Sunday, January 21, 2018

301. My Guardian Dear: THE MAKING OF SAN ÁNGEL CUSTODIO

Who would think that this magnificent representation of the Guardian Angel--El Angel de la Guarda or Angel Custodio---was fashioned from old santo parts and new pieces by the noted restorer, Dr. Raffy Lopez?

A decade ago, a close friend of mine, Robby Tantingco, discovered the wonderful world of santos. As he was connected with Holy Angel University for many years, he explored the idea of having a santo of the Holy Guardian Angel, the patron of the school.
 
1830s heirloom image of the Holy Angel

In fact, the university chapel houses the 1830 wooden image of  San Angel Custodio, which once belonged to the founder of Angeles, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda. The image—which shows the Guardian Angel holding the hand of a child, was passed on to a series of descendants, until it was inherited by Juan D. Nepomuceno (1892-1973), Don Juan was inspired to name the school he founded after the Guardian Angel, hence--Holy Angel University, now the largest university in Central Luzon.

GUARDIAN ANGEL PANINTING, 1516
by artist Domenichino. Source: wikipedia

The representation of the angel protecting children is common in Catholic imagery. In art, the Guardian Angel is shown with his right arm raised, with a finger pointing heavenward; he holds the hand of a child with the other.  

However, images of the Holy Guardian Angel are seldom seen in the Philippines. Thus, the choice to have a San Angel Custodio as my friend’s first santo, was both appropriate and perfect!
 
ANTIQUE IVORY HEAD, originally, for a Marian virgin

It was serendipitous that I just bought an antique ivory head of a Virgin. Without a wig, the ivory head with glass eyes looked rather androgynous—just like the way that angels are represented. I convinced the first-time collector to invest on an ivory image for his very first santo, and I volunteered to supervise its reconstruction.

Off to Dr. Lopez the antique ivory head went, the only piece he would work with, at the start of the project. Guided by a picture of the original Holy Angel school image, he decided to make an ivory image copy of it.



First, all the ivory parts missing were ordered for the Angel (a pair of hands)  and the Child (ivory head and hands), all made with pre-ban ivory. These were assembled on wooden manikin bodies, and when done, the Angel stood 12.5” tall and the Child, 6” high.  The Angel only had to be retouched to make it look a bit  masculine, while the Child’s features were painted.


Meanwhile, the satin vestments were created, also inspired by the original. The Angel wore a full-length, belted tunic with floral gold thread embroidery, while the Child’s was blush peach. New wigs, and metal accessories—including the highly detailed silver-plated brass wings (copied from an old San Vicente Ferrer)—were sourced from local metalsmiths.


The mortar-shaped base with an oval top was a more stylized version of the antique silver base of the original school image. The cloud designs were hammered (‘pukpok’) on brass panels, that were then silver-plated and attached to the wood base.


When the costumed images were staged and finally set on the base, the result was a new, beautiful San Angelo tableau, which, though not 100% antique, is definitely worth as much for the new santo owner, what with the amount of effort, care,  and labor of love that went into its making.  Ever this day, his very own Angel Custodio will certainly be by his side—to light and guard, to rule and guide!


Sunday, September 3, 2017

300. MY FIRST SAN ROQUE


San Roque (St. Roch of Montpellier)-- along with  San Vicente Ferrer, San Isidro Labrador, San Jose--are perhaps the most popular santo devotions in the early days of our Christianization, this, based on the abundance of images carved in their likeness.  San Isidro was a natural choice for an agricultural country, while San Jose, well, he was Jesus’ father. The winged San Vicente was known as an “angel of the Apocalypse”, and angels, too,  appear in the iconographies of  San Vicente and San Isidro Could it be our fascination with heavenly winged messengers  that drew Filipinos  closer to these saints?


A more plausible explanation was that our islands and its people were prone to widespread epidemics. The cholera pandemic that killed a million people in Russia hit the Philippines in 1858. The great cholera epidemic would happened again in 1882 and from 1902-1905 that claimed over 200,000 lives.  In the course of time, we have had severe outbreaks of  smallpox , typhoid fever, malaria and tuberculosis.

