Thursday, February 4, 2016


 the 1960s. Note her attributes; cross and balance scale. Souvenir holy card,

Pasay is home to the Sta. Clara Parish Church,--a landmark on P. Burgos St., which was founded in 1864. Installed as the first parish priest was Fray Simeon Betino, OSA, who served for 4 years.

The parish is under the patronage of Sta. Clara, who was born in Montefalco around 1268. Sta. Clara joined the convent of Franciscan tertiaries which founded the Holy Cross Convent at Montefalco in 1290. She rose to become the abbess of the community.

Known for living a very austere life, Sta. Clara had a profound devotion to the Passion of Christ and His Cross. When Clare died in 1308, an image of the Cross was found imprinted on her heart, and her body remained incorrupt. She was canonized in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII. 

ATTRIBUTES OF STA. CLARA: Cross, balance scale and a pierced heart
 are old accessories of the saint. Her halo has been replaced by a radiance. .

The age-old image of Sta. Clara enshrined in the Pasay Church shows the holy woman dressed in her habit, holding her attributes—the cross, in reference to her devotion, and the balance scale—used for weighing or judging the goodness of souls against the word of God.

On her Aug. 17 fiesta, the image of Sta. Clara is paraded, accompanied by rousing  music performed by different invited bands,in a celebration so festive, befitting the saint who continues to be a source of inspiration to the faithful of Pasay.

(Words & Music by Rev. Fr. Severino G. Casas.
former Asst. Parish Priest, 1962)

Sta. Clara de Montefalco,
Kaisang bituin ng Lunsod ng Pasay
Patrona na aming sinta
Dalagang santa n gaming parokya
Devota siyang tunay sa Santisima Trinidad
At sa pagmamalasakit ng ating Panginoon

O Patronang matulungin, igawad ang iyong awa
Purihin ka at kilalanin ng mga tagarito sa amin
Kami nawa’y patnubayan ng pagsinta mong tunay
Ng kayo’y makapiling hanggang kamatayan,
Hanggang kalwalhatian.

Friday, January 29, 2016

239. The Untouchable: STA. INES of BULACAN, BULACAN

TOUCH HER NOT: The revered antique ivory Sta. Ines of Bulacan, Bulacan.

In a chapel in Bulacan, Bulacan can be found a small, ivory image of the young virgin-martyr, Sta. Ines (St. Agnes of Rome)—venerated by pious Bulakenyos and pilgrims from all over. But with the ardent devotion comes a warning—that the image must never be touched by menfolk in deference to her purity which she kept intact after being subjected to all sorts of torments and abuse. Even priests are no exceptions.

 The ancient ivory image was found by a fisherman from Pariahan who was out looking for a good catch in the sea. The sea was soon enveloped by a thick mist followed by claps of thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour. In the midst of this tempest, the fisherman saw a mysterious glow at the far end of his boat.

When he came nearer to inspect the light, the fisherman was surprised to see the image on a floating basin. He tied the basin to his boat and towed it for home. Upon sighting land, the fisherman attempted to lift the basin with the image and bring it ashore, but he could not even lift it. Other fishermen came to help him, but the basin would not budge. But when the women came to their succor, they handily and easily lifted the image safely to the shore.

 Considering the event as miraculous, the barrio people constructed a “visita” and put it under the patronage of Sta. Ines—a name that was on the book held by her left hand. Eventually, the saint’s name replaced “Pariahan” as the name of the barrio.

 Then and now, the feast of Sta. Ines every 21st of January is marked with days of prayer capped by a procession. In the course of the 9-day novena, the petite Sta. Ines image is dressed indifferent vestments every day.

Twice the image is processioned—in the morning and in the evening—borne on a decorated anda by women, who also heap tributes of songs and poems to their beloved patron in a tradition called “Luante”. 

 To remind uninformed men, signs bearing the warning “Paunawa: Bawal Humawak Ang Mga Lalaki” are placed strategically on the anda, lest misfortune comes—in the form of floods, storms, lightning strikes and other natural calamities.

 The antiquity of the Sta. Ines image can be seen in the fine lines on the ivory face. On her right hand, she holds an olive palm, a symbol of her martyrdom.

The other hand holds a book topped by a primitive lamb, which stands for purity. The story of the saint could be read at the “visita” where she is enshrined.



“Gunita”, by Naning Santos. 
Alfonso, Ian Christopher B. at Rodrigo, Jose Antonio M. 2013, Bulakan: Pag-alaala sa biyaya ng nakaraan -- ikalawang tomo: sining, kalinangan, at mga natatanging anak ng Bulakan, Bulacan. Malolos, Bulacan, Center for Bulacan Studies, Bulacan State University.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


CALVARIO TABLEAU, from the Bautista Collection.
Ivory-headed manikin santos. The corpus of the crucified
Christ is all ivory. Leon Gallery.
The leading art and antique auction houses of the Philippines were both founded 2010, Leon Gallery specializes in museum quality Philippine art--from Old Master paintings to modernist works of notable Filipino artists. It is a;so a purveyor of Philippine antiques, including Hispanic era religious santos, a selection of which are featured here. Salcedo Auctions, on the other hand, is the only auction house in the Philippines to specialize in the sale of fine art, jewelry, decorative arts and collectible accessories by leading local and international artists and artisans. Occasionally, the auction house also carries fine santos in its offerings.

