Friday, April 11, 2014

191. SANTOS FROM LEVY & BLUM, INC.


One of the leading companies in Manila engaged in the import-export business during the 1920s thru the Commonwealth years, was Levy & Blum, Inc. The founders of Levy & Blum were Jewish entrepreneurs who fled the Franco-Prussian War to settle in the Philippines. The company's headquarters was located in 345 Echague, Quiapo, Manila. The thriving business regularly issued catalogs featuring items of interest to Filipinos. This ca. 1930s catalog features an aseemblage of imported sacred statues, of different sizes, materials and prices to appeal to a diverse market.


The statues of saints ("Estatua de Santos) were made of imitation ivory (imitacion marfil) and were described as having a beautiful appearance (bonita apariencia) with well-finished details (detalle bien acabado).


Ideal for home chapels, these images ranged in sizes from 60 cm. ( at Php 6.00) to as small as 12 cm. ( at a more affordable 80 centavos). They represented saintly figures as Sta. Teresita del Nino Jesus, Virgen de Lourdes, Milagrosa, Sagrada Familia, San Jose, Sagrado Corazon, Sto. Nino, Virgen del Carmen, Angel de la Guardia, San Antonio, Virgen Antipolo, Cristo Rey, San Cristobal,  San Juan, San Ignacio, San Francisco and Inmaculada Concepcion.


Related sacred items were also sold, including lockets and rosaries, with embossed figures of saints, at Php 1.10 per piece.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

190. ST. JOHN VIANNEY

SAINT JOHN VIANNEY. A rarely seen vintage santo of the Cure of Ars, patron of priests. Carved locally, the all-wood santo dates from the 50s and once belonged to a Manila family.

St. John Baptiste-Marie Vianney, (b. 1786/ d. 1859) is known as the Cure of Ars, the patron saint of priests. Ordained in 1815, he was known for his pastoral works and ministry in the community, thus his patronage. As a parish priest of Ars, a remote French hamlet, he gained a reputation as a confessor and director of souls.


St. John's life was marked with extreme mortifications.  He demonstrated utmost patience in a life characterized by abject austerities. It was said that he was besieged by the devil but this great mystic ward him off with his acts of holiness, remaining to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.


St. John was beatified only in 1905 and canonized in 1925,  and so, there are very few sculpted representations of him. That is why, I was delighted to see this wooden image of the saint that was found for sale, in a Manila home, which led me to thin--could a family member have been a religious? Was this a commissioned work for his private devotion?


I will never know--but I do know that this was done in the late 50s, judging from the carving style of the figure. Most St. John statues are carved in the round (de tallado),and I still have yet to see one in the manikin style.


As in all his representations, he is depicted as an oldish priests, with white or greying hair, slight and frail looking. His hands are clasped in prayer.


He wears a surplice with lace trims at the edges. Upon closer inspection, the realistically painted lace trims are actually real fabrics decoupaged or glued onto the wooden statue, then painted over, hence the texture. Around his next is a short stole, also made from real lace material. Around his waist is aloosely-knotted cincture.


In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney's death, Pope Benedict XVI declared 2009-2010, a year for priests. St. John Vianney's Feast Day: August 4.

Monday, March 24, 2014

189. Miracle Monk: SAN NICOLAS DE TOLENTINO

MIRACLE MONK. An almost lifesize image of San Nicolas de Tolentino from a Pampanga town is shown dressed, and ready for his procession, in this ca. 1970s photo,

San Nicolas de Tolentino (St. Nicholas of Tolentine) is a popular patron of many Philippine towns and cities in the Philippines--like San Nicolas (Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Batangas), Macabebe (Pampanga), Talisay (Cebu),  Banton (Romblon), Dimlao (Bohol) and Surigao City, among others. The Recollect missionaries, who came to the Philippines in May 1606, are credited with propagating the devotion to this thaumaturgist. The Augustinian Recollect Province in the Philippines is known as the province of San Nicolas de Tolentino.

