Saturday, June 25, 2016

256. Guagua's Dolorous Virgins II: THE JINGCO-BACANI DOLOROSA


The Bacani Dolorosa is an exquisitely-made processional wooden figure of the Dolorous Virgin, an heirloom image of the Bacani (Bakani) Family of Guagua. Family lore tells of the image being used for processions on Holy Thursdays even during the Spanish times. But more likely, it is a handiwork of their relatives--the Jingcos--who were a family of sculptors led by Sabas Jingco, and later, his son Maximino Jingco, a U.P. Fine Arts graduate who opened a taller de escultura y pintura in Betis in 1927. The younger Jingco studied under the tutelage of Isabelo Tampinco. This also explains why the Dolorosa is often referred to as the Jingco-Bacani Dolorosa. 

The patriarch, Dr. Jose Irisari Bacani was a well-known medico cirujano, a graduate  of University of Sto. Tomas (1917) who later pursued higher studies in the U.S. Upon his return, he worked briefly at the Philippine General Hospital, then settled back to Guagua in 1919 to practice his profession. In 1920, he married Consolacion Valenzuela where they raised three daughters.

The Dolorosa, over the years, has been repainted, and now has a fairer complexion like ivory;  it is hard to tell from a distance whether it is real ivory or plain wood due to her most recent encarnacion. It always participated in the pre-war Holy Wednesday procession in Guagua, until its carroza was completely burned at the height of the World War II in 1942. In those dreadful times, Guagua town was razed to the ground.

As a result, the family withdrew the Dolorosa from the Holy Week processions of Guagua. This prompted the Lopezes,  another prominent family of the town, to have another sober-looking Dolorosa made in Spain—known today as the Macarena.

Rosario Bacani Guanzon
The Bacani Dolorosa, meanwhile, was left in the care of one daughter, Rosario Bacani Guanzon. It would take 50 years before this beautiful Dolorosa resurfaced again in the 1990s—as a participant in the Marian procession held in Guagua in 1991 and 1998.

Apung Charing shared the Dolorosa with siblings and relatives, allowing them to keep the image in their homes for as long as six months. After which, the image was secured and kept once more by Mrs. Guanzon in nearby Sta. Rita town, where she keeps a home.

The Bacani Dolorosa has not been seen publicly since.  Dressed in her red embroidered vestment and caped with her wide manto, the Dolorosa cuts a striking figure, especially when she wears her silver rostrillo. It is hoped that the people of Guagua will behold the face of this beautiful Dolorosa once more in the near future.

PHOTO CREDITS: Jerry Punzalan Sagmit

Sunday, June 19, 2016

255. Guagua’s Dolorous Virgins I: THE LOPEZ DOLOROSA

in its own silver-plated carroza triunfal, 1952

Through the years, Guagua, Pampanga has taken pride in having not just the most beautiful Dolorosa images in the region but also in having a pool of several statues of the sorrowful Virgin that are used in their Lenten celebrations.

One well-known Mater Dolorosa that exists to this day is the statue commissioned by town millionaire Don Alejandro Lopez. Married to Jacinta Limson, Lopez had humble beginnings. As a teaching graduate of the Philippine Normal School, he taught at Pampanga High School from 1912-1913, and rose to succeed Benito Pangilinan as a Division Superintendent of the Bureau of Education.

 In 1920, he engaged in commerce and agriculture, where he found his fortune and rose to prominence as director and vice president of the Pampanga Sugar Mills Planters Association. For his wife, he built the grand Villa Jacinta, the first all-concrete residence in Pampanga in 1929, at a cost of Php28,000.

 One of the sure signs of wealth in those days was the ownership of a religious image. When the Dolorosa of the Bacani family ceased to join the Holy Wedneday procession of Guagua after the war, Don Alejandro Lopez proceeded to order a beautiful wooden Mater Dolorosa image all the way from Spain.

 The wooden processional Dolorosa was created by an unknown sculptor from a taller in Madrid, Spain called Casa Garin. The shop, which also sold other religious articles for worship, operated until 2004. The classically carved Dolorosa, with its beautiful mournful features, had only a wooden conical frame for its lower body, without legs or feet. It was outfitted with a silver rostrillo and a silver heart pierced with 7 daggers.

 The Spanish-made Dolorosa was shipped to the Philippines and arrived in Guagua in 1952. Even as it was being made, Lopez also ordered from Victoriano Songco of the Catholic Trade Center, a magnificient carroza fit for the Dolorosa. (Siongco, in a few years, would also make the replica of the Virgen de los Remedios, patroness of Pampanga).

 The result was a grand carroza triunfal, shaped like a chariot, which was wrapped in silver-plated panels. The float was prefaced by two trumpet bearing angels up front, and light-carrying standing angels flanking its sides. The border of the carroza was lined with cherubs and puttis.

 On 9 April 1952, the Lopez’ Mater Dolorosa, arrayed in richly-embroidered vestments was enthroned on her fabulous carroza triunfal, and was blessed and inaugurated at the Villa Jacinta with the family and VIP guests in attendance.