SOLEDAD DE PORTA VAGA. Representation of the
Cavite image of the virgin of solitude. Ivory head and hands.
The assemblage is encased in a shadowbox. Leon Gallery.

SAN NICOLAS DE TOLENTINO. Large wood and ivory
head of the preacher saint, Leon Gallery.

 head of the Franciscan saint. Leon Gallery.

Madonna and child ivory santos
inside a  virina. Salcedo Auctions.

MATER DOLOROSA. The dolorous virgin, ivory head
and hands. Bastidor body.Leon Gallery.

CRUCIFIJO. Crucifix with the body of Christ\
 in ivory. Silver accessories. With original virina.
All photos from past Leon Gallery and Salcedo Auctions catalogs.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Originally published on Free Press, 
12 December 1953, pp. 59-61 

Pulilan is a town in Bulacan some 46 kilometers north of Manila. San Francisco is a small barrio of Pulilan.

Every first Sunday of Lent, throusands flock to San Francisco. From Pampanga, from Nueva Ecija, and provinces farther north come the celebrants. Manila faces are to be seen. They come to celebrate the feast of “Mahal na Birhen ng Biglwang-Awa”, that is “the Holy Virgin of Instant Mercy”.

The Biglang-Awa Virgin is an oil painting about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long. It is brought down from a small wooden house, then placed on an altar. People, young and old, kneel around the altar, praying.You can see the crippled, the sick, the blind, the pregnant women, the desperate. Another group sit in front of the kubol reading the Book of the Passion.

The procession starts. The Virgin is mounted o a small carriage. The devotees and a band follow. After the procession—the feast begins. All the food is contributed by people who believe in the Virgin. There are sacks of rice. Nearly everybody eats from banana leaves. A big plate is passed around. People give money. This happens every year in barrio San Francisco. Not even the Japanese occupation stopped the feast of the Biglang-Awa Virgin.

This is the story of the”Mahal na Birhen ng Biglang Awa", according to Claro Plamenco, whose family takes care of the image.

 “Legend says that the painting as found many, many years ago. It happened like this. A group of Chinese were sailing in a big boat. Suddenly, a sharp object pierced the bottom of the boat,making a big hole through which the water gushed. Then the Chinese looked up to heaven and cried, “ Biglang-Awa! Biglang-Awa!” (Instant Mercy, Instant Mercy!). And the image appeared from nowhere, sealed the hole in the boat and saved the lives of the Chinese. Hence the name “Mahal na Birheng Biglang-Awa” or Holy Virgin of Instant Mercy.

 “Mang Claro,” I interrupted, “ you said that the Biglang-Awa Virgin is miraculous. Now what miracles can you tell me that the Virgin has performed?”

 Mang Claro told me about the old woman who came all the way from Gapan, Nueva Ecija. The woman was afflicted with a dreadful disease. She said that the Virgin appeared to her one night in her faraway town. She prayed in front of the Virgin. She rubbed her body with the coconut oil from the lamp of the Virgin’s altar. Then, she took a bath at a nearby well.

 “Did the sick, old woman get well afterward?,”I asked Mang Claro. 
“Oh yes!”, Mang Claro said.
 “Has the Virgin performed miracles for your family?”

 Mang Claro said that his children slept in the room where the lighted altar of the Virgin stood. That his children were constantly awakened at night by the “knocking” of the Virgin. Whenever the light of the small oil lamp was put out by a gust of wind---the Virgin “knocked”. The Virgin kept on knocking until one of Mang Claro’s children got up and lighted the lamp again. The Plamenco children testified to this “miracle”.

 The image is painted on the surface of thin wood. The Virgin’s head has a crown of gold and is circled by eight small, shining stars.She holds on her right knee the Holy Infant. The edge of the Virgin’s mantle has a wide line of gold paint. TheVirgin and the Child are between two lighted candles. In the distance are Spanish galleons of old. The brush strokes are fine, the colors well-blended. Hues of red and brown dominate the painting with touches of flesh ochre.The paint is cracked, a sign of age. The artist? I could not find his signature.

 On November 3, this year, I went to Bambang, Pasig, Rizal. There, I found the owner of the Biglang-Awa Virgin. He is 52-year-old Pedro Joson. I confronted him with the declaration of Plamenco about the Virgin and her miracles. Joson denied the miracles.

 “I do not know of any miracles. Ask the people of San Francisco.”
 “Is it true that the left-overs after the feast of the Virgin, the food and the sacks of rice, go to you and your family?”

 Joson admitted this but defended himself by saying, that as the owner of the Virgin, he was entitled to certain privileges.

 “Look at me. Look at my family. Look at my house. We are poor. Many people made money selling images of the Lady Mediatrix of Lipa City.Many people are making money selling images of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Baclaran. Me? I will never commercialize the image of the Holy Virgin of Instant Mercy. I would be rich if I did so. I am still a low-paid government laborer. I have seven mouths to feed.”