Born in 1245 in Sant'Angelo, San Nicolas got his name from St. Nicholas of Myra, at whose shrine his parents prayed to have a child. Nicholas became a monk at 18, and was ordained as a priest,  seven years later. He became a well-known preacher and a confessor.

Around 1274, he was sent to Tolentino, near his birthplace. The town suffered from a civil feud between the Guelphs, who supported the pope, and Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor, in their struggle for control of Italy. Nicolas was primarily a pastor to his flock, tending the poor and the criminals.

As a wonder worker, he is said to have cured the sick with bread over which he had prayed to Mary, the mother of God. The "panecillos de saniculas", in the Philippines, is a cookie made from arrowroot, which is often given to sick people, in the belief that it will improve their wellness. The cookies undergo a ritual blessing before they are distributed.

San Nicolas died in 1305 after a long illness and was canonized by Pope Eugene IV in 1446. His iconography shows him wearing the black habit of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, with a star above him or on his breast. Some show his habit studded with stars. His emblems include a cross and a plate on which a roasted partridge was miraculously revived to life.

He is involed against fires and is the patron saint of the dying, sick animals, souls in Purgatory, babies and mothers. His Feast Day is September 10.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

188. Santo Sighting: SAN MATEO APOSTOL y EVANGELISTA



The image of San Mateo (St. Matthew) , one of the 4 Evangelists and one of Jesus's apostles, rarely is seen in home altars of yore in the Philippines. Many that I've seen are usually church images, comprising a collection to represent the 4 Evangelists--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So it was a delight to see this small, 15 inch wooden San Mateo, being unloaded by a collector through an antique shop.

San Mateo, author of the first Gospel, was the son of Alpheus and a Roman tax collector by profession at Capernaum. Nothing definite is known about his life, except that he was also known as "Levi". It is also uncertain whether he died from natural causes or was martyred--there are various accounts of his martyrdom, but it is not known whether he was stoned, burned or beheaded.


This santo, adheres to his traditional iconography--San Mateo holds a book to designate his authorship of the Gospel, and a money sack (now missing) in the other hand to denote his former life as a ta collector. A small angel holding an inkwell stands by his side to signify his new life as a messenger of Christ. The santo stands on a squarish damaged base.


Based on the carving and painting style, this stocky San Mateo seems to date from the midcentury. The halo, which  looks original to the piece, looks more contemporary. Sadly, I could not afford this santo which came with a hefty price tag, so I had to look the other way. It was eventually sold to another willing collector.

San Mateo's feast day on the Western calendar is September 21. he is quite predictably, the patron saint of bankers, bookkeepers, accountants, money managers, stockbrokers, financial officers, customs officers, and tax collectors.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

187. STA. INES: From A Virgin Most Pure to a Virgin-Martyr

STA. INES, VIRGEN y MARTIR. Blessedness in Ivory.

There are only a handful of wooden Sta. Ines images in the Philippines, so what more of ivory? In my years of going to antique shops, ancestral houses and heritage sites, I have seen many “santas” rendered in ivory, even those considered minor or not as well-known.

In one shop, I once saw a beautiful ivory Sta. Lucia in a virina, complete with a pair of silver eyes on a dish. I also remember seeing an unusual Sta. Rita holding a crucifix and a skull, flanked by her young sons, all in ivory. Most recently, a large Sta. Filomena, with gold accessories and regally-embroidered vestment surfaced in the market.

With the exception of the processional ivory Sta. Ines in Bulacan, I still have yet to see one for sale, be it from a shop or from a private collector. I’ve always taken a keen personal interest in the virgin-martyr saint, as I come from Barrio Sta. Ines in Mabalacat, known today as the Pampanga exit of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).


