, have costs to cover. Profit doesn’t govern me; at the end of the day, it’s the end product that gives me the ultimate satisfaction.


MR. KIKO VECIN: In absolute terms, my prices may seem high, but I believe that my works are a few notches higher than what you normally see out there. When I make an image, it is for keeps — it will be something that you will keep and treasure for the rest of your life and even pass on to your heirs, and not something that you will want to change or replace just a few years down the road. A number of people from your group [referring to SSF members] have actually visited me and have seen my work, and they have come away convinced of the high quality of the work that I do.

Just take a look at that (pointing to a processional santa brought in for repair), I have been asked to re-do that. It cost the owner twenty-five thousand pesos to have that made. But look at the quality (the santa obviously had disproportional features, thick legs, high waist, big feet and broad shoulders). It will take another twenty-five thousand pesos to re-carve and repaint the whole thing! If he had come to me straight away, he would have probably paid the same amount—minus all the attendant trouble! At the end of the day, it’s value for money that I give.


MR. KIKO VECIN: From my many church projects, the following stand out: all the santos in the altar of San Miguel Parish in Marilao, Bulacan; the seven-foot Crucified Christ at the Our Lady of Carmel Church; for the Cubao and Manila Cathedrals, I made Crucifixion of Christ figures, while for Saint James the Greater Church in Ayala Alabang, I did the side altar statues including a San Jose. I also did various statues for Saint Andrew’s Church in Makati.

Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo also has my works in his collection, which are now displayed at the Cardinal’s church in Rome. A St. Joseph figure from my workshop is also enshrined at the Chapel of Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India.

But I remember two projects from where I derived the most satisfaction. One was a Mater Dolorosa commissioned by a family for the San Guillermo Parish in Pasig. When the mother and her daughter beheld the sorrowful image of the Virgin, tears flowed from their eyes, saying that they felt the suffering of the Virgin. I can never forget that episode.

Another hair-raising moment was when I delivered the image of Our Lady of Fatima to the church of Binakayan, Cavite. As we arrived in the town with the image in my van, people lined up in the street, singing Glories to the Blessed Mother. That was one awe-inspiring and unforgettable moment.


MR. KIKO VECIN: Oh, there was this client who asked me to do a figure of a Crucified Christ — and he asked me to make it gory with hundreds and hundreds of wound marks and lacerations all over his body! It looked so bloody!

Then there was someone who asked me to carve a fully-naked Crucified Christ — which I simply refused to do because I felt that it was so sacrilegious!


MR. KIKO VECIN: For would-be santo owners, I would advise you to invest in a good quality santo — don’t go for the cheapest. A good santo will be for keeps, a treasure for the rest of your life, a family heirloom. Make sure then that it will truly inspire devotion, that it is not just a prettified, meaningless figure.

For young santo enthusiasts, I give you all my respect. You are traditionalists like me. This (santo) tradition has been handed down to us by our forefathers and I am happy to see that you are keeping this practice alive.

(Many thanks to Mr. Leo D. Cloma for some of the pictures you see on this feature.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

9. Retro-Santo: STO. NIÑO OF CEBU

One of the greatest and oldest relics to be handed down by our Spanish colonizers to the Filipinos is the revered and ancient image of the Santo Niño of Cebu, an image intimately linked with the Christianization of our islands.

Ferdinand Magellan, the intrepid voyager and discoverer of the Philippines had sailed on to Cebu after sighting the coast of Samar and setting up camp in Homonhon in 1521. Arriving on 7 April 151 in the port of Cebu, Magellan was welcomed by the friendly chieftain, Rajah Humabon. After provisioning his ship, Magellan paved the way for the evangelization of Cebu with the holding of the 1st Mass in Cebu, which saw the baptism of Humabon and his queen, who was re-named Juana. In Pigafetta’s account, Juana was said to have shed tears upon seeing the image of the Holy Child Jesus which was shown to her together with a statue of Our Lady and a Crucifix. She asked for the Child image and was granted her wish.

