Sunday, November 8, 2009

Collecting Nativity Sets.

Everyone seems to have a hobby of their own. Some collect vintage toys, others ephemera, I on the other hand, collect nativity figures. I started collecting when I was little, after I received a Nativity set from my mom as a First Communion gift.
I know, an odd "hobby."

As a Catholic, they are the ultimate symbol of Christmas, a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.

A Nativity set, similar to this, started my passion for collecting Creches.

Dia de los Muertos

Ofrendas at Casa Ramirez.

Bony smiles

The Three Stages of Maria




Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Todos Los Santos


Dedicated to my Dad.

On Etsy


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Virgin of Smo. Rosario de La Naval

In 1593, Luis Pérez Dasmariñas commissioned a Chinese sculptor to carve a likeness of the Virgin and the Holy Child in ivory to commemorate and memorialize his father, Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas.
Both father and son served as Gobernador y Capitán General of the Philippines. The former from 1590 to 1593 and the latter, 1593 to 1596.

Luis Pérez Dasmariñas
The man behind the icon. Luis Pérez Dasmariñas.

Under the direction of a Spanish captain, Don Hernando de los Rios Coronel, the pagan Chinese craftsman from Ilocos created a "native" Virgin. A virgin whose countenance reflected her country's beauty.
Almond eyes, high cheekbones and full lips, features that distinguish the Virgin of Smo. Rosario de La Naval from other Marian images in the Philippines.

The icon of the Madonna and Child, Luis had ordered to be rendered, would later become famously known as the Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila.

Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila

The wood and ivory statue is credited with numerous miracles. Perhaps the most famous of which, and why the "La Naval" was added to the Virgin's appellation, was the miraculous victory of the La Naval de Manila in 1646.
In the early 1600s, the Spanish colony of Manila soon found herself part of the Eighty years War that had started back in 1548 due to the Dutch Revolt against the King of Spain.
Earlier naval battles with the Dutch in the waters of the Philippines, resulted in Spanish victories. In 1646, however, Eighteen Dutch warships were sent to Manila to attack the colony and the city had nothing but two galleons, Encarnación and Rosario, to defend herself. In five succeeding battles, the small Spanish-Filipino armada, mostly manned by Filipino natives, fought and won over the Dutch mighty naval fleet. The unlikely victory is credited with the Virgin of Rosary, particularly with this "Native looking" statue of the Virgen.

NS del Rosario de La Naval

In the coming centuries, the Virgin's popularity and miracles attributed to it, grew. In 1907, the Virgin was canonically crowned. The first image of the Virgin in the Philippines, and in Asia, to be given with such an honor. During WWII, the Virgin miraculously escaped the destruction of her temple in Manila.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


oh nine!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Assumption of the Virgin

Asunción de la Virgen. Spanish colonial santo with estofado finish.

Every August 15, Christians all over the world celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. According to the Golden Legend, three days after the Virgin's death, she was assumed corporeally into heaven. The Virgin, having led a pure life and most importantly, having been the Mater Dei or the Mother of God, the Virgin's physical body was assumed into heaven in accordance to God's will.

The Virgin assumed into the heaven. Her empty tomb lay open while the apostles mourn.

Various traditions and stories are attached to this final event in the life of the Virgin Mary. One tradition states that all of the Apostles, who were scattered from all over the four corners of the world spreading the word of Christ, suddenly found themselves miraculously transferred to the house of Virgin. The Apostles were brought together to join the Virgin in her last hours.
Another endearing tradition states that St. Thomas the apostle, having being late for the funeral of the Virgin (he had to travel from India, so says the stories.) did not believe that the Virgin has truly ascended into heaven. True to his doubtful nature, Thomas prayed to the Virgin and asked for concrete sign so he could believe the miracle. As a sign of her love, and to answer the doubtful apostle's imploration, the Virgin untied her cincture and dropped it on the way to heaven, down to Thomas.

The Virgin hoisted into the heaven by cherubic host. Spanish colonial. Polychrome wood.

