AND ALL THE ANGELS AND SAINTS | Filipino Catholic blog
The devotion of Filipinos to their Catholic religion does not only revolve around the church and its rituals but also on images of veneration known as "santos". Introduced during the Spanish colonial times, santos are sacred to most Filipinos, regarding them as precious part of the family and home. Santos, then and now, are crafted from wood, ivory and other materials by local santeros..
The antique fever that swept Manila in the 1960s and 70s prompted the rise of numerous antique shops in such places as Vigan, Lucena, San Pablo, Iloilo, Bacolod and Zamboanga. Though old Vigan was a primary source of antiques, what became the major antique trade center in the north was Baguio City. After all, Baguio had a ready market for these fine collectibles, home to many affluent families with large homes, and hordes of out-of-towners and international tourists looking for one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
The modern Maharlika Shopping Center and Marbay Building that rose in the city’s famous market district became the home of popular antique dealers, known even to Manila buyers. Dealers like Felipe Estacio, Eddie Marcelo, and Alicia Serrano set up shops there. Estacio also had a big branch along the highway leading to Benguet.
Pinky Garcia, a researcher who discovered early the marketability of ethnic antiques from the northern highlands like Kalinga furniture, weapons and bulols, set up her PNKY shop there. Daisy Gomes Locsin specialized in the black baskets of the Mountain Province that were a hit with American collectors. Soon, even Kapampangans like Francisco Lacap, trooped to Baguio to open their business in the summer capital.
When I was a student in Baguio in the mid to late 70s, the Marbay shops were all crammed with antiques and artifacts of the most bewildering and amazing variety. Wooden and ivory antos were sold alongside bululs and anito figures. Spanish colonial trinkets and tribal heirloom beads could be easily had for the right price. There were old Ibaloi costumes, headgear, tribal wear, silver and gold jewelry pieces, primitive clay ware.
One would tire himself out just looking at thousands of Oriental plates, bowls, and jars, blue and white, Martabans, Sawankhaloks and Celadons. My interest in antiques was fired by my periodic visits to these stores, but alas, I could only afford the old gin bottles that were sold at 50 pesos each, discounted to 20 if you got more. Larger pieces like cabinets, almarios, tocadors and dining sets could even be delivered for a small fee to Manila and any point in Luzon.
Even when I was already working in Manila, I would find time to drop by at these shops in the 1980s, during business trips. My last visit was in 2004, when I had to mount an event for a client at La Trinidad. With the antique trade dying in Manila, I knew it would not be long that Baguio’s supply would dry out too.
Fifteen long years after, I returned to Baguio for another short visit—and of course, I was surprised at the changes the city had undergone. The mountain tops were crammed with houses, the city overpopulated. Burnham Park was one big parking lot and Session Road teemed with pedestrians. There were overhead walkway that covered the city's landmarks, and tall structures that hid the cityscape, and for a few minutes, I could not locate Marbay,
When I found it, I gave in to my urge to check my former haunts—and these pictures tell the sad story of Baguio’s antique trade. Less than a dozen hole-in-the-wall shops now populate the shopping center. I went there a little after 9 a.m., so many of the unites were still closed. I just peered through the glass walls and found a few genuine antiques sold side-by-side with many reproductions like furniture, Chinese ceramics and newly-woven baskets, cleverly aged with soot and wax polish.
The most popular shops—Tucucan—where I got my first antique santo for 90 pesos sometime in 1978—was still there, with a large stockroom on the upper floor, mostly reproduction antique furniture. Then, there was Globel’s Antiques, still hanging on, with an assortment of odds and ends. I looked around, but I could not feel the same skipping of my heart beat in my visits some 40 plus years ago, when the world and I were younger.
“All things must pass”, Beatle George Harrison once sang, and I guess this is true for Baguio’s once bustling antique trade. It had its heyday, and I was glad and grateful for that vanished time, for “mine eyes have seen the glory”.
