Christ in Filipino Consciousness

Intramuros Administration

This exhibit presents images of the Holy Child and the suffering Christ crafted during the early years of the Spanish occupation. It gives a glimpse of how Christ was introduced to the Filipinos as a new master and role model in the context of introducing a colonial power and a new order of life.                                                              - D. Santos

A small high relief home altarpiece carved from a single block of Narra wood. The standing naked image of the Child Jesus bears the classic pose, holding an orb in the left hand while raising the right hand in benediction. The Spanish conquest of the Philippine islands largely involved the introduction and propagation of a new religion and a new God. Introducing the Christian faith through religious images started with a huge cross and an image of the Child Jesus.

Most historians believe that the image of the Holy Child, now enshrined in the Minor Basilica of Cebu may be the first piece of Christian art ever to arrive in he Philippines. Quite similar to that image is this small polychromed Holy Child carved from hardwood. Standing on a globe, it regally wears a 16th century Spanish court dress with cape, one of the most popular costume of the Child Jesus in the Philippines.

At present, the feast of the Holy Child is one of the most popular in Filipino festivals. This is an image of the Holy Child in a 16th century Spanish court dress without a cape. Hand raised in benediction missing. Beautifully executed round base.

One of the titles given to the Holy Child is Saviour of the World. He was the God who became flesh to save mankind from the bondage of sin. The image wears the traditional 16th century Spanish court attire.

It stands on a rather interesting base, decorated with alterating leaf designs. Five pointed pegs top the base, two of which are missing.

The Holy Child in a European sailor's attire. In Filipino devotion it is popular to dress up the image of the Child Jesus according to a given devotion and patronage. This image may have been originally commissioned by a sea navigator.

Image of the Holy Child in 16th century Spanish court dress seated on a throne. Both hands are missing. It is interesting to note the simple armchair-like rendering of the throne.

Also note the scaling employed, as it could be observed that the feet of the Child Jesus is firmly planted on the floor. The throne was designed for a child.

An interesting rendition of the Holy Child standing on a cloud base, wearing a long, wind swept robe and a mantle, similar to renditions of the Immaculate Conception. This interpretation presents the Christ Child as a divine savior descending from the heavens, in contrast to those dressed like earthly royalties. The primitive proportions make the image look like a young adolescent.

An intersection of the Child Christ and the Suffering Christ, the Holy Child of the Passion depicts the young Jesus Christ contemplating on His imminent passion and death.

To signify this, one or several symbols of the passion of Christ is present with the image; in this case, the skull under His foot.

Three silver rays emanate from His head, symbolizing the three facets of His divinity: omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. The whole image is carved from a single piece of hardwood. The polychrome has blackened probably due to accumulated candle soot.

On the other hand, the cross, apart from signifying that Spain has conquered the land in the name of God, also served as a prelude to the numerous images of the suffering Christ popularized by Spanish conquistadores. This is an image of a half-naked Christ with arms crossed in bondage. The figure is cut at the hips, partially exposing the draped loincloth. Ecce Homo in Latin means, "Behold the Man" (John 19:5), an utterance of Pontius Pilate. A scene popularly depicted in Christian art, it commemorates the moment when, after being scourged and mocked, Jesus was presented for the second time to the populace, who clamored for His sentence to death by crucifixion.

This popular scene in the passion of Christ depicts Jesus' venerable display of forbearance in the face of mockery. This image shows a seated Christ in serene contemplation. It should be viewed in a context where He was stripped off of His clothes and the crowd were throwing physical and verbal insults at Him.

Around the neck dangles a tied rope that was used to drag Jesus and bind Him to a column while He was being scourged. Note the crude execution of details and disproportionately large hands and feet.

Still visible in the polychromy are the wounds and dripping blood.

Another image of Christ that exhibits calmness in the face of mockery. Filipinos' fervent devotion to the Suffering Christ later evolved to paradoxical renditions where images of Christ in agony were supplied with luxury items such as heavily embroidered robes and bejewelled loincloths of solid gold (Jose, 1991).

Interesting to note, however, are the contrasting elements of luxury such as the green colored cushion and the foot stool.

A bust figure of the Suffering Christ. The inclusion of the arms and hands gives the impression of being cramped, as if the rope used to bind the neck and hands was too short. Intact polychromy shows the body of Christ partially covered by a red cloak.

The drooping eyes and heavenward gaze adds to the feeling of agony the image exudes.

Note the red hues on the area where the figure adheres to the base as if the torso is soaking in a pool of blood.

Head of Christ bearing the wounds of torture. Meant to be furnished with a wig and a crown of thorns and mounted on a body. It was probably used for Holy Week processions where scenes of the passion and death of Christ are borne on the streets.

The legendary feast of the Black Nazarene and the steadfast observance of Filipinos to the season of Lent shows how the image of the suffering Christ has taken root in the lives of Christian Filipinos.
The images of Christ popularly venerated in the Philippines became symbols and centers of worship and mysticism. These are signifiers of the merging of two religions, where pre-hispanic Filipino faith adopted Christianity.

Credits: Story

Jose, Regalado. Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines, 1565-1898. Makati: Ayala
Museum, 1991.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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