Thursday, November 24, 2016



 Paco was an old arrabal or district of Manila that used to be called “dilao” (yellow), from the color of turmeric, that used to grow in the area. It became San Fernando de Dilao after its Franciscan foudners, and was expanded to include Santiago, Peña de Francia and Dilao. It is also the site of a famous church built from 1809-1814 by Fray Bernardo de la Concepcion in honor of Nuestro Señor Padre de Sto. Sepulcro, also known as Señor de Paco.

PHOTO, Kendrick Dominic Yu.

 The ancient image represents the dead Christ in repose, and—like the revered Nazareno in Quipao Church-- has become the center of a long-standing tradition began centuries ago by its devotees who believe it to be endowed with miraculous powers.

PHOTO SOURCE: la, Kendrick Dominic Yu.

 The Santo Sepulcro, housed in its magnificent calandra or an elaborately carved wood and glass casket, and is taken out during its feast day in the month of August for a procession. The calandra with the Señor is borne on the shoulders of chosen male devotees, but unlike the rowdy Quiapo procession, the Christ bearers march in cadence, in a more solemn, orderly manner.

 The age-old image has also become the inspiration of a few artworks featured on this spread:


 This antique black and white print, found in a house in Sta. Rita, Pampanga many years back seem to be the oldest print of the Santo Sepulcro of Paco. The dead Christ is in his grand calandra, flanked by Nicodemus and San Jose de Arimatea, two personages who helped in the interment of Christ after the crucifixion in Calvary. The inscription promises special indulgences to those who pray before the image of the Señor, and bears the date 1814, under the term of Archbishop Juan Antonio Zulaibar.

STO. SEPULCRO DE DILAO, Antique painting on tin. 8 X 10".

 This rare and small painting of the Santo Sepulcro was obviously copied from the old print, minus Nicodemus and Jose Arimatea. It is a painting on tin, very similar to Mexican retablos. 

STO. SEPULCRO TIN PAINTING. Personal Collection.

Only 8” x 10”, the tin painting retains its original colors although its two corners have been trimmed. It was purchased from an antique dealer at the Philcite antique pavilions way back in the late 1980s.

STO. SEPUCLRO IVORY MASK FIGURE. Source: Images of Faith, by
Regalado Trota Jose. Cas Manila, Intramuros Collection

 A 19th century Santo Sepulcro with a 7 cm. ivory mask outfitted on a wooden body. The figure is encased in awood and glass calandra. Although it is not specifically identified as a representation of the Paco Christ, it was displayed at the piece Casa Manila in Intramuros along with a Santo Sepulcro embroidered art.

DETAIL OF THE STO, SEPULCRO, Embroidered art. 1817.

 Another unusual Santo Sepulcro depicting the dead Christ of Dilao was once on exhibit at Casa Manila in Intramuros. It is an exquisite example of monastic art, showing the dead Christ, with a face of ivory mounted on fabric, with all the other details painstakingly embroidered with gold thread.

STO. SEPULCRO OF PACO, Embroidered art, formerly exhibited at Casa
Manila, Intramuros.

Again, the old 1814 print seems to have been the basis of this very rare piece which is dated 1817. The artwork is double framed—first with a rectangular frame trimmed with silver panels with beaten rococo design, then encased in an octagonal frame.

whose 2 photos of the Sto. Sepulcro are used here, taken from his blog:

Saturday, November 19, 2016


FOLK RELIEVE of the Virgin and Child Jesus, with angels in attendance.
Excerpted from a 1965 Sunday Times Magazine article 
by Rodolfo Y. Ragodon 

Exhibit of Religious Art in Cebu IV Centennial Festivities Traces Evolution of Filipino Christian Way of Life 
ANTONIO BANTUG, one of the early santo collectors in the Philippines.
The biggest collection of Philippine artifacts from primitive religious images to icon-like paintings and some of the best representatives of contemporary arts have been gathered this year in Cebu for exhibition in commemoration of the 4th centennial celebration of the Christianization of the islands.


This collection of religious arts revolves around the Filipino way of life, its customs and mores; in other words, it traces the development of our Hispanic culture today from the time that our forefathers embraced the Christian way of life. These artifacts—many borrowed from private collectors and from the collections of the National Museum—are mostly wooden images that date back to as far back as the 17th century.

ECCE HOMO BUST, Bust of Christ, centuries-old.
The early images carved by Filipino artisans, though crude and primitive, are just as significant. The number of sculptured images which adorn the early churches in the country came from Mexico through the galleon trade.

The intricately carved images mostly come from Central Luzon, especially from the province of Pampanga. Some of these images were carved from hardwood like molave or kamagong. The zeal for collecting these age-old artifacts of religious images spread only after the war.

National Museum Director, UST Professor
However, collectors like the Bantugs, the Pardo de Taveras and the Hidalgos were among the few Filipinos who took notice of Philippine arts during the Spanish period.