One of the grandest churches in the Philippines is also one of the most visited in Manila—the San Agustin Church, founded by the pioneering Augustinian order and the third structure built on the site. It was completed in 1607, based on the design of Juan Macias, and originally named Iglesia de San Pablo. Over the years, the colonial church suffered from the Bristish sack of Manila in 1762, and a series of destructive earthquakes that toppled one tower in 1880. It was turned into a concentration camp during the 2nd World War by the Japanese and sustained major damages, leaving the monastery in ruins. It was rebuilt after the war and the monastery was restored as a museum in the 1970s, which houses some of the most incredible ecclesiastical artifacts. The museum grounds are regularly utilized for exhibits of religious art, including the anique santo collection of noted collector Don Gregorio Araneta.
ST. PETER, a copy of the bronze statue in the Vatican
The venerable San Guillermo Church, in the former capital of the Philippines, Bacolor, is a beautiful legacy of the Agustinos who built the church in 1576 on land donated by Don Guillermo Manabat, town founder. Completely destroyed by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1897 by Fray Manuel Diaz.
SAN GUILLERMO CHURCH, wikimedia commons
The gilded retablo mayor, and the side retablos are intact—despite being half-buried in the lahar inundation of 1995 triggered by the Pinatubo eruption. They are profusely carved with baroque and rococo designs, and the richness of the details are better seen now that they have been beautifully restored. Inside the nichos are various antique Augustinian santos from the colonial period. These, too, have been restored, repainted, and regilded under the supervision of the late Thom Joven, Pampanga’s most eminent ecclesiastical artist.
Now a tourist attraction, the San Guillermo Church continues to be a place of worship, a witness to the history and old glory of Bacolor, acclaimed for its arts and artists, hence the sobriquet—“Atenas ning Pampanga”-- the Athens of Greece.
By Fred J. Reyes / Philippine Panorama, 15 April 1984
Photography: Joey de Vera
THE SEATED CHRIS OF GUIMBA
How “Tatang” Brought Peace and Prosperity to a Family in Nueva Ecija
In Guimba, Nueva Ecija, enshrined in a chapel beside a rice mill, is a life-size crucifix that has drawn throngs of devotees the past 6 years. People reverently refer to the fgure on the Cross as “Tatang”.
“Tatang” is no ordinary version of the Crucifixion. Unlike most other representations of the Holy Cross, Christ here is nailed on both wrists and feet. A block of wood juts out between the thighs, serving as a seat and propping up the upper portions of the body.
The most common crucifix shows Christ nailed on His palms and His feet, and His body pressed flat against the cross.
PHOTO BY JOEY DE VERA
Some Biblical researchers say that this could not have been the way Christ was crucified. His nailed palms, they say, could not have been sufficient to carry the rest of His six-foot frame and would surely have been torn loose after a short time on the cross. Thus, the seat-like projection between His thighs, which the Roman soldiers as an afterthought, both to prevent the palms from being torn apart and to prolong Christ’s agony.
These researchers further say that the French sculptor who made the first such depiction claimed he had seen it in a dream. This crucifix is said to be known in many parts of Europe as “the seated Christ”.
“Tatang”, as the seated Christ in Guilba is beter known among residents and visitors, was sculpted by a Filipino—Rey Estonatoc, who has a studio in Pag-asa, Quezon City. The wooden image shows so profound a suffering that many first-timer to the place, including wizened old men, have been seen crying unashamedly before it.
Rosario Divino Sta. Inez vda. De Santos, matriarch of the family which owns the chapel, says Tatanghas brought peace and prosperity to her household and perhaps to hundreds of other people since His arrival there in 1978. She is particularly thankful for the change in the life of the youngest of her four sons, Fred, who she says was once a black sheep of the family.
Fred, she says, used to be unemployed but also was invoLved in some michief or other. “He used to bring nothing into the house but trouble, all kinds of trouble”.
At the height of Fred’s youthful escapades in early 1977, well-meaning friends succeeded in making him enter a cursillo. They had unsuccessfully tried to make him do so twice before.