I like to believe that it’s also more than a coincidence that I was born on the feast of Sta. Ines—January 21—thus further underlining her significance to me. For years, in our small barrio, veneration revolved around a small Sta. Ines image owned by the Dela Cruzes, an old Mabalacat family whose ancestors founded the barangay in the 19th century. I’ve always been fixated on the ancient figure of the young santa, dressed in green with a palm leaf in one hand, and a primitive-looking lamb at her feet.


 When I developed an interest in santo collecting, I told myself that one day, I will have my own antique Sta. Ines in ivory. But after years of waiting in vain, I was ready to give up—until a friend gave me sage advice – “ïf you can’t find one, make one”.

THE ORIGINAL LA PURISIMA. Found in a Fairview antique warehouse, this santa has ivory head and hands. It stood on a globe base and had a dispropotionately stunted body, which made it ideal for conversion into the child-saint, Agnes.

That opportunity presented itself when I found this small La Purisima Concepcion in a dealer’s warehouse, and which I acquired for a reasonable price. One look, and I knew the ivory headed-image with ivory hands was a perfect candidate for transformation into a Sta. Ines.


 It had a young-looking, soulful face on a body that was a bit short—more teenage than adult, just the right size of I were to make a young santa representing a 14 years old. The Virgin had a manikin body, so it was easy for me to pose her in the attitude of Sta. Ines—one arm pressed to her chest to hold the palm of martyrdom, the other, holding a lamb.


There were a few things that needed to be changed—the globe base with the snake had to go. That was the easy part. But the vestments needed to be overhauled totally.

 STATUE OF ST. AGNES, at St. Joseph's Shrine, St. Louis, Missouri USA. From the flickr page of Mr. Mark Scott.

I took the Purisima to my restorer, bringing with me pictures and estampitas (holy cards) of the saint, for wardrobe color reference.

ESTAMPITAS OF STA. INES, show a consistency in the color depiction of her dress, which guided the restorer in the creations of the santa's vestments.

Most of our visual references assigned her the colors pink and blue green, so my restorer and I decided to work on those shades. Her vestments will only have minimal gold embroidery on the hems, with much draping to be done to simulate the rich folds of St. Agnes statues done in the round.


 Months before, I had the good sense to buy tiny lambs and sheep of white clay, which originally formed part of an antique Nativity crèche. So, that solved what I thought was my biggest problem—tto find the saint’s animal attribute that also bears her name phonetically—Agnus, or lamb.

STA. INES AND HER EMBLEMS. The silver palm is actually a vintage silver brooch picked from a Mabini shop. The lamb is an antique creche animal figure.

The most difficult challenge turned out to be the search for a silver palm leaf—a symbol of the young saint’s martyrdom. I scoured ebay for a silver palm brooch, but came away empty-handed—either they were way too expensive or were not of the right shape and size.


But a week after the start of the transformation project, I dropped by at a Mabini antique shop and found an old but damaged silver brooch, that could pass off as a palm frond, as it had individual leaves. The size was also perfect!


After a month of waiting, my Sta. Ines was done. When delivered, she was wearing a new jusi wig, crowned with an antique silver gothic halo that I found separately, standing on an oval gilded base, specially commissioned for her.


With the addition of the silver “palm” leaf and the tiny lamb on one palm, the santa-formerly-known-as-La Purisima looked every inch a Sta. Ines.

STA. INES, in its glass virina. Personal Collection.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

186. CRISTO MENINO: Steward of All Creation

CHRIST ON A HILL. A Portuguese-made Cristo Menino, made from wood and white clay, mounted on a hill with niches containing small animals, like a rabbit, birds, sheep. Glass eyes, original clothes. 10 in., including the base.19th c., Personal Collection.

When I was new to ebay some 10 years ago, I would occasionally find small antique figures of the Christ Child standing on top of a mound, representing a hill, on which small earthen animals like lambs would rest. I thought the figure represented the Christ Child as a Good Shepherd, but then I wold find examples with other animal forms. “Cristo Menino”, as the South American ebay sellers called them, were soon my objects of desire, and I was determined to get myself an example.