Our Spanish colonizers, in order to facilitate their evangelization, introduced us to San Roque, his life and his works---how he ministered to the sick in plague-ridden Italy, until he got ill himself. He retreated to a cave where a dog came to bring him bread for sustenance, and licked his wounds that healed them. After his death, an angel was said to descend from heaven, holding a tablet which he laid on the head of the saint. On it was written a prayer, which declared that anyone who calls on San Roque will be spared from  any pestilence.


Because of this, the friars urged the Filipinos to invoke the saint against epidemics and “peste”, cholera, most specially.  People also dropped down on their knees to appeal to San Roque to cure their skin ailments, relieve the pain of bad knees, and keep their dogs healthy.

I can’t even remember what particular shop I brought my first antique San Roque. I do know that I got it in the early ‘80s from one of the stores in Mabini Art Center, then one of the ‘antique’ enclaves of Ermita. I paid exactly Php 170 for this primitive folk example,  which came complete, although its head seemed to have fallen off and then reattached at some point. I guess this was why I got it for that bargain price, as you can get a perfect set back then for Php 300.


The 12 inch., rather thin San Roque stands on a plain, rectangular base, adding ¾” of an inch more to its height. His head sits askew on its shoulders; I had thought it was due to the bad restoration, but I had the head properly re-attached since, and it seems it was really carved with an awkward tilt. The saint’s eyes are bulgy, the beard full, and the mouth is wide.

Wearing a pilgrim cape and a short tunic, San Roque is shown lifting the hem high to reveal the wound on his left knee. There is quite a distance between his pointing finger and the location of the wound though. Note also how rough the folds of the tunic are carved,


He holds a staff with his right hand—I lost the original staff when one of his fingers broke—the one that secured it in the first place. What he now holds is a replacement fashioned from a bamboo barbecue stick. In place of a carved water flask, I just hanged a tiny metal bell.

The unimpressive angel—carved from a narrow piece of wood—stands 7 inches, and no longer has its tablet. It could have been made of tin, on which a native ‘oracion’ would have been handwritten. The native dog has broken one rear and one front foot, but  it has still the ‘pan de sal’ firmly between his teeth.


I have kept this San Roque for some thirty years—unappealing it might be—primarily for sentimental reasons. I bought it at a time when I had the audacity to start a relatively expensive hobby, while struggling to make a living.  The thought of acquiring better quality santos was farfetched from my mind, I had no choice but to buy only what I could afford—often the headless, armless, imperfect ones--the kind Mabini dealers regularly pass up. In all those years that I’ve had San Roque with me, I have neverbeen visited by any pestilence nor  afflicted by a malady of the serious kind---except perhaps, antique addiction!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

299. Guided by the Light: THE MAKING OF A NTRA. SRA. DE GUIA


In my early collecting years,  I must admit I was guided by impulse more than judgment, when buying antiques. That is what happened around 1983, when I made a decision to purchase my first ivory santo, a brown Virgen from the ramshackle shop of Momoy Cabuenos on Arquiza St. which had been there on display for over a month. 

The brown ivory image, with new base.
new wig, original clothes. 1983
.
It was not exactly what I wanted—it looked folksy, but definitely old—having browned with age. The solid ivory head was set on a crude body with wire armature arms, on which small “tinidor” brown ivory hands were attached. It had no base, and the old tattered, abaca-lined clothes came with the deal—Php 3,500—the exact amount of money in my pocket.

Had I been more patient, I could have saved more and could have purchased a better- looking santa, but at that time, all that mattered was this desire to have my first ivory image, period. 

It took only a week or so, to realize the “folly” of my purchase, for as soon as I took it home, cleaned it, dressed it and affixed it on cheap-looking, gold-tinged base, I was, to say the least, disheartened. Even with a wig, a crown and a virina, the Virgin looked stiff and unappealing.