When he finally attended one, he noticed, after a few sessions, a crucifix of the Seated Christ that had been brought into the cursillo house by a certain Delfin Cruz.
A wooden image of profound suffering.
It was the first time that Fred saw such a crucifix and his curiosity was aroused.When he asked around, one cursillista, Jose Dijamco, told him that as far as he was concerned that was the faithful reproduction of the Crucifixion. Impressed, Fred made a vow to have a replica of the crucifix someday.
Two weeks after the cursillo, Fred became a changed man he ceased to be the troublemaker that his family used to know and now went all over the barrios of Guimba doing apostolate work. In one of his sorties, a friend came up to him to offer a wo-and-a-half acre farm for cultivation. “It was my very first job offer,” says Fred,”and I readily accepted.”
He had just finished planting the farm to rice when a kumpadre offered him 4more hectares for cultivation. Again, he accepted. “Kaya, eto, umitim na ako, kakatrabaho sa bukid”., he now says, calling attention to his deep tan.
The harvest in both farms was bountiful. He reaped 105 cavans to a hectare , which set him off to a good start in the rice business.For the first time in his life, Fred says, he found fulfillment: “So this is how it feels to sweat and get rewarded for your own labor”, he recalls saying to himself.
Still, something seemed lacking in his life. Often thinking about it, he soon began to have dreams about the crucifix, sometimes with the Virgin Mary floating with it in the clouds. When he recounted his dreams to Dijamco, who by then had become his spiritual adviser, the latter reminded him of his promise to acquire a replica of the Seated Christ. N Fred’s request, Dijamco eventually found a sculptor to make one for him.
The crucifix was finished in October 1978, and Fred, along with Dijamco and a close friend, Cris Ang, drove in a van from Guimba to estonactoc’s studio in Quezon City to get it.“A storm was raging then”, recalls Ang. “But on our way back, it seemed to have calmed down.”
He also remembers that the crucifix they brought back with them attracted lots of curious (and awed) onlookers along the way, so that they had to stop a number of times to enable people to take a close look. As a result, it took them 8 hours, instead of the usual 3, to get back to Guimba.
The crucifix also seemed to have grown heavier, according to Ang. Only 4 people were needed to load it into the van in Quezon City but when they arrived in Guimba, 12 pairs of hands had to bring it inside the chapel owned by Fred’s family.
NAILED AND BOUND FEET. PROLONGING CHRIST'S AGONY. Photo: Joey de Vera
Fred says his dream about the crucifix has never recurred since its arrival and he now feels completely at peace with the world. “I used to attend mass only 5 or 10 times a year and I stayed outside the church at that. Now I remember God through Tatang every day of the year.”
And instead of scaring people away during his days of mischief, Fred now seems to draw people to him—people in need of help, especially. But Fred doesn’t mind giving them help. “When you give to the poor, you’re fulfilling the tithe required by the Church.”
His mother, Rosario, who tends a small sari-sari store besides managing the family rice mill, says she is the happiest about the things that Tatang has done fro her sons and the rest of her family.
“We used to have every kind of problem, financial and other wise,” she says. “Now all these problems seem to have vanished. We’ve paid all our debts and sent our children to the best schools and have something lef to buy lands and other properties.”
Here 3 other sons—Renato, Oscar and Albert, who had their own “youthful flings” have also grown prosperous, apart from being law-abiding and God-fearing men. Oscar, a town councilman and military officer, assists at Mass every Sunday. A son of Fred and a son of Roberto are in the seminary, studying for the priesthood.
Matriarch Rosario vda. De Santos, with granddaughters. Peace with the coming of Tatang.
Tatang, for his part, has become something of an institution in Guimba. Every now and then, people attribute “little miracles” to him. Sometime, in 1979, when a rift divided the town’s cursillistas, the statue, made of hard ipil, reportedly developed a crack on the face, from the forehead to the bridge of the nose. The crack was said to have closed only after the cursillistas had settled their differences.
The chapel, while privately owned, is open to everyone, and Fred says, that like him, countless other people may have been moved by the seated Christ to change their ways.