Since the early days of Christianity, the Assumption of the Virgin has been an major holiday. To Catholics, this feast day is important. It is considered a Holiday of Obligation where going to church, hearing mass and participating in the Holy Communion on this day is more than encouraged, it's mandatory. The Catholic church considers the bodily assumption of the Virgin as a dogma and one of the fundamental beliefs of Catholicism. In 1950, Pope Pius the XII declared the Assumption of the Virgin an article of faith.

Personal altar decorated for the feast of the Assumption.

Consequently, on August the 22nd, a week after August the 15th, is the feast of the Coronation of the Virgin as Regina Coeli, the Queen of Heaven.

Virgen de la Asunción. An Ilocano santo found in an abandoned chapel in Cavite. Originally a "de tallado santo," carved in the round.

Text and Photos, Victor Ancheta ©2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Adkins Architectural Antiques

3515 Fannin St.

Photos, Victor Ancheta

Saturday, July 25, 2009

N. S. de La Paz y Buen Viaje de Antipolo

The Virgin of Antipolo
Print, Victor Ancheta, 2003.

July 18 is the 383th anniversary of the arrival of the Virgin of Antipolo to the Philippines from Mexico. To commemorate this date, here's a reprint of a century old editorial, detailing the icon's history. The article originally appeared in the Manila American back in 1904.

Canonical Coronation of the Virgin of Antipolo,
Photo courtesy of Alex Castro.

November 27, 1904

At a distance of about fourteen miles from Manila to the East is situated the delightful and picturesque town of Antipolo at an elevation of 285 metres.

The town with its 600 houses or more is built on a small plateau which opens toward the North. The church, famous throughout the Islands, occupies the highest part in the East, and from it a view, not to be excelled in any part of the globe, is obtained. The plain and city of Manila, with its numerous suburbs, Cavite province, the vast fields of Bulacan and Pampanga and far away on the horizon the mountain range of Zambales, Mariveles, the entrances to the bay and the heights of Sungay and Pico de Loro; and, coming from Taytay, about one mile distant, the panorama of Laguna de Bay, the great lake, spreads out before the traveler's eyes, its southern boundary showing those three unsurpassable mountains, Cristobal, Banajao and Banajao de Lucban.

Old Antipolo Church.

Antipolo, like most all of the towns of Morong and Laguna, owes its existence to the untiring zeal of the great and noble Franciscan Friars, whose entire existence is consecrated to the good of humanity, and who, as early as 1578, evangelized, civilized, and gathered into towns, villages and hamlets the savage natives of these provinces.

But the great and well-merited fame enjoyed by Antipolo is not so much due to its benign climate, picturesque location and health-restoring springs as to an image of ' Our Lady of the Angels,' guarded in its church and venerated to the utmost confines of the archipelago, and even beyond it, under the name of ' Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages,' and to which Governor Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuero gave, in 1639 or 1640, the title of Protectress and Admiral of the Fleet.

A Recuerdo from 1904.
Courtesy of Alex Castro.

This holy image of the Blessed Virgin, like so many numerous other benefits, the Philippines owe to their old metropolis, the vice-kingdom of New Spain, Mexico, the fairest country on earth. When Don Juan Nino de Tavora, a Galician nobleman and knight of Calatrava, appointed captain-general of this archipelago, arrived on his way to Manila at enchanted Acapulco, the mountain-enclosed seaport of the Aztec empire, he said his prayers and heard his Mass in the parish church of that jewel of the Pacific. Struck with admiration by an image of the Holy Virgin, its serene aspect and above all its indescribably beautiful eyes, full of love and triumph, he spared no means to acquire it for his new capital, Manila.

On March 25, 1626, the image of Our Lady was transferred with great pomp and ceremony aboard the galleon; the next day, March 20th, she set out on her long voyage, and the ship bearing the precious burden cast anchor on July 18th of the same year in Cavite. Great was the rejoicing when the happy news of her arrival became' known, and all vied with each other to do honor to the ' Virgen Americana.' A solemn and splendid procession, headed by the highest functionaries, civil and ecclesiastic, all the nobility, gentry, troops and an enormous concourse of natives, accompanied the representative of one of the divinest and purest cults of Catholicism to the Cathedral.