The flowering of the Filipino sculpture during the Spanish regime came in the 19th century.The factors that brought about the development include the natural skills of the native carvers, the presence of competent critics and the arrival of well-made images from Spain and Mexico.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


CANOPY BED FOR A NINO DORMIDO. Made from a trinket box, silver
charms glued together, and other metal scraps. Trimmed with lace.

The works of young artist King Nicolai Viray are largely unknown except for his postings on his facebook page—and this was where I chanced upon him and his amazing vintage-style sacred art creations that beautifully captured the old-world feel of religious colonial art.

Viray, a fresh 2016 graduate and philosophy major of Mater Boni Consilii in San Fernando, Pampanga is a shy, unassuming 22 year-old, who was drawn to religious arts early.

His artistic leanings may have come from his genes—his maternal grandmother crafted shadow box arts that were taught in Catholic schools at the turn of the 20th century. His paternal grandmother was a Manansala-a relative of national artist Vicente Silva Manansala of Macabebe.
A school project, depicting a stained
glass, made from colored cellophanes

 As a kid, Viray drew figures of saints; even his art school projects had religious themes. It was no surprised that his early interest influenced his calling: he was accepted as a seminarian at Pampanga’s premiere seminary, Mother of Good Counsel seminary.

 Viray used to visit the Archdiocese Museum in San Fernando, which led to a chance meeting with Msgr. Gene Reyes, then parish priest of Sta. Rita (now with San Fernando), and the museum director.

Msgr. Reyes recalls that Viray was fascinated with the religious shadow box collection there, and so he asked him if could replicate one for his small Sto. Niño. Msgr. Reyes liked what he did and, pretty soon, he asked him to try his hand at some other old paper art forms like quilling (paper roll art).  Viray not only mastered that through self-study, but also quickly learned paper fretwork, tole and miniature art. Here is a survey of some of his outstanding vintage-style religious art:

 DRAWINGS. Viray’s intricate sketches evoke the style of old religious black and white engravings. Santos and santas are his favorite subjects—featured alone or shown enshrined in the altar niches or baldachins.

SAN FERNANDO, pen and ink.

SAN AGUSTIN DE HIPPO. Pen and ink drawing.


MATER DOLOROSA. Pen and ink.

PAPER CUT ART. The art of paper cutting dates back to the 4th century after the Chinese invented paper. Some of their earliest uses for papercutting were for religious decorations or stencils used in holy pictures or estampitas. Several Philippine crafts employ paper cutting-including cut paper fretwork decoration used in Christmas lanterns or parols. There is also the art of pabalát (wrapper), where paper is meticulously cut with small scissors to wrap pastillas (milk candy) and other traditional sweets. During the Victorian age, cutting out silhouettes of people and sceneries became a favorite pastime.

VERONICA'S VEIL. replicated antique estampita. Cut and pierced paper,
photocopied image of the Holy Face.

SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA. Fretwork background from cut  paper.

INMACULADA CONCEPCION. Replicated antique lace estampita.
Scanned copy, handcut paper.

 PAPER QUILLING. Quilling or paper filigree involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, looped, shaped, and glued together to create decorative patterns and designs. These were used to decorate religious pictures that were then encased in boxes . During the Renaissance, European nuns and monks used quilling to decorate book covers and religious items. They used strips of paper trimmed from the gilded edges of books. These gilded paper strips were then rolled to create the quilled shapes. Quilling often imitated the original ironwork of the day.

AGNUS DEI PAPER QUILL ART. Cream colored paper strips were rolled and
manipulated into shapes, then glued to form the background for the Lamb of
God paper cutout

VIRGEN MARIA. Scanned copy of holy picture, with fretwork background,
trimmed with paper roll art and metallic foil flowers.

IVORY NINO. Adorend with quilled paper rolls arranged in floral patterns,
trimmed with lace paper and encased in oval frame.

RELIGIOUS SHADOW BOXES.A shadow box is a glass-fronted case containing thematic religious object presented in an artistic grouping with artistic grouping. They are the most common example of so-called “monastic” art found in Philippine homes, usually home-made or done as school projects. The simplest involves decorating prints of religious figures with paper, fabric or mother-of-pearl flowers, accentuated with beads, foil, cork birds and glass. Others entail “dressing up” individual figures by manipulating pieces of fabrics to simulate the folds on their vestments. Viray’s shadow boxes includes paper tole—in which he cuts and pastes parts of identical religious prints, building up these cutout portions using glue, to create a three-dimensional picture.


SALVADOR DEL MUNDO. Paper cut out of Nino, dressed in folded and
pleated fabrics, surrounded by paper cherubims and paper flowers

Decorated with assorted plastic gems from craft stores.

SAN VICENTE FERRER. Tole art, with paper quilling decoration.

