Wednesday, September 29, 2010

32. The Saintmakers: WILLY LAYUG

Wilfredo Tadeo Layug comes an artistic family from Betis, all sculptors and woodcarvers from barangay Sta. Ursula, considered as the town’s art center. In this creative milieu, Layug grew up, exposed to the art of santeros, sculptors, painters and folk artists.

Layug, however is academically trained. He finished B.S. Architecture and Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas as a scholar of Pampanga Governor, Estelito Mendoza. Influenced by local carvers who specialized in sacred art, Layug opened his shop in his hometown, which he further expanded after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

While companies were laying off, Layug’s santo business generated jobs for 29 skilled workers, mostly relatives, friends and neighbors. It is to his credit that the shop helped the barrio get up on its feet and regain its glory days as the premier woodcarving capital of the country, a reputation established by his kabalen (town mate), the acclaimed Juan Flores.

Like a true academician, Layug improved his craft by reading art books, frequenting exhibits and joining pilgrimages to Europe and other parts of the world to observe and study the works of the Masters. He has even gone to Oberammergau in Germany, where the famed Passion Play is re-enacted every 10 years. To his surprise, Layug discovered that the quaint German town was also a woodcarving village like Betis.

He has also traveled to Seville, Spain where he studied the art of estofado, a finishing technique in which gold leaf is applied over the surface of a santo which is then painted with the desired color. The surface is then delicately scratched or incised with design to reveal the gold underneath.

In 2002, Layug was awarded Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Ecclesiastical Art; in 2005, he was appointed as a committee member of the Pampanga Day celebration. On 3 December 2005, Layug was also awarded as Outstanding Guaguaño for sculpture and ecclesiastical arts.

In 2006, he opened a new gallery along Olongapo-Gapan Road which now houses his Spanish-style carved masterpieces. His latest opus is the retablo mayor of the Chapel of San Angelo of Holy Angel University.

The main altar, done in gothic style, contains santos that he too created, all carved in the round: San Juan Nepomuceno, Sta. Teresa de Avila, San Francisco Javier, Sta. Teresa de Niño Jesus, among others.

Layug is currently the Chairman of the Parish Cultural Heritage Council in Betis. His last trip to Spain was just this September 2010, where he trained and imparted his knowledge of santo-making to Spanish santeros.

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