I usually take pictures of my santos upon their complete restoration, but not this image. I  just put it behind some of my more better-looking, classically-carved santas I acquired in the years that followed, and stayed in that relegated position for years.

The image, as kept in a corner, next to a
ivory Sta. Veronica. ca. 1983.
When I became acquainted with the works of Dr. Raffy Lopez around 10 years later, I decided to show the image to him to see if there’s any way to give her some “character”, as she looked so plain and ordinary. Dr. Lopez was fascinated by the deep brown coloration of the image;  he even praised its naïve features and folksiness.

He then pored over his files and showed me a picture of Ermita’s famed patroness, the oldest Marian image in the Philippines—Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance). 

History tells of its discovery by Legazpi’s men in 1571—the hardwood, 20 inch figure was found  resting on a clump of pandan leaves being adored by natives. It was assumed to have been left behind by Spanish missionaries who came to the islands earlier. “This is going to be your image”, he said.

It was a perfect choice, all things considered. What’s more,  the Marian title had a special connection to my hometown, Mabalacat. The Estado General of 1879 reports that the Mabalacat parish was elevated to a vicariate status under the titular patronage of  Nuestra Snra. De Guia most probably around 1836—so that sealed it for me.

In  the next few months, Dr. Lopez undertook the conversion and restoration of the ivory image. The long, unproportional body had to go, and a new one was made. Features like eyebrows and lashes were added on to the brown ivory face.

A cloud base was carved, while a latero meticulously carve the pandan leaves from tin plates that were then painted green.The blue green cape and ecru tunic of satin were sewn, gold-embroidered with pandan leaf and floral motifs. A new set of crown and 12-star halo were ordered. Only the wig with its long, wavy hair was saved.

When the assembled image was presented finally to me after 2 months, I could not helped but be overwhelmed by its incredible transformation. The brown Madonna that I used to conceal behind other, prettier ivory santas now possesses a quiet, dignified beauty unlike any other, thanks to the guidance of Dr. Lopez. 

Today,  in my little home, my Ntra. Sra. De Guia now stands centerstage in one shelf,  reserved for the most special and most precious santas in my collection. 








Friday, August 18, 2017

298. ANTIPOLO, by Ileana Maramag

People make yearly pilgrimage to this Rizal town to pay homage to centuries-old Brown Madonna.

By Ileana Maramagpublished in The Sunday Times Magazine, 20 May 1962.

Still drawing a steady stream of pilgrims at this time of year is Antipolo, the small hilly town in Rizal province made famous as the shrine of the centuries-old brown Madonna as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.


Antipolo, however, is not what it used to be. In the olden days, old folks like to recall, the place was no more than an isolated hamlet that could only be reached by carretela or cascos, via one of the Pasig River’s tributaries that wends its way to several Rizal towns. Thus, pilgrimages to the Virgin of Antipolo in those days were more hazardous and involved no small amount of sacrifice.Often enough, the pilgrims had ti hike the slippery trails of the region or cross the difficult terrain in man-borne hammocks. Aisde from this, the pilgrimages were made more festive by the bright parasols, colorful balintawaks and camisas de chino worn by the pilgrims, Today, the practice has all but disappeared; Antipolo is easy to reach via paved highways and modern-day pilgrims make the Maytime trek in buses or drive down the 28 km. road to Antipolo in snazzy cars,

Source: Sunday Times Magazine, May 1962

From Manila, it takes no more than 45 minutes to reach the town proper, and once ed there, pilgrims converge at the modern church which is easily Antipolo’s biggest landmark. Once inside, one discovers that the age-old image of Our Lady of peace and Good Voyage is enshrined in a special niche atop the main altar.

Source: Sunday Times Magazine, May 1962

Annually, on May 1st, by tradition, the Virgin is borne in solemn procession to an improvised altar atop Pinagmisahan Hill, where a mass is said to commemorate the first Mass celebrate by the early Spanish missionaries on the same hill. Devotees also mark the feast of Antipolo Virgin every first Tuesday of May.