The Spaniards fled Cebu on 1 May 1521, after Magellan’s death in the battle of Mactan. They were to return only to Cebu after 44 years, with the successful expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. This time, the natives, under Rajah Tupaz, were not as friendly;. Legazpi, thus, dispatched a party to take over Cebu. The natives, howvere, had burned the settlement and fled to the mountains. When Spaniard Juan Camus went to survey the burnt and deserted ruins, he found a box that contained the image of the Child Jesus, the same image donated to Juana 44 years earlier. Filled with awe, Camus was said to rush and shout , “Para el cuerpo de Dios, Hijo de Maria, hallado has!”. Apparently, the image was kept by the natives as an anito, as it was found with flower offerings.

It has been established that the Santo Niño image was typical of those statuaries made in Flanders during the 16th century. By then, the devotion to the Child Jesus was deeply entrenched in Spain, and Belgium exported such statues to the country. The image must have been bought in Seville prior to the trip to the Philippines. No document exist if the Santo Niño came from Flanders as a black image, but a story exists of a convent padre painting the image black in a moment of boredom and melancholia.

When found, the image was covered with a white cloth. Its nose tip and encarna paint had somewhat rubbed off. Only a red velvet bonnet remained of its original vestment. Legazpi ordered the building of a church to house the image, with the name Santisimo Nombre de Jesus. It was erected in 1571 by Augustinian missionaries. The image was kept here, until it was taken for safekeeping by a certain Dña. Catalina Jimenez in the early 17th century, It was returned to the church, which was burned several times in history, reposing finally in the present church of San Agustin, finished on 16 January 1740. In due time, Cebu became the primary center of devotion to the Holy Child in the Philippines. Today, devotion to the Santo Niño remains strong and widespread throughout the country.

Legendary miracles have been attributed to the workings of the Santo Niño, including saving Cebu from a fire in 1631, the safe delivery of a ship from a deadly storm in 1629, and the rendering of Cebu invisible to invaders several times. People believed that the image’s regal cape gave the islands protective invisibility before the eyes of predatory invaders.

During World War II, the holy image was guarded by Augustinian fathers and remained unscathed, even though it had fallen from its altar and hanged precariously on one the electric candle bulbs in its niche. Its ebony face was repainted in pale yellow by an artist commissioned to restore the santo.

Some vestments and accessories of the Santo Niño date back to the 16th century and are still preserved at the church museum. In 1965, the 4th Centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines was observed, and the celebrations were centered in Cebu. The church was given the title of a Basilica (Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu) and the image was canonically crowned.

1. The Santo Niño of Cebu, by Mrs. Rosa C. P. Tenazas, 1965. San Carlos Publications.
2. Santo Niño, The Holy Child Devotion in the Philippines, ed. By Abe Florendo, published by the Congregacion del Santisimio Nombre del Niño Jesus. Manila, Philippines © 2001

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

8. Carving a Niche in History: EARLY SCULPTORS AND SAINTMAKERS

The first carved santos in the Philippines were created by anonymous hands. Many crude images for altars were carved by untrained town carvers who shall forever be nameless-- whittling available wood from their own backyards— santol, ipil or guava—turning them into folksy figures, painting them with natural dyes, then finally outfitting them with tin wings and halos.

In the 18th century, a few names have come down to us—one Esteban Samson was documented by art historian Enrique Dorta as an ‘escultor Filipino’ who carved a Santo Domingo and a San Juan Tadeo image in Argentina where he worked. French traveler Jean Mallat also noted a proliferation of carvers in his visit to the Philippines in the late 1830s-40s—“they sculpt saints in wood and ivory with a delicateness which make them sought after even in Europe..”.

Non-Christian Chinese carvers also figured in the creation of known images in the country. Foremost among these was the Virgin of La Naval, commissioned for the Dominican monastery in 1593, and carved by a Chinese from Ilocos. Chinese carving influences showed in the chinky eyes of Virgins, the Kwan-Yin pose, the neck folds and the inclusion of scroll-like designs on santo bases. Chinese artisans became very proficient in ivory sculpting, leading author Ramon Gonzales to point out in his 1875 guidebook to the Philippines that--”despite the Filipino’s admirable talent for imitation, they still do not approximate the fineness and delicacy of the works of the Chinese”.