Shortly afterward the Virgin took up her abode in Antipolo, where she remained without interruption until the end of 1639. In 1639 the Chinese and Chinese mestizos arose in revolt against the constituted authorities, committing outrages and ravages without name, applying the torch to the hamlets and towns, destroying plantations and putting all who fell into their hands to the sword without distinction of sex or age. The savage horde also assaulted Antipolo and after a heroic resistance on the part of brave natives, who fought like lions, took it. Soon the flames kindled by the rebels did their work and Antipolo had ceased to exist. The church was only a heap of ashes and burned timbers, enclosed by bare walls, but in this shapeless mass the image of the Blessed Virgin and a wooden cross were found absolutely intact and perfect by the Spaniards and Indians.

The Virgin of Antipolo, lanced by the Chinese Rebels.

The Virgin, thrown into the flames by the Chinese, was found unharmed by the Spanish military.
Photos courtesy of Alex Castro.

The Madonna having been proclaimed Patroness and even Admiral of the Fleet, her statue was repeatedly carried over sea. Three or four times it visited its ancient shrine in Mexico. Alonzo Garcia commanded the galleon ' San Luis,' which bore the Blessed American Virgin in 1641 on her first visit home to the rich shores of Mexico, and with him she returned after a happy voyage to these Islands. Again in 1643, the same vessel set sail for the country of the Holtecs and Aztecs, with General Lorenzo de Ugalde Orella serving as knight to the Virgin of the Philippines, who now set out for the realm over which the Virgin of Tecoac, ' La Guadalupana ' reigns supreme over all hearts and minds.

The good ship ' Encarnacion ' left Cavite in 1645, with the Virgin of Antipolo as its admiral, and after a prosperous voyage returned laden with troops, treasure and merchandise, to the Pearl of the Orient, Manila.

The Virgin of Antipolo protecting the Spanish Galleons with their travels to America.
Photo courtesy of Alex Castro.

The galleon 'San Francisco Javier' took the celestial Patroness for the fourth time in 1651 to her beloved Acapulco, and there among the palms and fragrant blossoms of her own land she remained .until 1653. Having, as always, guided the vessel entrusted to her care safely back to Manila, on September 9, 1653, the Virgin of Peace and Prosperous Voyages, as she was named at about that time, set out to take up her former abode in the mountain recess of Antipolo. Indescribable was the joy with which her children welcomed their mother and well beloved. She was received with acclamations wherever she passed, and after a journey of twelve days, having been detained by the fervent inhabitants of Taytay nine days, Our Lady made her triumphant entry into Antipolo.

Photo courtesy of Alex Castro.

After her return she remained for eighty-five years undisturbed in the beautiful home which love and faith had built for her far away from the world's noise, traffic, hypocrisy and misery. Still her services as Patroness and Admiral of the Fleet were yet necessary. In June, 1746, borne by the faithful in procession, she was taken to Manila, and towards the middle of the same month installed as commander of the flagship ' Nuestra Senora del Pilar ' with which she sailed for the evergreen shores of Mexico.

A pious tradition says that the glories won by Don Andres Lopez de Azaldigui, with an inferior force and vessels, off Cavite, over twelve Dutch ships-of-battle on June 13, 1647, was due to the intercession of the Virgin of Antipolo. In this sea fight the Spaniards only lost one of their countrymen and fifteen Filipinos, but the Dutch suffered heavily in dead and wounded.

The Virgin of Antipolo protecting Cavite from the Dutch, 1647
Photo courtesy of Alex Castro.

Numerous are the legends about this image. The people firmly believe that Our Lady, preferring Antipolo to Manila and Cavite, several times abandoned these cities and was found installed in the flowery branches of the ' tipolo ' tree (Artocar- pus incisa), from which the town takes its name. To her are ascribed victories on the sea, the saving of lives and ships, and miracles countless."

The Virgin of Antipolo, help of the stranded.
Photo courtesy of Alex Castro.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I just had to blog today's date, 7-8-9.

