Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Two of the most important religious images from Ilocoslandia are the Virgen Milagrosa of Badoc and the miraculous Apo Lakay, the black crucified Christ of Sinait, two of the oldest towns of Ilocos Region. Their stories are intertwined, in that they arrived in the Philippines together in a box, on the 3rd of May in 1620—coinciding with the date of finding of the True Cross by Empress Helena.

It is believed that they came from Nagasaki, Japan where missionaries brought images for evangelization purposes. It is supposed to have been found on Ilocos shores at about the same time that a persecution was being waged against the Christian in Japan.

 Like the biblical story of Moses, the boxes containing the images was found adrift in the sea by fisherfolks in Dadalaquiten, Sinait. An argument ensued between the Sinait and Badoc fishermen who found the boxes, but they matter was soon settled peacefully:  The Virgen Milagrosa was sent to Badoc, but the crucified black Christ was too heavy to be transported so it remained in Sinait.

The cross is about three meters long and two meters wide, and the Christ is about the size of an average Filipino. It is enthroned in the sanctuary of the church which has become one of the most popular pilgrim sites of Ilocoslandia. The crucifix is credited with stopping the 1656 epidemic in the Ilocos and for helping repel the attacks of Moro pirates.

 Apo Lakay also attracts devotees looking for healing, from all parts of the country, most especially during theHoly Week and during Apo Lakay’s feast day, May 3.

On the other hand, the image of the Blessed Virgin is revered in Badoc for her countless miracles that she had been heaping on her people. Proclaimed as La Virgen Milagrosa during the 1980 Eucharistic Celebration on 20, May 1980, she is considered the Patroness of Ilocos Norte. That same year, she was canonically crowned in December.

Photos: Dr. Raymund Feliciano

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


VIRGEN DE LOURDES, patroness of Brgy. Talang, Candaba,
as she appear today, and in 1966.

In 1966, the barrio of Talang, in Candaba, Pampanga was featured on the December 25 issue of Sunday Times Magazine, then the country’s most popular weekend magazine, in an article entitled “Christmas in Huklandia”.


 Back then, Talang was a remote and impoverished barrio of Candaba, where Huk dissidence marred the quest for peace and progress of this rural place. But though mired in poverty, the faith of the barrio people remained unshaken. All because of their devotion to their patroness that they kept in a ramshackle “visita” or chapel that stood in the middle of the small clearing: Virgen de Lourdes or Our Lady of Lourdes.

VIRGEN DE LOURDES and Lourdesenian Youth Group.

 The Virgen de Lourdes in 1966 was described thus, by the writer of the article: “It is not a well-sculptured, richly-garbed, bejeweled icon that lords it over the rough-hewn archaic facsimile of an altar here. Instead, the four-foot image of our Lady of Lourdes, seemingly embarassed by the provincial touches of imitation,gaudy adornment, hides within the principal niche above the altar. There are no tall candles on gleaming candlesticks, to light up her sad-eyed, benign features with, and the flowers,still to be picked from some garden plot by her devotees, are conspicuous by their absence on the two-tiered facade flanking her post.” 

The people of Talang have their own pressing needs, but during the Christmas season, they put priority to the needs of their patroness first. In the days leading to Christmas day, the barrio folks unite to go on fund-raising initiatives; for 1966, the objective was to raise money for the Virgen’s carroza. 

DANCING FOR ALMS, Talang barrio folks go from town
to town, to raise funds by dancing.

 The Lourdesenian youth groups would organize themselves into carolers and venture out of their barrio, carrying the image of the Virgen with them as they sing for alms. Adults, on the other hand, become itinerant dancers, going from town to town to dance for alms for their church’s patron. For them all, the days are rich in love and goodness and goodwill, even as violence rage menacingly along the periphery of their private lives.

THE CHAPEL, then and now.

There is a happy postscript to the story of the Lourdes Virgin and the barangay Talang, after fifty long years.


The once-decrepit wooden visita is now a modern concrete structure—now known as Virgen de Lourdes Parish Chapel-- with a floor area, many times bigger than the old chapel, carved pews and stained glass windows. It was established in 1983 through the efforts of Fr. Nolasco Fernandez.