 For years, the Mater Dolorosa participated in the Holy Wednesday processions of Guagua, but when the patriarch passed away, disputes of the heirs over family property caused the Dolorosa and the carroza to be assigned ownership to a male heir, who entrusted it for safekeeping to a neighbor. Recently, it was reported in local news that the silver accessories of the Dolorosa were stolen, but it was widely believed that they were sold by one descendant. Only the cape or manto survived.

The future of the Lopez Mater Dolorosa remains uncertain; its carroza triunfal has been duplicated as it has also broken down;  this new carroza is now in use to convey the antique Limson ivory Dolorosa for the annual Viernes Santo and Salubong rites.

NOTE: One of the last appearances of the Lopez Dolorosa (popularly called Macarena)  was in the Holy Wednesday procession of Guagua in 1992. Photo courtesy of Dr. Raymund Feliciano.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

254. MARFIL: Philippine Religious Ivory Carvings, part 2

STO. NIÑO, Head and hands of ivory, mounted on wooden body. Garbed investment embroidered with gold thread. 19th c. Ht. 30 cm. Gopiao Collection.

By Jose Mari P. Treñas
Photography by  Patrick Uy

Philippine Religious Ivory Carvings.
Excavations show fossils of elephants and tusk-bearing relatives of elephants in various Philippine sites (Cagayan Valley, Pangasinan, Panay, Manila and Mindanao.) A Spanish Augustinian memo in 1573 mentions elephants in Sulu. Sixteenth and 17th century Spanish accounts also state that ivory (marfil) was fashioned by the Filipinos into religious statuary, jewelry and weapon handles. Still the existence of a thriving ivory carving tradition before the Spaniards came cannot be ascertained. What is indisputable is that the earliest religious ivory carvings were commissioned by the Spanish friars initially from immigrant carvers from Southeastern China.

SANTO NIÑO, Solid ivory figure, arms carved separately. Gold crowns, traces of gilding on the hair. Glass eyes, 19th c., Ht. 20 cm. Treñas Collection.

The most intriguing question is whether these were carved exclusively by the Chinese (which was the dogma upheld until fairly recently) or whether this craft passed on to Filipinos early on. Gatbonton initially expressed a theory about a “local” style in her 1982 catalogue, Imagery in Ivory for the ivory exhibit of the Intramuros Administration. The theory that Filipinos also carved ivory was again ventured by Gatbonton rather tentatively in her book published by the Intramuros Administration in 1983, entitled Philippine Religious Carvings in Ivory, when she states that, “We may reasonably assume that Filipino carvers, we working alongside the Chinese.” This assertion Gatbonton repeats more unequivocably in her article for Arts of Asia also published in 1983—but here she goes on a limb. She breaks the paradigm—she states that based on the collection gathered by the Intramuros Administration, it was possible to reassess the general belief that Chinese carvers were responsible for all the ivory carvings originating from the Philippines.

MADONNA AND CHILD. Solid ivory figure with gold leaf decorations; gold crowns and gold rostrillos (facial aureole). 18thc., Ht. 26 cm. Treñas Collection

She cites two reasons: 1. The Filipino carver’s attitude towards the theme of Crucifixion where Christ is the passive victim); 2. The Filipino carver’s tendency to carve for frontal effect.

This theory was actively pursued by Jose. Although it is not clear when Filipinos started to carve ivory santos, by the 1730s, the Spanish missionaries were praising the artistic skills of indios and mestizos. In 1729, the Archbishop of Manila states that in connection with a proposed deportation of the Chinese, the natives were ready to take over all crafts. In 1738, Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde S.J. wrote that the Filipinos were ‘exceedingly clever in handiwork—good carvers, gilders and carpenters.” Significantly, Jose notes that the item ‘sculptor’ does not appear in the lists of Chinese professions in 1689, 1700 or 1745. All in all, historical evidence shows that the Chinese were absent from the Philippines for long periods of time. The answer to this question may not be definitive, but the paradigm has been broken.

SANTO NIÑO. Head, hands, feet of ivory mounted on wooden body. Garbed in vestment embroidered with gold thread,, silver crown,m Late 18th  cm., Ht. 39 cm.m Gopiao Collection.

While more research and documentation have to be done, significant strides have been made on the recognition of Philippine ivories. The Spanish scholar and writer, Margarita Estella Marcos, has traced a number of Philippine ivory carvings now in private collections. Jose enumerates some of these pieces: a Santo Cristo documented in 1585 in the Church of the Magdalena in Sevilla, a number of pieces given by Bishop Antonio Paino to the Church of Sta. Maria in Valladolid in 1630 and 1660, a plaque depicting the Crucifixion dated between 1694 in the Church of Vera Cruz in Salamanca, a San Miguel and San Juan Bautista dated between 1695 and 1712 in the Cathedral of Badajoz, a Divino Pastor dated 1699 in the Castle of the Family of San Francisco Javier in Navarra, a Cristo de los Peligros which arrived in Spain in 1715 and is now enshrined in the Parish of Belmonte in Cuenca.