 The Virgin gives him food.
That’s enough.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


The city of Mabalacat in Pampanga resides an antique devotional tableau rarely seen in private homes. The two-figure tableau depicts the apparition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Beginning on 27 December 1673, St. Margaret Mary received private revelations of the Sacred Heart.

 The images were inspired by this divine vision that has been traditionally visualized in old holy cards showing the French nun, Margaret Mary, kneeling in front of Jesus Christ exposing his heart.

 They were commissioned by the couple Vicente dela Cruz (b.9 Sep. 1888) and wife, Felipa Lim, prominent sugar planters and entrepreneurs, who own one of the largest residences in the city—complete with a high tower.

 The de la Cruzes have always had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but they chose to include the image of the visionary nun, St. Margaret Mary.

The lifesize statues possibly date from the late to early 30s, and they have a gothic feel in the way the images were carved. Many miracles have been attributed to these images.

During the War, the tower house of the Dela Cruzes was commandeered by Japanese military leaders and transformed it into their headquarters. At  the time of the Liberation, when the Japanese learned that the Americans were coming to take back Mabalacat, they threaten to burn the house as well as the whole town.

The Dela Cruz household prayed and invoked the name of the Sacred Heart to deliver the house from fire. As it turned out, the enemy forces fled the town in panic, leaving the house unscathed. In more recent times, when the heavy roof of the tower was blown off by a typhoon, it fell on a vacant spot on the yard, safely away from nearby apartments and houses around the mansion.

 The Dela Cruz heirs continue to lend the images to the Church of the Divine Grace for the annual feast of the Sacred Heart, where it is processioned on its own carroza.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

235. CARU-CARUHAN DE BINANGONAN: Santos in Miniature

MINIATURE TERCERA CAIDA (third fall of Christ). 
In Binanongan, Rizal, miniature statues of saints take center stage instead of the usual life size ones. This recalls the religious tradition in Colombia, where children process their own child-size santos.

This relatively-new Binanongan tradition is called "caru-caruhan" (play carrozas), and it is held during the Lenten season. It began sometime in the 1980s, when children began imitating the Holy Week tradition of bringing out images for the annual Lenten ritual.

Along Regidor St., the children would parade their homemade santos made of sticks, cloth and other available materials. Over the years, the image became more sophisticated, well-made and life-like,

The wooden tabletop  images are small, no more than 20 inches tall, and are outfitted and arrayed in embroidered vestments and metalworks. There are single representations of Lenten characters as well as tableaus.

The little santos have their own mini "andas" on which they are borne during the procession. The event is highly organized, and there is even a cofradia dedicated to propagating the devotion and practice in the hope of instilling religiosity among the youths.

The group plans the program, including the Wednesday procession that culminates in the gathering of the santos depicting scenes from the passion of Christ in an exhibit hosted by the St. Ursula Church.

This unusual tradition lives on in Binanongan where it is also known as the Caro-carohan de Regidor to honor its place of origin.
It has become a popular tradition, regularly covered by the media, and visited by local tourists and devotees, who delight in watching the miniature santos as well as the spirited display of devotion of Binangonan youths.
Featured here are representative images from the 2008 procession, taken by Holy Week photo documentarian Dr.Raymund Feliciano.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

234. Santo Stories: SAN ROQUE of Bilibid Viejo, Quiapo

Bilibid Viejo in Quiapo takes pride in having the pilgrim saint, San Roque (St. Rich of Montpellier) as its titular patron. The resident’s devotion is centered on a small, wooden image of San Roque, the pilgrim saint of Montpellier, who ministered to victims of a plague, that he, too, caught. A dog came every day, bringing him bread for sustenance. An angel holds a scroll proclaiming his invocation against pestilences of all sorts.

The origin of this image is lost in history, but since Bilibid Viejo is just a walk away to Quiapo’s carving centers, it may be assumed that the image could have been commissioned from any of the talleres in Evangelista, Hidalgo, or even those in Sta. Cruz. The image is enshrined in a small corner chapel that was constructed way before the war.

The devotion to San Roque and its upkeep were assumed by a confraternity that was founded on 18 July 1926, with 16 pioneer members—Hermandad de San Roque. They actively propagated the faith by holding yearly fiesta activities, held in the first two weeks of August. There were daily sponsored masses, band contests, basketball competitions, movie screenings and musical jamborees. The fiesta is highlighted by a procession led by the image of the Sto. Niño, followed by their patron, San Roque, and then by the Virgin of Mount Carmel.

The San Roque fiesta is still being held in Quiapo, marked with rowdy street games. Not many people know that in the not so distant past, especially in the post-war years, the celebration of Bilibid Viejo’s patron had a more devout air, with many groups like “Sub-Comite de Damas, Señoritas y Soletros”, “Los Companeros” (a band of musicians that played during the fiesta) and Bilvie Youth Club lending their hands to promote the devotion though organized pilgrimages, excursions to churches and the promotion of scaramentals through San Roque medals.