This year however, Msgr. Florentino “Ninoy” Canlas, the recently installed parish priest, was determined to have a better, more complete procession, which, at a minimum, should have images of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Having come from Sasmuan known for its deep religious traditions, Fr. Ninoy urged his parish council to look far and wide for a suitable Dolorosa by contacting families who may have in their private homes such an image.
It so happened that Arwin Paul Lingat, an active member of the Our Lady of Grace youth group and an aide at Holy Angel’s Center for Kapampangan Studies where I am a consultant, knew of my santo. He immediately told Arnel Tapang, the indefatigable president of the San Rafael Parish Youth Ministry, who in turn, contacted me. And so, on that last week-end before Holy Thursday, I entrusted our holy image to Arnel’s care.
Our beautiful Dolorosa, a depiction of the Sorrowful Mother at the time of Christ’s death, was created for us by Mr. Francisco Vecin of Makati City, a famed maker and restorer of santos, bultos and carrozas. The works of Mang Kiko, who employs Paete and Pampanga carvers, can be found in major churches in the Philippines. Just like me, he is also a collector of antique santos, but he specializes in images associated with the Passion.
It was this interest that made me seek out the services of this modern-day santero. Three years ago, an old Paciencia image which needed restoration, came into my possession. This rare representation of the seated Christ, all bloodied and scourged, often scared my nephews and nieces when they came visiting my house. While in his talyer, I saw an exquisite, century-old Dolorosa head, with a moving, yet dignified expression of grief. All along, Mang Kiko too, was eyeing my Paciencia. Without hesitation, we agreed to swap images, and two months later, I was the proud owner of an almost life-size image of a Mater Dolorosa.
Our antique Dolorosa head is all-original, except for the new oil paint encarna. It is fitted with original glass eyes and new glass tears. The open, anguished mouth is deeply carved, a sign of great age, with individual teeth and tongue showing. Her lashes are made of doghair, while her wig is of fine jusi fiber. She was carved with such details as pierced ears to accommodate zarcillos (earrings) and neck folds, a Chinese influence. She comes with 2 sets of detachable hands, one, traditionally clasped, and the second, open and outstretched (used in Salubong ritual).
Unlike other Dolorosas with facial aureolas, our santo wears a “pinukpok” brass burst (resplandor) on her head, plated in gold, designed after jewelled fittings of santas in Sevilla, Spain. Her dagger-pierced heart is exposed on her breast (the usual iconography shows 7 daggers, representing her 7 sorrows). She is dressed in a white robe with flowered appliques and caped in black velvet.
Indeed, the first-time participation of our treasured image did not only mark the beginning of a family panata, but also—as my friend and cultural activist Robby Tantingco aptly put it-- the start of a lifelong vocation, which is to keep our cherished religious traditions alive and to be one with the community in sharing the spirit of the Lenten season.
(26 April 2003)