PURISIMA CONCEPCION, Solid ivory figure. Gold ornaments, Late 18th  c., Ht. 27 cm., Maralit Collection.

In 1770, a dozen ivory figures (among them, the Four Evangelists, a Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion and the Four Doctors of the Church) were documented to have arrived in Mexico from the Philippines. The Museo Oriental in Valladolid exhibits many ivory carvings of Philippine provenance.

More and more, Philippine ivory carvings are emerging from the shadow of European ivories. Although there were early condescending references to the Philippine pieces as hybrid ivories with pious Oriental expressions, Western oses and agitated draperies, this has changed. These pieces, the result of a unique Filipino sensibility utilizing European models and Chinese tecniques, are now recognized as among the most beautiful religious ivory carvings produced during this period.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

253. MARFIL: Philippine Religious Ivory Carvings, part 1

PURISIMA CONCEPCION, Solid ivory figure with hands carved separately. Gold leaf decoration. Gold ornaments. 19th c., Ht: 21.5 cm., Gopiao Collection

By Jose Mari P. Treñas            Photography by  Patrick Uy

Long dismissed as crude and naïve expressions of alien faith, Philippine religious carvings in ivory are being seen in a new light. Exquisite examples of documented Philippine provenance in Europe and Mexico, beautiful pieces in the Intramuros Administration and the occasional rare item that still comes into the market, have debunked the conventional wisdom about Philippine ivories and have made historians and scholars rethink and reassess the same.

NIÑO DORMIDO, Ivory head, hands and feet mounted on wooden body. Garbed in vestment embroidered with gold thread. 19th c., Lebgth: 20 cm., Maralit Collection.

I first became interested in Philippine ivory when I was twelve. My family would troop over regularly to my lola’s house for Sunday lunch and while everybody would lazily linger over coffee and dessert, I would politely leave the dining table to sneak to the altar in my lola’s room. There I would seek out two ivory heads hidden in the lower drawer. Barely two inches in size, they were so cool to my touch. The color was so fleshlike, the glass eyes staring enigmatically ahead and the lips carved into hieratic smiles. Even the cracks that randomly ran from the forehead down the neck had their own strange beauty. I think my lolal noticed my fascination, for the two heads were placed in my pocket to take home. Although I did not buy my first ivory until two years ago, I was hooked. It was not the first.

SANTO NIÑO, Solid ivory figure. Silver ornaments, 19th c., Ht.: 27 cm, Maralit Collection.

In his introductory essay to the book, Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery, which contains examples of Philippine ivory carvings bought in such diverse places as Venice and Paris, Richard Randall Jr. writes that, “throughout history, ivory has always been regarded as a rare and beautifuol substance, fit for gods and kings.” A passage in the Book of Kings which Randall quotes reads, “Once in three years comes the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold and silver and ivory, apes and peacocks.” Randall cites that many kings have sat on thrones made of ivory, Solomon among the first. A 17th  century ivory throne made for one of the kings of Denmark still exists in the Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen.

NIÑO DORMIDO, Solid ivory body with glass eyes. 19th c., Length: 18 cm., Maralit Collection.

The trade in ivory was mentioned in the Bible, both in the Book of Kings and Ezekiel. This has been subsequently confirmed by archaeological data. In Ezekiel, it is said that the men of Dedan on the Red Sea, “brought you for a present horns of ivory.” Aden, at the foot of the Red Sea, was the most active trading post of ivory when Marco Polo wrote about his travels in the 13th century. The route then started from East Africa to Zanzibar, then to Aden, up to the Red Sea to Egypt and overland to the Mediterranean. This route was pretty much the same in the 19th century, when ivory was shipped from Zanzibar through the Suez Canal and on to London and Antwerp.

What is Ivory?
In his excellent catalogue for the 19991 Philippine Exhibit of religious ivory carvings held at Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum, Regalado Jose Jr. writes that, “Today, the term for ivory has come to include material with similar qualities in varying degrees, obtained from the teeth or tusks of other animals such as the walrus, narwhal, sea cow, and hippopotamus.” However, only the tusk of the elephant which can reach 8 feet in length and weigh as much as 200 pounds is regarded as “true ivory.”

Jose further classifies elephant ivory into its three main sources: Fossil ivory, African ivory and Oriental ivory. Although the Philippines was closer to the sources of ivory (India. Indonesia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Borneo) , the ivory used in Philippine religious carvings  was  African. Esperanza Gatbonton, in her article, “An Introduction to Philippine Colonial Carvings in Ivory” printed in the July-August 1983 issue of the Arts of Asia points out that the large scale commerce in ivory was undertaken by the Portuguese in 1509. The Portuguese then held sway in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. They conquered Goa in 1510, Malacca in 1511. The result was a monopoly in ivory. These Portuguese vessels  would sail with the southeast monsoon and unload their cargo in Manila.