Early historians report that the image was first brought to Manila from Mexico on June 29, 1626 by the then newly-appointed Governor General Juan Niño de Tabora to isnure the safe voyage of the galleons against pirates and typhoons.


No one can tell exactly how the Virgin became enshrined in the town of Antipolo. There are two versions. One reports the image was taken to the Rizal town by the Governor general and Archbishop and crowned as Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Another account says the statue disappeared and was found perched atop an antipolo tree, on the same spot where the Antipolo church now stands.

Another legend tells of how the Virgin of Antipolo acquired its dark color. The story goes that during the 1639 Chinese Rebellion (which include Rizal and  Laguna towns), the Chinese burned the statue but somehow the image miraculously remained unscathed. Instead, the carving turned black and has retained its dark hue through the centuries.

When the Japanese commandeered the old Antipolo church and used it as their garrison during the last war, devotees smuggled the image, buried it in a drum, and later transported it to the Quiapo Church where it was enshrined until after the Liberation.

Friday, July 28, 2017

297. Lost for 36 Years: LARAWAN NG SANTISIMA TRINIDAD, of Brgy. Santisima Trinidad, Malolos


It has been a long 36 years since the ancient icon of the miraculous Holy Trinity (“ Larawan ng Mapaghimalang Santisima Trinidad”) of a Malolos barangay with the same name,  disappeared on 27 October 1981. Known variously as “Santisima Trinidad na Orihinal”, “Santisima Trinidad na Antigo”, and  “Santisima Trinidad na Matanda”, it has been enshrined ever since at  the main altar of the visita of Brgy. Santisima Trinidad.

In this 1963 photo, on can still discern the Santisima Trinidad on the top niche
of the main altar of the chapel.

The visita itself was built on 4 May 1863. Stories have it that when the field was being cleared by workers for the erection of the visita, they unearthed an icon bearing the image of the Holy Trinity, painted on 4 wood panels pieces. The 26 x 36” painting shows the 3 divinities—God the Son, God the Father, and God, the Holy Spirit seated together, with hands raised in benediction. As a tribute to the Trinity, the chapel and th barrio was put under their titular patronage.

THE THREE CALLEJERAS

Since then, three more Santisima Trinidad icons have joined the original one at the visita-- Santisima Trinidad na Mayor, a Mexican painting on canvass, and considered the oldest of the 3 callejeras (processional images); Santisima Trinidad na Bata, an oil painting on rosewood, ca. 1762; and the Santisima Trinidad de Trisagio, a 22 x 27” image placed in the safekeeping of the caretaker or “hermano trisagio”.

Photo souvenir with the original Santisima Trinidad

But it is the original “larawan” that remained in the altar mayor for as long as one can remember, around which the people of the barangay anchored their faith, love and devotion. In time, the chapel was shared with two other barangays, Barihan and Pinagbakahan.


SANTISIMA TRINIDAD NA BATA, dated 1762

Over the years, miracles have been attributed by residents to the workings of the Santa Trinidad—impossible favors granted,  incurable afflictions healed, and babies safely delivered despite delicate pregnancies. The 3 barangays celebrate the fiesta of their revered patron annually, every Trinity Sunday, while in separate feast in October is celebrated for their secondary patron, Birhen ng Santo Rosario.

BEFORE & AFTER DEMOLITION/CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS

In 1981, the year when the old chapel was scheduled for demolition to give way to a new, more expansive building, a most unfortunate event happened. On October 27, the original Santisima Trinidad was stolen from the central niche of the altar. All efforts were exerted to find the lost icon and the criminals who committed this dastardly act—to no avail.

REPLACEMENT TRINITY IMAGES

When all hopes seemed lost, a generous family from Olongapo—the Bartletts—donated 3 vintage 1950s dressed mannikin images (de vestir) to the chapel of the much-saddend barangays. From Olongapo, the images were taken to Malolos and translated to Brgy. Santisima Trinidad by procession. Somehow, the pain of the loss was alleviated by the arrival of these images that now occupy the main altar.