Coz, she did.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Retablos: Art for the Masses

It's not everyday that one gets to see a show dedicated to Catholic art here in Houston. Such a happening would be more expected in the neighboring city of San Antonio, but not here in Bayou City where the art scene is more secular.

Santo Nino de Atocha, Holy Christ Child of Atocha.
From the collection of Bob Riddick.

So, an exhibit on retablos hosted by the Heritage Society at the Sam Houston Park, downtown, is a pleasant surprise indeed.
Retablos: Art for the Masses is an exhibition featuring Mexican retablos, nichos and a handful of bultos or santos. It traces the retablos evolution from the costly paintings on copper created by trained and schooled artisans for the elite society, to the pedestrian laminas, rendered on tin metal by anonymous and self-taught "saint makers" or santeros. It also explores the retablos' Houstonian connection by reminding visitors that the city was once part of Mexico.

It is a small show with perhaps no more than 50 pieces. Most of the featured artworks come from the collection of Bob Riddick- also the show's curator, and the rest of the pieces from other collectors.

The exhibit is presented in a very straightforward manner. Each artwork is by itself, in all its glory-save for a small label identifying the subject and from whose collection the piece is from.

The lack of complimentary texts that explain the showcased objects and their subjects, is rather disappointing for the non-Catholic viewer who has no inkling what it is all about. This is rather unfortunate because there is an interesting story behind each saint.

Fortunately for me who was educated by nuns in a Catholic school, the stories of the lives of saints remain vividly alive in my imagination.

Most notable from the retablos is a simple, Mexican lamina showing a penitent San Nicolas de Tolentino. Here, San Nicolas is shown about to flog himself with a whip and his rotund and plump face (bearing features reminiscent of Hispano-Filipino ivory pieces) registers no concern for the torture about to be inflicted on him. His whole attention is focused on a crucifix he is holding. The graphic quality of the work is flat and comic-like, which in a way is very appealing. Different hues of blue, brown, and red complement the simple and childlike rendering of the saint.

San Nicolas de Tolentino.
Collection of Bob Riddick.

Another remarkable piece from the show is a retablo housed in its tin metal nicho. The nicho simulates a classical church altar with its pediment, nimbus and finials in the shape of an urn and comes complete with a miniature glass chandelier. Inside, is a depiction of Ecce Homo, "Behold the Man" - an appellation used to describe images of the bound Christ when Pilate presented Christ to the people.

Also in the exhibit are a handful of bultos of santos.
Most impressive in this group are the figures of Santiago and a wooden Santo Domingo. The wooden icon labeled as Santo Domingo, is actually a Santo Tomas de Aquino or Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint Thomas is also a Dominican saint but he is often depicted clean shaven, just like in this sculpture. Santo Domingo, the founder of the Dominican order, on the other hand, is always depicted with a short beard and mustache.
This santo, though unlabeled with a provenance, is most probably from the Philippines. Judging from its base, facial features and overall carving style, it is probably a Filipino santo, sculpted sometime in the 1700s.

Collection of Bob Riddick.

In the sculptural group of Santiago, the apostle is shown brandishing a sword, atop a white horse, and about to trample a supine, fear-stricken Moor. This is a representation of St. James as Santiago Matamoros, James the Moor-killer.
In the days of Reconquista, when Spanish Catholics were fighting for control of their homeland against the Moors, a miracle occurred.
In a glorious apparition, the Spaniards saw Santiago riding on a white steed, fighting off the Moros with his sword. From this episode, James the Apostle became James the Moor-slayer, the protector and patron of Spain. Santiago's popularity in Spain and her colonies are evident in the many places and churches that bear his name.
As gruesome as the sculptural group's subject is, Santiago is ironically, delicately rendered. The santero endowed the saint with soft features: pale skin, an oval face, a small mouth-ajar, baring tiny teeth, flushed cheeks and painstakingly drawn eyelashes and eyebrows with every single strand of hair rendered with a single stroke of the brush.
A silver, wide brimmed, traveler's hat crowns his handsome head symbolizing the fact that Santiago, is also the patron saint of pilgrims. In fact his shrine in Compostela, Spain has been an important pilgrimage site from all over Europe, since time immemorial.