VIRGEN DE LOURDES, in the chapel that was built
in 1983. Photo: Dr. Raymund Feliciano.

Bright and well-lit, it features main retablo and lateral altars, the right side of which houses the original Lourdes image, the same revered icon that was featured in a magazine over five decades ago.

VIRGEN DE LOURDES, Photo: Dr. Raymund

Virgen de Lourdes even sports a new globe base, and a kneeling figure of the visionary St. Bernadette has also been added.

 As for Barrio Talang, it has indeed, moved forward. Thankfully, the Huk unrest that plagued Candaba and the barrio in the 60s has abated. Today, the barangay has its own own barangay hall, elementary and high schools and is dotted with many leisure farms that attract visitors from Pampanga and beyond, especially during their February fiesta days (Feb. 10-11).

OUR LADY OF LOURDES, pray for us.

 Resident devotees will always attribute their changing fortunes to the workings of Virgen de Lourdes; but undeniably, it is also the people’s resilience and unwavering faith in a time of hate and discord that has served them well, as the once-lowly barrio continues its strive for lasting peace and enduring progress.

 SOURCE: “Christmas in Huklandia”, Sunday Times Magazine, by Gloria Garchitorena Goloy, Photographed by Dominador Suba, 25 December 1966


Virgen de Lourdes: Taken by Dr. Raymund Feliciano
Virgen de Lourdes Parish /,_Candaba,_Pampanga)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

249. The Seraphic Doctor: SAN BUENAVENTURA of Mauban, Quezon

These photos were sent to me by a santo aficionado who chanced upon a group of devotees preparing this antique ivory santo for procession in a church and in a place that he could not even recall. He hastily snapped these pictures then only remembered being told that the santo’s name was San Buenaventura, a saint that is rarely heard of or even seen in the Philippines. It turned out that the place was in Mauban, Quezon, with San Buenaventura as the town's patron saint. 

San Buenaventura (St. Bonaventure), born in Tuscany in 1221, was a Franciscan cardinal, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He got his name when, as a sickly boy, he was cured of his illness through the prayers  of St. Francis of Assisi, who exclaimed “O Buona Ventura!” (Oh, good fortune!) upon seeing him recover.

Inspired by St. Francis, he became a Franciscan at age 22 and taught theology. He became a Minister General of the order in 1257 and in the course of his life, he was known for his spiritual writings that earned him the name “the Seraphic Doctor”.  He received the degree of Doctor, together with his friend St. Thomas Aquinas, in Paris.

Named as Cardinal by Pope Gregory X one year before his death, he was also appointed as Bishop of Albano.  He died while he was assisting at the Second Council of Lyons, on 15 July 1274.

 St. Bonaventure is often depicted in statues and drawings wearing a Cardinal's hat and the bishop's crosier (shepherd's staff), a miter, and sometimes a crucifix. In some, he wears a mezclado—his cardinal’s red pellegrina worn over his Franciscan habit. His other attributes include the Church, in reference to his being a Doctor, and a quill—for his writings. His feast day is July 15th.

The image is currently enshrined at the Parish of San Buenaventura in Mauban, Quezon. A similar church dedicated to San Buenaventura is located in Balangkayan, Eastern Samar. If any of you, dear readers, know more information about this particular San Buenaventura, please send me a message through this blog.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016


HUDYO BELIEVE? A century-old head representing a blue-eyed "Hudyo", possibly, a temple officer.

 “Hudyo!!”—this is a popular collective term for those wooden figures found on processional religious tableaus representing soldiers, sentry guards, cavalry men and centurions. Associated with tormenting Christ during his Passion, these “Hudyos”(Jews) —represented with stern expressions, beards, moustaches, sideburns and wide-open googly eyes are cited in several Gospel passages.

 For example, Herod had a personal army that consisted not only of Jews but also of foreign mercenaries. Pilate and other Roman governors also kept Roman soldiers, with some recruited from Greece. Events involving soldiers include the following scenes that have been visually translated into religious tableaus familiar to most Filipinos.