It was only in the mid 1800s that formal training in sculpture was introduced in the country with the founding of the Society of Arts and Trades in Manila. The A (renamed Academia de Dibujo y Pintura Escuela de Dibujo, Pintura y Grabado in 1889) opened in 1850 under the auspices of the government. Sculpture, however, was included late in the school program. Soon, art scholars like sculptor Melecio Figueroa, were sent to Spain on scholarships, and art guilds like the Gremio de Escultores de Sta. Cruz, started holding competitions, livening up the art scene.

Art guilds flourished in Tondo, Binondo, Sta. Cruz and Quiapo, which were soon populated with craftsmen and artisans. Some of those who had their studios there became eminent carvers of santos:

Leon Asuncion (1813-1888), of Sta. Cruz had a shop along Sta. Rosa St., (now Evangelista) and was a master carver who wrought the Tercera Caida de Cristo for the Sta. Cruz Church. He also worked in ivory—a crucifix and a bust of the Sacred Heart of Mary is attributed to him. His son, Hilarion and grandson, Jose Ma., also dabbled in arts.

Also working in the area were Eduvigio de Jesus (1820s-1868) who comes from a family of carvers. His father, Anastasio, and his son, Romualdo, were also carvers of note, creating small ivory pieces to large processional images for churches all over the country.

From Quiapo comes Bonifacio Arevalo (1850-1920), who was actually a dentist by education. He worked mostly in wood.

Isabelo Tampinco (1850-1933) of Binondo had important commissions for several churches in Intramuros, carving the doors and retablos of Sto. Domingo and the decorations of San Ignacio. He is known for integrating native motifs into his design, which has come to be known as “estilo Tampinco”.

Graciano Nepomuceno (1881-1974), also of Trozo, Binondo did both religious and secular works.

In Paete, Mariano Madriñan, who trained under Bonifacio Arevalo, gained fame through his participation in the Amsterdam Exposition in 1882 where his Mater Dolorosa won raves. Also exhibiting abroad was Tomas Valdellon (active 1881-1887), who had a lifesize Dolorosa at the 1887 Madrid Exposition.

In the 20th century, a Tampinco descendant, Angel Tampinco, had a Gran Taller de Escultura, which specialized in carved wooden decors for altars, andas and carrozas.

But perhaps the most successful commercial santero was Maximo Vicente (b. 1885/d. 1964) , who had his one-stop shop Talleres de Pintura, Escultura y Plateria at 812 R. Hidalgo in Quiapo. Maximo was born in Malabon, the only son of Antonina Vicente, a fish vendor, and a Spaniard named Guardamonte, who died before Maximo's birth. Maximo went to the U.P. School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1909.

He set up his first religious statuary shop at Calle Hidalgo in 1908. His half-brothers--Rafael, Felix, Luciano, Roberto and Dionisio, children of Maximo's from her 2nd marriage to a Navotas fisherman named Pablo Santiago--both became expert artisans. They joined Maximo in his talleres, and they contributed much to the sucess of the shop. By the 1930s, the shop was not only known for creating images, but its services have expanded to making andas, altars, pulpits, church ornaments, gold embroidered vestments, even marble monuments and tomb markers. Most of his workers came from Malabon, Navotas and Pampanga like Juan Flores, Jorge Santiago, Rufino Rivera and Alfredo Contreras.

Maximo married Crispina Laxamana from Pampanga. Upon his death, his shop was managed by a daughter-in-law, Soledad Hernandez-Vicente, wife of his son, Maximo Jr., an architect. An only daughter became a nun and founded a religious order in Quiapo that propagated devotion to the Holy Face.

Irineo M. Cristobal had his own Taller de Escultura along Evangelista, which also did religious statuaries and decorations.

In the 1940s, other popular santo makers included: Esteban Sculpture Works along Rizal Ave., El Arte Cristiano of Gerardo Alonzo (Evangelista, Quiapo), Ang Batong Busilak (Hidalgo St.) managed by Cornelio Vicente and Taller de Escultura y Plateria de Feliciano P. Yuson (Evangelista St.).

Today, Quiapo and nearby Tayuman are still top-of-mind when it comes to religious shops selling santos, but as in mass-produced items, the quality of carving remains suspect. Devotees with discriminating taste prefer having images commissioned by well-known santeros in Paete (Laguna), Betis and Bacolor (Pampanga) and Bulacan whose art remains uncompromised.