Retablos is an utter delight to the eyes and to the soul. Aesthetically and spiritually, it is an enchanting exhibit for everyone to see. Retablos runs from May the 5th to July 12.

For more information regarding the show, please vist:
The Heritage Society.

Images from the Heritage Society website. Text, Victor Ancheta

Monday, June 29, 2009

Snapshots of Houston: Anita & Main Sts.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Hot N Cold

It's officially hot as hell here in Purgatory!
The mercury here in Houston has hit 104°F. That's 40°C for you metric snobs, err, I mean the rest of the world. Today, by the way, is only the third day of summer! It might even get hotter as the season unfurls. The highest ever on record for H-Town is 109°F back in September 2000.

So once again, it is the time to stay indoors, cool off, bring out the fans, turn on the AC's, over-eat, and gain weight from inactivity.

And while you're munching on something cool, why not pair your cold dessert with something homemade and fresh from the oven?
Admit it, you've been sitting in front of the TV for hours watching reruns of SpongeBob. So get at it, get up from the couch and start baking some pies, or cake, or whatever pastry for your ice cream or whipped cream.
Yes! Bake! Think of it this way, baking is exercise.
It quells the guilt.

I did. And right now, I'm in heaven with my warm apple pie and cool chocolate-swirl ice cream. The temperature maybe hot outside, and the water in the shaded pool a bit too cool for my liking, but here I am inside my house enjoying the best of both.


Monday, June 22, 2009

A Glimpse Of San Ignacio In Its Full Glory.

The Jesuits' Lost Golden Dream may once again become a reality.
News of implementing a decades-old plan, spark excitement and new hope for heritage-conscious Filipinos. The plan to rebuild the church of San Ignacio seems promising. Spearheaded by the Intramuros Administration under Bambi Harper, the project calls for reconstructing the church and turning it into an ecclesiastical museum as Museo de Intramuros.

Known as the Jesuit's Golden Dream, San Ignacio church was renowned for its graceful façade and an interior beautifully decorated and richly clad in tropical hardwoods. One of the last churches to be built on Intramuros, it replaced an older church, La Compañia, that formerly belonged to the Jesuits before their expulsion from the Philippines and other Spanish colonies in 1767.

La Compañia
Ruins of La Compañia in Intramuros, Manila.

Built on Calle Arzobispo, San Ignacio church was designed by Filipino architect, Felix Roxas, whilst its interior was furnished by Isabelo Tampinco, Manuel Flores, Crispulo Hocson and other Filipino artisans. Agustin Saez, director of Escuela de Bellas Artes in Manila, contributed to the project by designing the retablos and pulpit.
The cornerstone of the church was laid on February 9, 1878 and was completed, inaugurated and consecrated 12 years after in July 27 - 30, 1889. (Reseña Histórica)

The church was a celebration of Philippine art. From its architect, to the artists that decorated it and to the materials it was made of, it was a treasure chest of everything Filipino.
San Ignacio was a source of pride for a country then beginning to develop a sense of patriotism. An obra maestra to the eyes of locals and foreigners, it was considered a must a see sight for any visitor in pre-war Manila, and even a popular wedding destination.

San Ignacio church met its demise during World War II. The war imposed its horrors to the country and San Ignacio was no exception. During the Battle for Manila in 1945, the church was razed by the Japanese.

Today a ruined shell, San Ignacio church awaits the time when it will arise from its slumber, so that once again, the Jesuits' Golden dream is a reality.

While we await for San Ignacio's eventual restoration to its former splendor, let's take a look back at its original form.

Let us start from the outside.

Filipino architect Félix Roxas who designed San Ignacio, opted for a façade done in the neoclassical style. (He had previously designed a Gothic church for Sto. Domingo in Intramuros, another beautiful church rich in history, grandeur and importance but also lost in WWII.)

The main element of the façade is the pediment. It is supported by four pairs of twin columns; the bottom columns are rendered in the Ionic order, while the top are in the Corinthian style. The use of twin columns in church facades has been described as distinctly Filipino.("The "City of God"")
Flanking the pediment are graceful, twin towers.