 Arrest of Jesus. John 18:3 mentions the presence of a contingent of Roman troops to support this arrest. Jesus Before the High Priest: When Jesus appeared before the high priest, only Jewish officers were present (Matt 26:58). They struck Jesus and beat him up after the verdict. Jesus Before Pilate: Pilate ordered Jesus to be beaten and mocked by his soldiers (Matt 27:27-30). Most were recruited from the Syrian Greeks, known for their hostility towards Jews.

 Jesus before Herod Antipas: Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, hoping to avoid the problem of executing Jesus. Herod’s soldiers, who were probably Jewish, mocked Jesus and gave him a royal robe (Luke 23:6-12).

 The Fall of Christ: The most popular depiction of soldiers, spearmen and footmen are on tableaus depicting the three falls of Christ (primera, segunda, tercera caida). The fallen Christ is shown surrounded by hostile looking soldiers armed with spears, lances and standards.

 The Crucifixion: Roman soldiers presided over the crucifixion of Jesus. In the Calvary scene, they are attendant figures positioned at each side of Jesus, holding lanes and spears.

 Figures of “Hudyos” are sometimes included in pasos like Simon the Cyrene Helping Jesus (guards behind the cross), Scourging at the Pillar (guards doing the actual whipping), Crowning of Thorns, Paciencia (the seated Jesus flanked by guards), Guarding of the Tomb, Piercing of Jesus (by Longinus).

 Because of the way they are presented on Lenten tableaus, the mere sight of uniformed “Hudyos” with their devilish expressions and weapons, can instill fear and panic among children watching the Holy Week processions.

In a way, their presence brings in relevant aspects of the historical and cultural background of the event, helping us to retell the story more dramatically, which is an essential part of preaching from narrative passages.


Monday, April 18, 2016

247. PHILIPPINE SANTO NIÑOS: Stunning, Startling, Surprising!

The Filipino is a child at heart, which explains the widespread devotion to the Holy Child Jesus in the Philippines. It also explains why—on His annual festival in January, owners of Niño images, led by members of the Congregacion del Santisimo Nombre del Niño Jesus, give rein to their unbridled child-like fantasies as they take out their images for procession.

Along Roxas Boulevard, scores of Sto. Niño statues, of all shapes and sizes and bearing various titles and appellations, could be seen on their floats, dressed and decorated in the most wondrous varieties—from regal to riotous, fancy to flamboyant—all guaranteed to dazzle, startle and surprise.

In the 1994 edition, there were Bambinos like these, inspired by Italian-style representations of the Child Jesus..

There were little Niño that came shielded from the elements in spectacular Baldochinos such as these..

This pair of cute pair were dolled up as—the Pope. One was wearing the Papal Miter and the other, a golden Papal Tiara.

Only in the Philippines can one see the Holy Child in the national costume for men—the Barong…

 Attracting extra attention were these Infant Jesus statues attired in Ethnic Regalia…

 Strange as it may seem, there were Niños garbed as Warriors, ready to do battle…

Meanwhile, there were a couple of Sleeping Sto. Niños, oblivious to the noisy, adoring crowds..

A trio of little Jesus figures were borne on Horses—one, carried by a chariot flown by the mythical winged horse, Pegasus, and another, led by kiddie cocheros…

Still others were presented using Musical-Themed backdrops, like the Las Piñas Niño that featured a bamboo organ, and another Holy Child, being serenaded by a guitar-playing figure.

There were overly-decorated floats overflowing with flowers, blooms, petals, leaves and fruity décor, totally overwhelming the poor little Holy Child—you could scarcely see Him!

Thank heavens, there still were a few familiar Santo Niños that many could recognize among those in the procession—like this replica of the much-revered Santo Niño of Cebu whose depiction remains true to the original, thus inspiring true reverence!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

246. Rare Folk Santo Tableau: THE MOCKING OF JESUS

BURLANDOSE DE JESUS. A folk santo grouping in a primitive
urna, depicting the mocking of Jesus by Roman soldiers.
Pamintuan Mansion, Angeles City, Pampanga.