MAIN ALTAR WITH DRESSED IMAGES

As if to show its divine displeasure, the Santisima Trinidad Chapel was embroiled in controversies, beginning in 2001 when it was interdicted by the Diocese of Malolos. A different sect took over the chapel from 2002 to August 16, all caused by land ownership discord and the refusal of the barrio to turn their chapel into a parish church. It was only on 27 October 2016—exactly 15 years since the disappearance of the “larawan”—that the chapel returned to the fold of the Diocese of Malolos, where Catholic masses have now resumed.

With this positive and happy turn of events, the people of 3 barangays have become more of hopeful for the safe recovery and return of their patron, Santisima Trinidad. The community of santo aficionados (and that includes camareros, private collectors, antique shop owners and their middlemen, santo carvers and artisans, auction houses, religious stores, priests and church groups, heritage and cultural advocates) are enjoined to be vigilant and to be on the look-out for this image. Like the Blessed Trinity, there is strength in numbers, and together--even after 36 years-- we are confident we can make a miracle happen.

CREDITS:
MANY THANKS TO MR. CHRISTOPHER CUNANAN, for the information and all pictures used in this article, and for calling my attention to this lost icon. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

296. SANTOS FROM THE U.S.T. MUSEUM OF ARTS & SCIENCES

The oldest school-based museum in the Philippines--the University of Santo Tomas Museum of Arts and Sciences—is home to some of the finest collection of santos and other religious arts in the country. Founded in 1871 by Ramon Martinez, O.P., a professor of natural history, the museum showcases both scientific and artistic collections, including sacred objets d’art like religious imags, icons and paintings—a selection of which are featured below.

NTRA. SRA. DE LA ANUNCIACION

ASCENSION, FOLK SANTO

STO. DOMINGO GUZMAN & STO. TOMAS DE AQUINO

POLYCHROMED RELIEVE

BUEN PASTOR/ PASTORA

RELIEVES

PAINTED ICON ON WOOD

ST, JAMES, THE MOORSLAYER FOLK SANTO

OIL PAINTING ON CANVASS
SOURCES:
UST MUSEUM OF ARTS & SCIENCES COLLECTION, Printed Catalog, 1970s

Thursday, June 8, 2017

295. ALL ‘S FAIR IN LAL-LO, by Nancy T. Lu


By Nancy T.Lu
Sunday Times Magazine, 28 Sept. 1968, p. 38-41

Experienced collectors with a discriminating eye for genuine museum pieces are wont to spot them all over the archipelago whether be in some isolated, weather-beaten ruins, or in some unexplored nooks of private homes. Because many a Cagayan artifact was not meant to be kept unseen, a number of these cultural treasures which can easily swell he Cagayan pride recently left their forbidding enclaves to undergo maximum public exposure in Lal-lo, the site of the Cagayan Provincial Fair.

The preliminaries involved in the ostentatious display of Cagayan’s cultural heritage demanded concerted efforts including no less the governor’s personalized attempts in convincing the reluctant citizenry to loan the valuable family heirlooms they have been hoarding all this while in the privacy of their homes for the provincial exhibit. Which true-blooded Cagayano dared refuse Governor Dupaya’s request when she made it a point to call on the selected families personally? Repetitious assurances of security precautions had to be made in many cases to assuage the concerned individuals’ anxiety over the loss or damage that may befall their cherished properties.

Thus, the the cultural relics were brought in from all over Cagayan. And thus began also the pressing problem of identifying, sorting out, and classifying the numerable items comprising Cagayan’s cultural wealth. While the mian responsibility was delegated to the committee on relics, artifacts and antiques, a supervising authority was wanting. Invitation was extended a museology expert and soon enough, Fr. Jesus Meriño, O.P., of the U.S.T. Museum of Arts and Sciences flew in as the givernor’s special guest from Manila.