The walls separating the church compound from Calle Arzobispo are laced with wrought iron grilles and the posts are topped with ornate faroles.

Enter the church and the rows of arches and columns direct the faithful's gaze straight to the high altar, Retablo Mayor, designed by Agustin Saez.

Where San Ignacio de Loyola is enshrined - the founder of Compañía de Jesú, the Jesuit order and the church's patron saint.

Here, a triumphant San Ignacio is exalted into heaven by angelic hosts. This is the Apotheosis of San Ignacio all rendered in wood by Manuel Flores, a noted Filipino sculptor.

The tallado, carved, image of San Ignacio with an upturned gaze.

San Ignacio's Retablo Mayor

What might San Ignacio be staring at the ceiling? A vision of the Holy Spirit in a nimbus of glory captivates his ecstatic attention.

While the central apse above the Retablo Mayor is decorated with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, the adjacent crossing features a recessed, octagonal dome ornamented with medallions bearing the faces of Jesuit saints. ("The San Ignacio")

And radiating from the crossing, the church ceilings are coffered with exquisite panelings all rendered in wood.

The central nave boasts of larger panels,

each decorated with medallions, florid forms and foliage.

These exquisite artesonado ceilings are what made San Ignacio famous and much beloved. Isabelo Tampingco and his atelier rendered all of these in expensive Philippine hardwoods.

After craning our necks at the ceiling, we focus our eyes on the Retablo Menors and the doors nearby.

The Retablo Menors, side altars, are executed following Agustin Saez's plan ("The San Ignacio")and are dedicated to the Sagrado Corazon and Inmaculada Concepcion.

The altar to the Sagrado Corazon houses a Christ enveloped in a mandorla.

Manuel Flores shows Christ atop the world and with one hand pointing to his flaming heart, the other, outstretched to the the faithful.

And with a slightly bowed head, expressing compassion to all humankind.

While the icon of Inmaculada Concepcion smiles demurely and with downcast eyes showing humility.

This sensitive image of the Blessed Virgin Mary is carved by Crispulo Hocson, Tampingco's father-in-law. Hocson sculpted the Virgin with her usual attributes, identifying her as the Virgin of the Apocalypse: a mandorla, a crown, twelve stars encircling her head and a crescent moon at her feet.
But in his tender rendering, Hocson managed to make true the Catholic doctrine of the Virgin's immaculate conception, which this statue represents. She stands on a globe and with one foot trampling the serpent of paradise with its forbidden fruit, symbolizing that she is free from fault- the Virgin Mary unblemished from the stain of original sin.

The Virgin is enshrined in a side altar identical to her Son's.

And the side door near her altar is capped with her monogram.

Another much celebrated feature of San Ignacio church is its pulpit.
Designed by Saez and carved by Tampingco, the pulpit is renowned for its exquisite details. (Miller)

San Ignacio Church's Pulpit

The stairs to the pulpit are covered with panels depicting the Four Evangelists: Sts. John, Matthew, Luke and Mark.

The Pulpit of San Ignacio Church in Intramuros

And the procession of the Evangelists leads to bas-reliefs showing the Descent of the Holy Spirit and Christ's Great Commission, where Christ instructed his disciples to baptize all nations under the Holy Trinity. The likeness of Faith, Hope, and Charity surround both scenes. ("The San Ignacio")

A group of angels struggle to support the entire pulpit.

From here, we say our goodbyes to San Ignacio and to his church and head for the door.
But before we do, let's send out a postcard to our friends, relatives and to ourselves in remembrance of this beautiful church.

Text, Victor Ancheta ©2009

San Ignacio Church

"The "City of God": Churches, Convents and Monasteries." Life's a Journey. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2009. .

Miller, George. Interesting Manila. 3rd ed. Manila: n.p., 1912). Interesting Manila. Web. 22 June 2009.

Reseña Histórica de la Inauguración de la Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola. Manila: Imprenta y Litografia de M. Perez, Hijo, 1890. University of Michigan, 17 Feb. 2006. Web. 22 June 2009.

"The San Ignacio." The Philippine Jesuits. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2009.