Monday, August 27, 2018

323. A Picker Picks a Peter: SAN PEDRO DE BANGKAL

The last time I was in Bangkal, Makati was around 2012. Years before, the barangay had established a reputation as the thrift shop center of Makati, where one could find one-of-a-kind vintage items, and even antiques buried in the jumbled assortment of second-hand "pre-loved" items, garage sale consignments, not to mention the debris and detritus of demolished old houses.

But by 2012, the place had been discovered by antique dealers, and the thrill of the hunt had diminished as the price tags became more expensive and old item became more scarce.  The mishmash of articles have also been  organized, i.e. Italian decors, Orientalia, etc., stripping the place of its randomness, which was part of the exciting picking experience.

So, I went there, expecting nothing, and saw nothing—until I went to the Bangkal depot—that big compound near the end of Evangelista St., where they drop off all the found items from here and abroad for processing.


There were also stalls there, where objects are laid out on tables and consoles, in disarray. This was more to my liking, my idea of a picker’s paradise—the organized chaos was a sign of many possibilities!! True enough, a table in a back stall caught my eye. For there, behind some kitschy woodcarvings, I espied  an antique folk santo, a San Pedro, badly out-of-place amidst crystal ashtrays, resin figurines and decors !!

It’s not a remarkable San Pedro its carving shallow and unrefined, as all folksy santos are. But its condition is impeccable—its height alone is 16 inches, inclusive of the half-inch base. Made of medium wood, the rather hefty santo owes much  its charm to its color, still brilliant all these years. Save for the missing key—San Pedro’s square base, paint, hand, base—are all intact.

The image has been painted with house paint—latex—using just 3 colors—black (San Pedro’s hair), yellow (tunic), and brown (cape). The tulip-like strokes that decorate the garments are painted in silver paint, perhaps to mimic metallic embroidery. These floral flourishes, I have seen in many Visayan santos. The provenance was later confirmed by the Seller.

I had to keep the good saint in my hands, as by then, the place was swarming with pickers, Mentally, I estimated the price of the santo, all things considered.  When I approached the Seller to ask for the santo’s  price tag,  I was stunned (but happy) that it was way below my estimate. I made an offer, which she gladly accepted, and San Pedro de Bangkal, the keeper of the gate—was mine to keep.

Sunday, August 19, 2018


 More santos and sacred art from the collection of the Archdiocese Museum of San Fernando, Pampanga, with Msr. Eugene Reyes as Director, Archivist and Curator.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


The Archdiocese of San Fernando Museum and Archives was established in 1979 by Archbshop  Oscar Cruz at the second floor of the University of the Assumption Chapel. It was designed to be a repository of the ”handiwork and possessions” of the Kapampangans that depict their rich culture and traditions. 

Also at that time, Arch. Cruz forbade the transfer of old material heritage of the church and asked parish priests to turn these vintage and antique items over to the diocese—in whatever state they were in.

Over 800 objects of value were collected form this effort—mostly wooden and some ivory santos, both processional and tabletop size;  vintage images, monastic art, shadow boxes,  urnas (altars), altar vessels, old liturgical books, sacramentals, and architectural details from churches and chapels. 

Arch. Pablo Virgilio David considers the  San Agustin Museum in Intramuros an extension of the  San Fernando Museum as many of the items there were obtained from Augustinian-built churches from Lubao, Betis and other nearby towns.

After the Pinatubo eruption, the collection swelled even more as churches, chapels, and visitas brought everything from treasured altar images, silver and gold vessels, paintings, furniture,  and all kinds of ecclesiastical art for safekeeping at the university at the height of the 1991 catastrophe. When the  chaos and dust settled down, many churches opted to leave the objects permanently as their contribution to the museum.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

320. STO. TOMAS DE AQUINO: Patron of Catholic Education

I bought this beautiful antique santo for its beautiful symmetry, and not for any other reason. In fact, I didn’t even know its identity—I was simply struck by its perfect proportion, balance, and reflectional symmetry—that is, if there is a line dividing the santo into two, the pieces will be mirror images of each other. Remarkable for a folk santo carved by an anonymous, and perhaps, untrained artisan.

After some time sitting on a shelf, I took a more serious look at this 20 inch. santo. I knew it was a Dominican santo, but the biretta he was wearing stumped me. It was only after a thorough cleaning that details appeared, which led me to suspect that this was a rare Santo Tomas de Aquino.

This Dominican priest (1225-1274) is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the Middle Ages. But save for his association with the Pontifical University of Sto. Tomas, and the town of Sto. Tomas in Batangas, the saint is largely unknow; there are few examples of hims as a carved santo figure.

The tell-tale sign that this was indeed Sto. Tomas de Aquino was a faded painting of a sunburst drawn on the saint’s breast—the sun of truth, a symbol of his teachings illuminated by divine truth. Another painted detail as this string of rosary beads that one can faintly discern hanging from his neck---the Dominicans often wore the rosary around their cowls or hoods.

As to the crown-like biretta with four points, this represents his being a angelic Doctor of the Universal Church (which is why, he is sometimes also represented as having wings). If he still had his hands, he would have held a pen to an open book. Or he would have held a small church on his left hand (as doctor of the church). Some portraits show a dove at his ear to symbolize the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is hard to capture in 3-dimensional images.

Sto. Tomas de Aquino is considered as Patron of Students, Universities, Catholic schools, Doctor of the Church . His feast day was moved to January 28 in 1970, but Filipinos continue to celebrate the original feast day of  March 7, which actually is the date of his death.