The enthusiastic Dominican friar took one look at all the collected objects laden with dust of the centuries and proceeded to single out slowly the “real wonders of art”. Taking care to jot down the outstanding features of the unique antiques as he went about rummaging for more of Cagayan’s historical possessions, he decided to direct the obliging engineer and helpful architect to classify and arrange the artifacts according to three general divisions: 1). People. Life and History, 2). Home, 3). Church.

Grouped along with the first category were tablewares imported from all over Eirope. There were eighteenth century chocolate cups of Spanish make. Some porcelain plates were German-made as a sopera all the way from Vienna. Certain chinawares had designs that connoisseurs would easily detect as rough British imitations of the fine, delicate artistic Chinese strokes. Gracing the opening of the Cagayan Fair with her very presence, the First Lady was reported to have taken fancy to a platter with a dent for gravy.


An alert guard constantly kept close watch over one of those contemporary glass showcases showing private collections of international coins and currencies. For security reasons, these precious personal belongings had to be locked away elsewhere every night. And for the same reason the owners chose to remain unidentified by name throughout the duration of the cultural exhibit.


Spanish Attires
Sweeping feminine attires of the Spanish era came in different colors tha had faded unevenly with the times. Nineteenth century camisas, panuelos and sayas that lay almost completely forgotten there in dust-colored trunks  and spider-webbed chests that had seen better days were put out once more ahere a fairly strong whiff of air caused that distinct smell of age to permeate the atmosphere. But a real item for Ripley’s Believe it or Not was this sable-hued tapis with romantic Castilian verses woven in white silk thread all over it. Father Meriño obligingly translated the love poem as a love-stricken lovers’ reproach to his loved one never to forget that he is unhappy if should forget him. The Spanish priest volunteered  a surmise that he must have been jilted by the girl. Apparently, the boy must have asked his sister to weave the chiding message into the tapis he later gave his girlfriend as a sentimental gift immortalizing his affections for her. Father Meriño further concluded from the numerous misspelled words that the poetic lover must have been a native and not a Spaniard.

The first recorded museums of old found in Egypt and Greece were reported to have been temples which held community treasures mainly religious in nature. Even today, votive objects for propitiatory purposes constitute a greater bulk of solicited artifacts in the traditional repositories all over the world. By sheer coincidence or otherwise, the recently tagged Artifacts Building found in the Tabacalera Compound in Lal-lo was once a convent-chapel servicing the Lal-lo community. Surviving the earth tremors of the seventeenth century, it had since been converted into some other more mundane use. Nevertheless, the indisputable cracks effected by the earthquake remain visible as the original concrete structure never really gave way to complete renovation. The only incongruous touches contradicting its otherwise incontrovertible claim to antiquity rest in the rust-free galvanized iron roofings and the wooden additions  still fresh with paint. Furthermore, the dimly-lit interior was not stripped of its sacrosanct air.


“I simply directed the architect and the engineer to give a particular portion of the building a semblance of a chapel,” Father Meriño said. “How they would go about it I left it to their discretion for what really mattered was that they should project a suggestion of an improvised altar with all the essential elements that should go with it. It was a pity, however, that the 3-tiered altar could not be reconstructed as such because the ceiling did not extend upward high enough.”

From Tuao, lying ion the boundary of Cagayan and Mountain Province,  had come the curious elements of a once magnificent altar.  For one reason or another, the severely-damaged church of Tuao was neglected for a time by the people and eventually, its gilded altar was exposed to the elements. It took a prudent parish priest to go out of his way to salvage whatever was left of a once beautiful place of worship. Dismantling the whole construction, he proceeded to keep the columns  and the wings of the altar under his house where they would be safe.


Mishandled
Instances of mishandling of the high-priced artifacts were not exactly unheard of. Father Meriño bewailed, for instance, how too much cleaning of the wings of the altarby eager individuals caused the parts of the altra to be deprived of the gold-plated designs of flowers and leaves. The traces of gold sheen came off when the clay beneath got wet and gave way.

