SAGRADO CORAZON DE JESUS. An early 20th century sacred Heart of Jesus in wood welcomes visitors at the foyer of an ancestral house located in Sta. Rita, Pampanga.
Pampanga's cultural renaissance is still going on strong years after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, a cataclysmic event that almost wiped out the province's material heritage--from historic homes to ancient churches and all their treasured contents. It is good to know that many Kapampangans today have a heightened sense of awareness of the value of their cultural and religious heritage.
Leading the way is the capital city of San Fernando with its famed heritage district. This area covers the historic core of San Fernando, including Barangay Santo Rosario and parts of Barangays San Jose (Panlumacan), Santa Teresita (Baritan), Lourdes (Teopaco), Del Pilar, Santa Lucia and Santo Niño.
On streets like Consunji and Tiomico, are clustered old family homes of such prominent Fernandino families like the Singians, Lazatins, Santos-Hizon, Dayrits and Ocampos which reflect the grand architecture of our colonial past now gone. These residences are also a veritable treasure trove of devotional images, as seen on this spread.
The original owners may no longer be there, but the houses and their rooms are still cared for, arranged just the way as when family members were still in residence. Beside four poster beds are altar tables bearing delicate ivory images of santos vested in gold-embroidered robes such as this all-ivory San Vicente Ferrer, and a Calvario tableau--still inside its fragile glass virina.
Others--like this old ivory San Jose and the Child Jesus are enshrined in newer, wooden urnas, proudly made in the province.
Bigger processional images tended by old families--like this Sta. Salome from Sta. Ana--are also hold special places in Pampanga homes, with their own storage case and wardrobe cabinet. On Holy Week, they are taken out, cleaned and dressed for the traditional Lenten processions.
A visit to another house yielded this fabulous tableau of lifesize Semana Santa images, staged year-round in the living room.
A rarely seen wooden bust of the Blessed Virgin is in storage in another ancestral home, in "house clothes" of blue and pink satin. It rests on a long vestry cabinet together with an assortment of classical santos of wood and ivory.
This San Roque ivory ensemble has been resting in its glass and wood urna, untouched by the passage of time.. An ivory angel and the saint's companion dog share the gothic altar with an Our Lady of Lourdes plastic water bottle.
Still another treasure -- a Child-carrying ivory Virgen del Rosario, albeit missing a glass eye, is a sight to behold, resplendent in its original, heavily-embroidered vestments.
Right beside it is a more modest wooden crucifix--a staple religious image in every Kapampangan home, showing Jesus wearing a silver loincloth crucified on a cross of heavy wood, its ends capped also with finials of silver, and the base marked by a skull-and-cross "pukpok".
Wonders never cease when one visits old Pampanga homes--you will not only be treated with the trademark hospitality that Kapampangans are known for, but you will also get to expect the unexpected--like getting a rare sneak-peek at some of the most beautiful santo treasures of families, if only for a minute!