STO. TOMAS DE AQUINAS. Paper cutout of
the saint, dressed in real fabrics.Cotton, lace, flowers.

STO NINO DELA PASION. Dressed paper cut-out figure,
old cross pendant. chains. 

RELIQUARY ART. A reliquary is a container for relics--actual physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. Many relic casings are simple, but when they are presented before an audience, they are encased in magnificent monstrance-like holders. Others are framed in groups, and decorated for display purposes.

RELIQUARY MONSTRANCE. Made from the handles of
a silver spoon,  old halo, crystal gems, old ribbon brooch. 

PAPAL RELICS, with added pictures of Pope John Paul II
and Pope John Paul XXIII and metallic mini-decor.

SANTOS AND SANTO VESTMENTS. Another hobby of Viray is fashioning and dressing up santos—many received as gifts from friends. Some of these santos are commercially made, but this does not deter him from giving free rein to his creativity, while sticking to dressing traditions.

LORETTO KINDLEIN OF SALZBURG. A Nino replica of the Holy Child
of Salzburg, Germany.

VIRGEN DE CAYSASAY. A resin image of Our Lady of Caysasay was placed
on a gilt base, wigged and dressed with acape trimmed with appliques.

fashioned from an Japan surplus Japanese doll.

PADRE PIO. A wooden figure of the stigmatic saint dressed in a
chasuble and alb.

MINIATURES. Viray has managed to replicate retablos (church altars) in miniature, using available materials—resin statues of saints, wood, cardboard, foil and paper scraps.

RETABLO MAYOR. A main altar made from cardboard, wood,
and other paper trims. Small iamges are store-bought.

 Of late, the young artist has been accepting a limited number of commissions, despite his busy schedule. He is currently taking his regency (time off from the seminary ) and is working at the local DPWH as administrative aide. Meanwhile, Viray continues to amaze his facebook friends (and fans) with his regular postings of his creations. His body of work is very impressive, considering that he does these beautiful objects in his spare time, and only at his leisure.

CHURCH BANNER. Sta. Maria de Cabeza. 

 What’s more extraordinary is his use of everyday materials and found objects to create exquisite treasures. In his hands, cheap charms bought from Divisoria become decorations for a Niño Dormido’s canopy bed, while a silver-colored plastic container is transformed into an elegant santo base. Even plain paper, when painstakingly pierced and cut by Viray, becomes a delicate lace background for estampitas. His works are destined to be priceless treasures, worthy to be collected and enjoyed.

 Indeed, the future of devotional art looms bright, thanks to the amazing gift of King Nikolai Viray.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


STA. FILOMENA, enshrined in the ancient brick church of
Alcala, Cagayan--the widest church in the Philippines
Sta. Filomena (Filia + Luminus , daughter of light, aka St. Philomene), was a martyr-saint whose remains in the catacombs of Priscilla were discovered in May 1802.

TOMBSTONE INSCRIPTIONS, found on the tomb of Sta. Filomena
On the three stones that sealed the tomb, were the inscriptions: "LUMENA - PAX TE - CUM FI" (“Peace be to you, Filomena”), followed by these symbols: two anchors, three arrows a palm, and a lily.

Antique print
Her remains were removed to Mugnano del Cardinale in 1805, where several miracles caused her devotion to spread. Credited to her was the healing of Venerable Pauline Jaricot in 1835. It was Saint John Vianney was instrumental in popularizing her cult.

Antique print,
In 1833 a Neapolitan nun had a vision in which the saint revealed that she was a 13 year old Greek princess, martyred by Roman Emperor Diocletian. Though venerated by many Popes (she was canonized in 1837) and her feast observed in some places, Sta. Filomena was never included in the General Roman Calendar for universal use.

In Feb. 1961, the Holy See had her name removed from all liturgical calendars that mentioned her. This order did not call into question her existence or sainthood, nor prevent popular devotion to the saint.

In the Philippines, an ancient church in Alcala, Cagayan has become the seat of her local devotion—the church of Sta. Filomena (St. Philomene Church).

The Spanish colonial brick-red church is regarded as the widest church in the Philippines, and the largest in the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao at 67 m in length, 24 m in width, and 12.5 m in height. Construction began in 1881 under the term of Fr. Casamiro Gonzalez, which was completed by Fr. Pedro Perez.

 Enshrined in the altar is the revered image of Sta. Filomena, an old de vestir image, dressed in her vestment and holding a palm of her martyrdom. The origins of this image is not known. Sta. Filomena, is the patroness of young girls, babies and youths.

composed by St. John  Ma.Vianney
Besides Alcala, Cagayan, she is also the patron saint of several Philippine places such as Sibonga (Cebu) where a fiesta is held in the first week of August). There are also barangays named after her: Sta. Filomena in Iligan City, Guagua (Pampanga) , Cordillera Adminstrative Region, Alegria (Cebu), San Pablo City and Siquijor.