Of the twenty one columns chiseled along the pseudo-classic artistic plan, three were not in pairs. Then, too, a number of these elaborated designed columns were as there should be thirty six columns all in all. Also nowhere to be found were the indispensable connecting beams of the altar.

Each pillar was carved from the trunk of the sturdy narra tree. Father Meriño concluded that the columns must have been carved by native artists well-trained in the Spanish tradition. But who supervised these artists? He asked. Could it have been the parish priest who was known to have been an artist himself?


Just as attractive was the seventeenth century century retablo from the Camalanlugan church where it served as a screen shielding the interior of the church from the outsiders. Formed from nine enduring narra trunks, the unique relief depicted Our Lady of the Rosary as an intercessor for souls in purgatory. The curious thing about it, however, was in its representation of souls as differentiated from angels flying about freely with wings. The penitent souls ascending into heaven all by themselves were without wings. In had to look closely to see the striking difference.

As borne by the subdued tones of colorings and enamel, artistry was prominent in this work of art. While the planning and drawing , the panorama and the general idea were unquestionably Spanish, the carving itself was adjudged as Chinese,

However, on the whole, the wide array of displayed objects could not boast of outstanding or fine artistry. In several instances, the anonymous creators of these solid figures manifested an obvious lack of artistic academic training. The feet either went out of line thus producing an abnormal effect or the head suggested strongly a mournful absence of a sense of proportion, In one case, the crucified Christ could have passed with fairly good remarks from sharp critics except for the flaw that took the shape of an oversized crown of thorns.

But that was not what really counted. In spite of it all, these classified works of art
Do have a place in national repositories known as museums. They make even more interesting subjects of study.


Trooping in
And so they trooped in—the people from the remote towns all ver Cagayan valley and even the residents of the neighboring provinces. Artifacts galore turned out to be part of Lal-lo’s treat for the day. Garbed in motley attires, they took a close look at Cagayan’s treasured belongings vying for attention: medium sized saints molded along the traditional poses whether it was st. Peter portrayed as a penitent in a sixteenth century carving or St. Thomas Aquinas crushing the malignant church heresies aptly represented by a vicious serpent with seven venomous heads; from Tuao, a sixteenth century pedestal highly suggestive of Kalinga art; round brass candlesticks belying Kalinga influence also; the primitive-looking sitting figure of Our Lord of Patience—an object of special devotion during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries; the priceless ivory images of the Blessed Virgn Mary and the crucified Redeemer of mankind; priestly vestments from Valencia, Spain, such as the chasuble and the dalmatic all sporting embroidered designs in silk and gold threads.

For objects closer to home , there were chairs from Vienna, a dining table reportedly 265 years old; an antiquated creaking trunk, an austere rattan and wooden bed; a harp and even a strange-looking escribania or writing desk with several minute drawers.

The enterprising organizers who set about introducing a pleasantly stimulating aura of culture consciousness not just to an exclusive sophisticated clique but to the public at large had fanned the clamor for a permanent repository of valuable artifacts. The idea then was for the government to subsidize an aesthetic refuge—call it  a museum—where privately-held relics could be brought for safekeeping. Here, too, experienced personnel, trained to engage in research, curatorial and library work will know how to handle best the delicate works of art so that the artistic heritage of a people may be preserved.

Meanwhile, Lal-lo’s Artifacts Building if converted permanently into a veritable showcase of Cagayan treasures portends well for what may , in the long run, emerge as a flourishing cultural institution for the Cagayan inhabitants. It certainly has the prototype shapings of a provincial museum in the making. And who could have thought of a more fitting place than Lal-lo, with its historical background and interesting topography?

The millennium for complete recognition of the the importance of a museum may not have arrived in the Philippines, but many a Cagayano will certainly not object to Lal-lo, nce the provincial capital, as the site where a sanctuary of Cagayan pride will find a lasting place.