Friday, July 29, 2016


Mabalacat, a Recollect town--and now a city--has but a handful of antique santos to show, owned by a few local families. The most well known--especially for its antiquity--is a medium-sized Sto. Nino under whose gaze, many Mabalaquenos have sought comfort and answers to their prayers for many generations. Apung Nino, they call this figure, owned by the Cunanan Family and their forebears from way, way back, that nobody remembers anymore its origin. and his veneration is open to all who visit His shrine. now weathered and darkened with age, but who continues to shower His people with graces, blessings and--many believe--wondrous  miracles.

In a humble, nondescript home embraced by lush,  flowering plants and trees, the Cunanans have enshrined Apung Nino in their home altar, a home they have opened to devotees who wish to visit and pray before the Holy Child. The house itself is old, but not as old as Apung Nino, a be-wigged, plump-ish figure of the Christ Child on a gilded base, with an orb on one hand, and the other raised in benediction.

Metal 'tres potencias' adorn Apung Nino's head, and that's just about the accessories he owns. Devotees, however, have gifted the revered image with presents through the years--a necklace, a locket, simple pieces of jewelry Even his vestments are austere by present-day standards. At home, Apung Nino wears simple house clothes; on the town fiesta, He dons more special clothes embroidered with gold-colored threads.

The caretaker of the image that everyone remembers was the late Engracia "Apung Asyang" Sengco Castro Cunanan,who tended Apung Nino along with children Yoyong, Roming, Ising, Nanding, Carding, and Fe Cunanan. After Apung Asyang passed away on 24 October 1987, and upon her death, her daughter Fe took over her duties. She thus continues the tradition of being a "camarera" of the family image began by her ancestors many years ago.

Apung Nino's special days are on the Feast of Sto. Nino every January and on the town fiesta of Mabalacat. During the fiesta celebration, Apung Nino gets to wear His special vestments and gets to go out of His Agusu home and, borne on a carroza, joins the festive town procession. And as the Holy Child makes the rounds of the town, one could hear the silent intonation of prayers of the faithful who have come from all over to give thanks and praise....

"O Senor Sto. Nino, You are Our King and Our God. We worship you. You are our strong Defender. We turn to you forever and ever...Amen".

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


 In the Philippines, monastic art is a collective term for the artistic outputs of nuns and novices who pass their cloistered hours doing arts and crafts projects. Later, the same skills were taught by religious teachers to girls in Catholics schools, who learned a bit of the Fine Arts along with the domestic arts.

 Popular at the turn of the 20th century, these artistic creations include tole art, paper quilling, religious embroidery, paper crafts, dried flower and leaf art, artistic patching and sewn figural creations. Since most of the creations were three-dimensional, they could not be contained in regular frames. Instead, they were kept in shadow boxes.

 A shadow box is an enclosed glass-front case that is made to contain objects presented in a thematic grouping with artistic or personal significance. The grouping of the objects and the depth effect created by their relative heights from the backing creates a dramatic visual result.

Most of the shadow boxes seen in local antique shops carry religious subjects as central figures. The most typical examples include using old prints of saints (commercially lithographed or ordinary estampitas). The pictures are then cut-out and decorated. For example, cut-out figures of Jesus or Mary, are “clothed” much like paper dolls,  with satin fabrics that have been crimped and folded to simulate drapes on a real dress.

These are then profusely decorated with paper, fabric or mother-of-pearl (‘lagang” or madreperla) flowers or buds. Sometimes, bird figures made of balsa wood are mounted on branches. Metal parts like halos were fashioned from foil. To create 3-D effects, elements of the picture were sometimes raised using thick cardboard and tole techniques. The frames used are standard period frames with art nouveau or art deco carvings, converted into a shallow box.

 Secular versions of shadow box art also existed, which was a favorite past-time during the Victorian age. Instead of religious themes, nimble fingers crafted art made of human hair—braided, soiled or used as embroidery thread to make memorials of dead loved ones. I have seen shadow boxes with patriotic figures, papier mache fruits and a heritage house in Sta. Rita has 4 rare shadow boxes containing dioramas of the allegorical figures of the Four Seasons.