He attributes to tatang all the good things that have happened to him and his family. “He is as powerful as the man-God he represents.”
Fred says, however, he never asked Tatang directly for the material things that he has now. “Ask him for anything, except material things.”
All that he prayed for, Fred recalls, was faith, fortitude and endurance in the “rat race” of this world.
Oh, the things you find in a warehouse! Yes, this San Jose with his little Niño—carved from a single piece of wood—was found in a dusty warehouse of demolished house parts and old lumberyard materials. It was such in a sorry state—with paint peeling, base cracked, and features that are hardly recognizable.
But I thought the 15.5 inch santo looked promising underneath that layer of dust and grime. It had all the characteristics of a true primitive--carved with shallow features, painted with bright colors to cover up the stiffness of the figure.
There are little details that added much to the appeal of this peace which I got next to nothing. The fact that it was totally fashioned from one piece of softwood wood, including the base, was remarkable, as the symmetry of the piece was almost perfect. Why, the silhouette looks almost like an awards trophy for some contest!
San Jose, himself, looks younger, what with his very sharp, pointed beard and straight black hair. His tunic features a collar while a bow knot is neatly tied high above his waist, as opposed to a simple cord. His robes are painted yellow (which has become grrenish with age) with chicken feet-like prints, typical of Visayan santos. The santo tapers down to the simple, squarish base, with corners lopped off.
Child Jesus on the other hand, looks like an afterthought, ramrod-straight in the arm of San Jose. It almost looks like standing, not seated in a cuddle.
All this San Jose needed was a thorough cleaning and a quick trip to a neighborhood painter to make it more presentable. A light coat of varnish to fix the paint was the final touch to this folksy warehouse San Jose and his little Niño—now fit to be displayed in my house!
One of the most important and popular devotions in the Philippines is centered on Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary –or simply, Virgen del Rosario or Sto. Rosario, patroness of countless far-flung barrios, towns, cities and parishes in the country. It is a Dominican devotion that dates back to th 13th century and propagated throughout the world. It is no wonder that many home altars feature images of Sto. Rosario, showing the rosary-holding Virgin with her Child Jesus.
This century-old Sto. Rosario is one such example, carved by an artisan of extraordinary skill, in the classical style. The image was found in Bulacan, in a house demolition-cum-antique shop, part of a lot of antiques that the proprietor was trying to dispose.
One look and you can tell that this is not the work of a folk santero, for it is exceptionally carved in classical 19thcentury style, with many wonderful details. It is surprising that this Sto Rosario was carved from softwood, given its quality. But then again, the soft, easy-to-carve material may have inspired and allowed the artist to put in more details.
This Sto. Rosario stands 16 inches tall, inclusive of the plain, squarish base with 2 frontal corners lopped off. The image alone is about 13 inches tall. Both Mother and Child are crowned with small parts missing, including their hands. A small, hand-made rosary fashioned from coconut beads, could have been held in the Virgin’s right hand.
But that do not detract from the beauty and antiquity of this religious statue, which is heavily patinated and darkened with age.
The Virgin cuts a matronly figure, with a plumpish face and built. She stands with a bit of a hunch, her head in a frontal gaze, with facial features well-defined: from her full cheeks, deep-set eyes, lips ending in a slight curl, and neck rings. The Niño’s features are hidden in the thick patina, but it is also well-executed, with the Virgen supporting Him precariously with her left hand on His knee.
Wearing a cope-like cape that is buttoned on the neck, then draped and gathered on her waist, the Sto. Rosario stands on a cloud-like peana with feet showing, borne by a curly-haired cherub with downcast eyes. The paint has peeled off in her lower extremities, with the primer (gesso) showing, but with traces of gilt still visible.
Most of her back is covered by her lush, flowing hair that reaches down her knees. Hair strands are defined by shallow carving, more detailed on the side. Whoever carved this work of devotional art should be happy to know that his Sto. Rosario-- a product of his skill and passion-- has survived all these years, cared for and loved by an antique collector.
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.
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.
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.