Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Days here are heavenly
Nights are pure ecstasy
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Long before Perry Como was crooning this song tribute to Sta. Lucia, the people of Sasmuan have been singing praises and prayers to this Sicilian virgin-martyr whom they have taken to their hearts as their very own. The singular devotion to their patroness must have been so widespread and profound that it merited the printing of novenarios or novena booklets. A 1907 example is poetically entitled “Novenario Qng Maningning a Virgen at Martir Santa Lucia, macasariling patulunan ding malulula mata” (Novena to the radiant virgin and martyr, St. Lucy, personal patron of those with afflictions of the eye). The 9-day novena, to be started on 5 December and to end on the saint’s feast day, 13 December, was designed to answer the requests of devotees seeking cures for various sicknesses, specifically those with vision problems (…Ya icabus no qng angang catagcuan at paquiabutna qñg alanangang pacalulu ning Dios ing nanu mang calam, macasarili ing panimanman ampon ing pangaulu na saquit; qñg uliniti patulunan yang macasarili caring mabubulag)
The invocation of St. Lucy against eye problems stemmed from her dramatic, but largely legendary life. Lucy was the daughter of noble parents. As a young virgin, she dedicated her life to helping the poor, giving up wordly goods in the process. She had quite a number of pagan admirers so she disfigured her looks by plucking out her eyes to discourage them. Miraculously, her eyes were restored to her and this started her patronage. In another instance, she was forced to work in a brothel, but she was rendered immobile; the guards could not move her. Finally, she was martyred in Syracuse, Sicily under Emperor Diocletian by having her throat cut. Lucy’s name is associated with the Latin word for light—lux—further bolstering her patronage. Sta. Lucia is one of the few female saints whose names occur in the canons of Saint Gregory, where special prayers and antiphons are recited in her honor.
The image of Sta. Lucia, enshrined at the Sasmuan Church of the same name is of wood, carved in the round or de bulto. It shows a young crowned santa, of no more than 14 years, and standing on a base, dressed in girdled robe and red mantle. She carries her traditional emblems: the palm of martyrdom on her right hand, and two eyes on a platter on her left. In other parts of the world, Sta. Lucia’s emblems include a sword, the instrument of her martyrdom and a lighted lamp, evocative of her name. Gaspar de San Agustin records in his Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas, that the image of Santa Lucia has been “venerated since long ago”. At the very onset, since the construction of the first church by Fr. Jose Duque in the latter part of the 17th century, the parish had always been placed under the advocation of the virgin saint. Stylistically, the santo has a folksy quality, and may have been carved by a local artisan in the late 18th to the early part of the 19th century.
There is a counterpart image of this Sta. Lucia in the church of Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur. In contrast to the one in Sasmuan, this 18th century Sta. Lucia is of the de vestir type, clothed in a dress completely filled with hundreds of silver ex votos, tiny representations of body parts in metal, affixed by devotees seeking cure for particular body ailments. The bewigged santo’s face has blackened through centuries of worship and exposure to candle fumes.
While Scandinavian countries observe St. Lucy’s Day with a quiet festival of lights, Sasmuan celebrates with an infectious, frenetic beat. During the town’s January 6 fiesta, Kuraldal, a mass rite characterized by non-stop, frenzied dancing is held, graced by the presence of Sta. Lucia. In this one big dancing party, palm-wielding townfolks, like some wild men possessed, jump, wiggle and shake as they scream out repeatedly: “Viva Sta. Lucia! Puera sakit!” Favor-seekers do not just include those with eye problems, but also barren women. Interestingly, Sta. Lucia is also invoked against other diseases like throat infections and hemmorhages (Lucia’s mother suffered from hemmorhages, cured after praying over the tomb of St. Agatha).
The veneration of the age-old image of Sta. Lucia in Sasmuan reflects the solid faith of the Kapampangan people even in the midst of adversities, steadfast in the Christian belief of divine intercession through the supplications of saints and of a God who never sleeps. So when the time comes for him to seek, so shall he find—surely and without fail-- with help from Sta. Lucia: …"nung ating pagnasan ayabut nanu mang macasarili qng Dios uli ning pamamilatan nang Santa Lucia”
(3 August 2002)