Saints, God’s anointed, have lived exemplary lives of piety. In the afterlife, they have been empowered to mediate between God and the living, in much the same way as our ancestors interceded for our welfare with Bathalang Maykapal. In Filipino homes, the images of saints (santos), define sacred space, a corner of the silid (room), perhaps, where the family congregates to pray for its wellbeing and protection, or at the entrance of the house to guard against all things unholy. The iconography of santos in private homes are sometimes muddled. In remote areas, carvers are generally unschooled and one may find their creations riddled with peculiarities. In this collection, we see some glaring inconsistencies; but they seemed not to have mattered much to the devotees. They are what they were supposed to represent.
San Miguel Arcángel defeating the Devil. San Miguel, his foot trouncing the devil and whose missing limbs would be holding a sword and a shield, looks benevolently on his vanguished foe, who glares malevolently, his tail snaking upwards to strike.
This San Miguel is dressed not in battle gear, but in a fancy garment, holding a large flower instead of a shield. His conquest about the enemy is complete; the devil is crushed on the craggy earth. The knees are excellently carved, as though moving in motion.
A polychromed statue of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus from Bohol made of molave wood. The strong colors, simple lines and the unconventional proportions give the statue a very refreshing folk effect. The base, six-sided and waisted, features four cylindrical pieces carved in relief over the front corners that have holes on top, which originally held finials.
San Jose in traditional green and yellow. The bright colors and the diamond shaped gold leaf designs are characteristic of images from Bohol. His missing arm would be carrying a staff. The styling of the image may have been derived from carvings of the Sagrada Familia.
A beautifully detailed image of St. Joseph in hardwood. The hair, beard and moustache are carved with fine striations. Notice the hat strings ending with tassels that are tied on his chest. "El Viajero" images are usually rendered with a traveller's hat hanging at the back recalling the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt. It is not a formal attribution of San Jose.
St. Mark from the 18th century. His symbol is a winged lion, as shown in this image. The opening line of his biblical account begins with "a voice of one crying out in the desert" alluding to the lion (Mark 1:3). The statue is somewhat squarish. This is balanced by the complex draping of the cloak and the fold of the tunic, creating folds and ripples that exudes dynamism.
San Juan Bautista clad in animal skin with serrated hem. Two elements are introduced here—a lamb and a book. The carver infers the coming of Christ symbolized by the Lamb in reference to San Juan calling out when he saw Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God”. The imagery of the Lamb sitting on the book may have been derived from book engravings or silver etchings.
San Juan Bautista, precursor of Jesus Christ, is correctly portrayed dressed in animal skin.
This image of San Juan Bautista is inaccurate. In Philippine iconography, he is always clad in animal skin. Here, he holds a book with a lamb (?). The lamb refers to San Juan, proclaiming Jesus, as the “Lamb of God,” but the book is not relevant to the iconography; or the woven shirtdress; the serrated hemline is akin to his draped animal coat.
San Andrés, Patron Saint of Manila. He was the older brother of San Pedro Apostol. He was martyred, hang on an X-shaped cross. In this carving, instead of embracing the cross, he appears to be sitting on it. Take note of the foreshortening of lower body. The clunky shoes, the peeling estofado on the garment indicate an early period, perhaps, late eighteenth to early nineteenth century.
This image of St. Lazarus was the poor man at the gate of the rich man as related in Luke 16:19-31, to differentiate it from St. Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus brought back to life. The face is in anguish, evident in the downward slant of the eyes and the downward curve of the lips. The expressiveness of the carving of the facial features suggests the image came from the 19th century.
The statue is supposed to represent St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr. None of the traditional attributes associated with her, except for the crown she wears, appears in this rendering. Catherine was a great beauty and very learned, but she spurned suitors, including the Roman Emperor Maxentius. He had her beheaded. Her attributes are a wheel, a severed head, and a palm leaf. What she holds in this rendering is impossible to identify.
A classical rendition of St. Isidore. Notice the careful detailing of the garments, face and hair. Even the buttons of his shirt and boots are finely carved. His raised arm (hands missing) holds a farming tool, now missing. The image suggests both dynamism and calm composure. Being a largely agricultural country, many towns in the Philippines has chosen St. Isidore as their patron saint. He is implored for the safety of crops and a bountiful harvest. Many festivals throughout the county are celebrated in his honor.
St. Isidore in molave wood. Interesting to note that he wears a salakot, a native Filipino farmer's protection against the harsh rays of the sun. Unique are part of the cloak that falls on his side which gives the impression that the statue has “ears.”
St. Martin of Tours rendered as a bearded soldier holding his cloak. The other hand must have held a sword. During his service in the military, St. Martin helped an unclothed beggar by tearing his cloak in half and sharing it. He is usually represented riding a horse. Here, however, his feet appear imbedded in the pedestal on which he is mounted.
In this San Antonio de Padua, we find its carver departing from the strictly frontal convention to introduce some measure of realism to his carving. The head is inclined to the left, the gaze directed downwards; the belt is swung to one side and one shod foot pushes out from under the hem, providing a counter move. Decorative scrolls painted on the golden-toned background of the habit move the eyes from one detail to another.
A standard representation of San Vicente Ferrer, dressed in Dominican habit, right hand raised, finger pointing, and holding a book. He is always winged. Here, the wings are wooden, instead of tin.
San Vicente Ferrer without his wings, right hand raised and the left, holding a book. Much attention has been given to his Dominican habit: from the cape, the tunic, the belt, the scapular the hood, and the rosary. They are layered, detailed with diagonal and linear folds. The shoes are pointed.
The classic representation of a winged San Vicente de Ferrer—he is called “Angel of the Last Judgment”, with right hand raised upwards; left hand holding a book. Here, the scene is dramatized: cherubs accompany him. One cherub drumbeats for attention, while the other makes an offering of, perhaps, converted hearts (?). It recalls images of the Nstra. De Salvación receiving similar offerings. At the foreground, another cherub, seated on a rustic bench, sounding the trumpet’s call to repentance.
This image came to I.A. as San Nicolas Tolentino but should be more correctly identified as
San Nicolas de Bari/Myra, an Augustinian bishop, hence the staff; however, instead of a moneybag, he holds a dish with the baked pie, attributes of San Nicolas Tolentino. If meant to be the latter, the right hand should be raised, forefinger pointing upward.
Curated by: Esperanza Buñag Gatbonton and Dino Carlo S. Santos