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Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Part 1)

Ancient Philippine Catholicism in the halls of Museo de Intramuros

Published

By Dr. Jaime Laya

San Andrés Apostól bearing the X-shaped cross on which he was crucified upside down welcomes the visitor to Museo de Intramuros. The apostle is thereby introduced as protector of the outstanding Museo collection, just as he once protected the infant Spanish colony.

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San Andrés

Chinese pirate Limahóng invaded Manila three years after the defeat of rajahs Matandâ and Solimán. Limahóng got as far as Parañaque where he was driven off. The crucial battle happened on Nov. 29, 1574, the eve of the feast of San Andrés and the saint was thereafter accorded singular status.

The Museo’s inaugural exhibit surveys the tangible heritage of three centuries of Philippine Catholicism. It includes sculptures that populated church retablos, sacred vessels and altar embellishments, paintings of saints, ecclesiastics, and events in the lives of the heavenly host, furniture, ivory images of the elite, and simple images of humble homes. On a silver altar is the festejada image of Intramuros’ Grand Marian Procession held every December.

A hall is given to images of the Blessed Virgin Mary including a marvelous ca. 1700 relieve of the Immaculate Conception, Mary above a crescent moon treading on a serpent. The image is replete with symbolisms: a large laurel wreath held above by cherubs, signifying Mary’s victory over the devil and various representations and allusions, e.g., Mirror of Justice, Tower of David, and Mystical Rose.

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La Inmaculada Concepción

The exhibit also includes representations of the Virgin with and without the Infant Jesus, venerated under various nomenclatures, e.g., Nstra. Sra. del Rosario with rosaries, Nstra. Sra. del Carmen with scapulars, etc.

The Museo’s inaugural exhibit surveys the tangible heritage of three centuries of Philippine Catholicism. It includes sculptures that populated church retablos, sacred vessels and altar embellishments, paintings of saints, ecclesiastics, and events in the lives of the heavenly host, furniture. ivory images of the elite, and simple images of humble homes.

Some images are of saints who are little known today but who once had ardent followers, no doubt occasioned by the perils of colonization and administration:

  • Sta. Bárbara is patroness of armor-makers, artillerymen, and people who work with cannon and explosives. This is obviously why the strongest part of Fort Santiago is named Batería de Santa Bárbara. She is also invoked against thunder and lightning. Legions of trembling colonizers must have begged for mercy before her image amid raging kulóg, lintíc, and bagyó.

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Sta. Bárbara

  • San Fernando Rey is patron of rulers, governors, and magistrates. He is the 13th century King who recovered territory held by Moorish kings including Córdoba and Sevilla who united León and Castilla. It would have been comforting for Spanish officialdom and soldiery in faraway Filipinas to know that San Fernando was keeping an eye on them.
  • San Ignacio de Loyola was a Basque priest who co-founded the Society of Jesus. As patron saint of soldiers, many petitions for deliverance and victory must have been addressed to him by conquistadors venturing into the unknown with the likes of Magát Salamat and Sumuróy lurking in the shrubbery.

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San Ignacio de Loyola

  • Santiago Matamoros (patron saint of Spaniards) is depicted on horseback trampling on enemies, rushing to aid troops battling the Moors. Soldiers hereabouts surely beseeched him for support against Sulu pirates and possibly revolting indios and exploited Chinese Parian workers. Santiago was also reportedly sighted in certain places, galloping from above to protect townspeople from arriving raiders.

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Santiago Matamoros

(To be continued)

Notes: (a) “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a Bob Dylan song; (b) Limahóng’s defeat was attributed to San Andrés and was deemed so momentous that an Intramuros bastion was named Baluarte de San Andrés; until the end of the Spanish Regime, the highest officials of the land marched in solemn procession, the Paseo del Real Pendón, every Nov. 30 eve; and naturally, San Andrés became Parañaque’s patron saint; and (c) The Apostle St. James the Greater was known as Santiago Matamoros (sorry to our Muslim brethren, it translates to “Moor-slayer”). Fort Santiago is named after him and among others, the saint on horseback crushing Moors is depicted in the relieve above the Fort’s main gate and in the façade of the church of Paete, Laguna.

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