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Religious tableaus depicting anything from Biblical scenes (the Nativity, the Crucifixion)  to various saintly groupings (e.g. Our Lady of Carmel, St. James Fighting the Moors, Salvacion) are familiar sights to antique dealers and santo collectors. Folk representations of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) commonly abound, often encased in a colorful folk altar. The same goes true for Calvario tableaus  that show Jesus on the cross, surrounded by Mary, Magdalene and St. John.

However, in the restored ancestral Pamintuan residence of Angeles City can be found a very rare and seldom seen folk tableau, representing the Mocking of Jesus Christ. This event, which Jesus had predicted, happened several times--after his trial and before his crucifixion according to the gospels of the New Testament.

The mocking of Christ took place thrice: immediately following his trial by the Sanhedrin, after his condemnation by Pilate, and when he was on the cross. The first instance was done by chief priests, temple guards and other elders.

The second instance occurred after his appearance before Pilate, where, upon his condemnation, was  was flogged and mocked by Roman soldiers. They clothed him with a purple or scarlet robe. crowned with thorns and made to hold a staff as his scepter. This wooden tableau seems to depict Jesus' second mocking by the Pilate's Roman centurions who knelt before him and said , "Hail, King of the Jews".

Curiously, the seated blank-faced Jesus figure is clean-shaven. Could this figure represent Pilate? Or was it just a way to differentiate Jesus from his bearded and moustachioed antagonists? A wire on top of his head that once held a halo--indicates with certainty that this is indeed, Jesus. One bemoustached official is either in the act of handing him his reed scepter or about to beat him up with a staff.

Still another is seen pointing his finger up. Two or three centurions stand at attention around Jesus, dressed in their pointed hats, breeches and boots. All the figures--no more than 7 inches high-- are carved from softwood in the naif style, with their separately-carved limbs wired to their bodies. Their faces are painted and they are dressed in fabric trimmed with lace and gold thread.

The ensemble is housed in a spectacularly carved, glass fronted  urna with 4 Solomonic columns, cutwork side flanges, and a roof with simulated rococo carvings. It stands on carved feet that are typical of Ilocos folk altars.

Christians see Jesus' suffering is redemptive, hence, they see the mockery that Jesus went through as being borne and endured on their behalf. Capturing this moment in a carved devotional piece must have been a challenge to the anonymous santero who wrought this exuberantly-crafted masterpiece. Which explains why it remains the first and only Mocking of Christ tableau I have seen thus far,

The rare Mocking of Jesus folk tableau can be viewed at the Pamintuan Mansion on Sto. Entierro St., located at the heritage district of Angeles City. The ancestral residence has been converted into a Museum of Social History. Opens daily 8:00 am-5 pm, except Mondays. Entrance is free.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Agoo, before the founding of La Union province, was once a part of Pangasinan. It is one of the oldest municipalities in the Philippines, and in ancient time, its excellent harbor was frequently visited by Japanese and Chinese traders. Christianization was undertaken by both Franciscan and Augustinian missionaries, until secular priests took over in 1898.

Agoo has been made famous for the alleged Marian apparitions of Virgin Mary to Judiel Nieva, who reported seeing a statue of Our Lady of Agoo atop a Guava tree, weeping with blood. Pilgrims flocked to Agoo to see the "seer", but the highly sensationalized apparitions were declared a hoax in 1993.

But nothing can take way the display of deep Ilocano devoutness and traditional pomp during the season of Lent.. The Good Friday procession is the highlight of the Semana Santa, a devotion manifesting the fervor and faith of the hardy Agoo folks.

There are about 30 carozas beautifully adorned, all lined up at the Plaza dela Virgen, a remarkable tradition dating from the Spanish times and the Penitential Procession of Women in honor of the Mother of Christ, all dressed in black.

The funeral entourage also consists of mourning virgins--saintly women depicting the female characters associated with the ministry and  Passion of Jesus, a selection of which are featured on this page.

All photos were taken in 1994 by Dr. Raymund Feliciano, exclusively for this blog.

Source: title=AGOOSEMANASANTA%3Cbr%3EAgoo,LaUnion&func=all&pid=5663