 Most of the shadow boxes featured here can be seen at the Archdiocese Museum of San Fernando, Pampanga.

Friday, July 8, 2016

258. Guagua's Dolorous Virgins IV: DOLOROSA DE SIETE PALABRAS

By now, one should have noted the pattern that Guagua’s Limsons, Lopezes, Jingcos and Bacanis are all interrelated either by blood or by marriage; they are also owners of major processional images, many of them Dolorosas. The same can be said for the fourth Dolorosa of Guagua, fancifully called Dolorosa of the Siete Palabras.

The Dolorosa is owned by Mrs. Teresita “Tita”  Limson-Songco, whose son Jun, had it made in 2000, originally for home devotion. It was made by Dan Garcia and was last painted in 2002.  When the Holy Wednesday Lopez Dolorosa  ceased to join the Lenten processions of  Guagua in the early 2000s, the Limson-Songco Dolorosa replaced her. 

It has since assumed that role for the last 11 years, as the Lopez ‘Macarena’, has stopped its outings indefinitely. The Dolorosa de Siete Palabras has its own wooden carroza, and is thus the latest to join the long line of Guagua’s celebrated images of the Dolorous Virgins.


Dr. Raymund Feliciano (chevalierfeliciano on flickr)
Jerry P. Sagmit

Friday, July 1, 2016

257. Guagua's Dolorous Virgins III: THE LIMSON DOLOROSA (SOLEDAD)

Photo: Budhi, From Guagua to Quiapo by Jose Ma. Zaragoza.

 Hailed as one of the most beautiful Dolorosas in the country, the antique ivory Dolorosa of the Limson Family of Guagua is an iconic Lenten image of the town, spoken with the same awe and reverence as the Sto. Sepulcro of the Infante-Velez Family.

 The Limsons are an old Chinese family who settled in Guagua and are presumed to have been known by their Chinese name Sonson Lin. The earliest known Limsons were a generation of siblings who lived in the early 1800s—Vicente, Pascuala and another brother whose name has been lost to memory.

 This nameless brother begot Diego Limson (ca. late 1850s-early 1860s) who married Severina Jingco. It was during Diego’s time that the existence of the ivory Dolorosa was recorded through oral history, so the age of 300 years attributed to the santo may not be a realistic estimate.

 In any case, what is correct was that the image was passed on through Diego’s line of descendants; in fact, the image was named Soledad after Diego’s first great-grandchild. The antique ivory figure was inherited by Diego’s only son, Don Guillermo Limson (ca.1880s) who had two sons, and three other children out-of-wedlock. (It is interesting to note that Guillermo’s youngest sister, Jacinta Limson, married Alejandro Lopez, who ordered a Dolorosa from Spain expressedly to replace the Bacani Dolorosa which was withdrawn by the owners from the Holy Wednesday procession).

 The Limsons’ Virgen de Soledad, a titular variant of the dolorous Virgin, has a head and hands of ivory. The head rests on a half-bust, with manikin arms and wooden framework for her lower body. When assembled, the Soledad stands 5 feet 7 inches tall, rostrillo included.

 During the last World War, the image was desecrated by the Japanese, broken in pieces, placed in a sack and stashed away forgotten in a vault. When rediscovered, the pieces were put back together again and the ivory Soledad was fully restored. The metal crown and the pierced heart of the Soledad are made of silver. Its original manto was taken by the late restorer and vestment maker Carlos Mercado of Sasmuan, who must have transferred the design on new velvet, as the design, as recalled by descendants remained unchanged.

 Today, the Limson Dolorosa or Soledad is still in service, with its own carroza triunfal that replicates the design of the magnificent carroza created for the Lopez’s Macarena. It is lovingly cared for and attended to by Limson descendants. Then, as now, she continues to grace the Good Friday processions of Guagua, as well as the Salubong rites, continuing a hallowed tradition that have become so much a part of the lives of devoted Guagueños for generations.

Photos: Ralph Laurence sales, flickr
Toto Gonzalez, Dr/ Dindo Limson Juco

Limson family tree, online

Online Interview with Dr. Dindo Limson Juco
Jerry Punzalan Sagmit