 The cost of shipping from South America (I was dealing with a Uruguayan seller) doubled the cost of the Cristo Menino I was eyeing, so sadly, I had to momentarily give up my quest for this unusual representation of the Christ Child—until another one surfaced for sale in the U.S. I quickly bidded on it, won the santo, and was sent to a N.J. address, and finally to me, thank God for my sister’s regular balikbayan box shipments.


This 8 inch Cristo Menino, which originated from Portugal, had much more detail for its size. It was made from a combination of white terracotta and wood, common materials used in Europe.


The figures was sculpted in the round and the features were painted,with tiny glass inserts for eyes. The clenched left hand once held a staff, now missing, while the other arm, which had broken, was raised in the act of benediction.


Though it had missing pieces and broken parts, it had retained its original vestment—from its lacey undergarment, his pantaloons. to the dress, which was finely embroidered with colourful floral motifs on the bodice and on the flouncy skirt.



A cincture of gold thread with metallic tassels completed the Nino’s outfit.


Also remarkable was the little mound where the Nino’s feet were pegged—it had little niches placed around it, each with a small, sculpted clay animals inside.


There were obviously some missing figures, but the rabbit, a pair of sheep, a pigeon and a duck, were intact.


 It was fairly easy for me to restore this wonderful Cristo Menino—the broken arm was repaired using epoxy clay. The missing fingers will have to be restored at a later time.


Parts of the undergarment were crumbling and beyond repair—like the tunic of tulle, so I just kept what was salvageable—in this case, the pantaloons.


Years after I acquired my Cristo Menino, on January 2014 to be exact, it was lent for a San Beda exhibit of Santo Niños, entitled, Fides: The Sto. Nino and the Value of Faith,  curated by Dino Carlo Santos. There, in his little urna, my Cristo Menino stood on his little mound, presiding over a menagerie of God’s creatures, the Steward of All Creation.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

185. MARIAN IMAGES OF PAMPANGA

MARIAN IMAGES, from Marian Festival of Pampanga, 29 November 2003, on the occasion of Guagua Town Fiesta, with the theme Virgen Maria: Modelo Ning Lugud (Virgin Mary: Model of Goodness). Marian Festival Chairman: Mrs. Estella G. Navarro/ Co-Chair: Mrs. Alma S. Twano.

VIRGEN DEL CARMEN
Owned by the late Dr. Angelo Roque, c/o Mrs. Lourdes Orense and Family.

VIRGEN DE LOS DESAMPARADOS
Owned by Dra. D. Ancheta del Rosario and Family

VIRGEN DOLOROSA
Owned by Mrs. Consolacio Bacani / Mrs. Rosario Guanzon

VIRGEN DE LA EXPECTACION

VIRGEN DE LAS FLORES
Owned by Mr. Emmanuel Canlas and Family

MARY, HELP OF CHRISTIANS
Owned by Mrs. Nenita Singian and Family

STA. MARIA MADRE DE DIOS
Owned by Mr. Jayvi D. Lusung and Family

VIRGEN DE MANAOAG

MARY, MEDIATRIX OF ALL GRACES
Owned by Apo Lina and Company

NTRA. SRA. DE LA VICTORIA
Owned by Mr. Eustaquio Pinlac and Family

VIRGEN DE SOTERANA
Owned by the Barangay Pastoral Council of Bancal

VIRGEN DEL ROSARIO

VIRGEN DE LOS REMEDIOS
Owned by the late Mr. Serve Capati

VIRGEN DE LA NAVIDAD
Owned by the Jingco Family/ Mr. Richard J. Calaguas and Family

ROSA MISTICA 
Owned by Mr. Aldrin S. Bernardo and Family

VIRGEN DELA CANDELARIA
Owned by Engr. and Mrs. Angelito Twano and Family

VIRGEN DE LA MERCED 
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Pablo L. Narciso and Family 

VIRGEN DE LAS ESTRELLAS
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Cesar  L. Diyco and Family