This is where our old church escapade began, San Pablo City, Laguna. 'Twas 9 a.m. that felt like 12 noon. The church was still closed when we got there so my kids prodded me to take their pictures instead of inspecting the building. It's a beautiful church that didn't strike me as centuries old, yet in fact, was built in 1714. The facade is simple, flat classical. The porch, is a fairly new addition, as I learned later.
The part I like most is the four storey campanile, crowned by a pointed roof with a cross and wind vane on top.
As the church opened, I sat myself on the last pew, feeling a bit guilty on my impulse to take pictures rather than kneel and pray first. After mumbling my respects, I started work. The interior is clean and simple from the nave to the chancel. The ceiling lent subtle drama to the space with it's decorated ribs. The rest of the fixtures are designed with uncomplicated geometric patterns and minimal embellishments, so I did not move any closer to the altar to take more photos.
With due respect to the east wall's significance, I thought perhaps the wood carvers' association of Paete might help upgrade the Cathedral's sparsely ornamented, wooden "retablos." Candelabra cum chandeliers somehow looked weird with day-light bulbs protruding from the sockets. These thoughts that I subconsciously murmured, were heard by my daughter who advised me to get out of the church lest I forget I'm a simple layman, not a critique.
Before we left the Cathedral, I was happy that my kids being photo addicts, were cooperative enough to pose for me in spite of the sweltering heat. And it was just the beginning....
Colors splashed the page in Part 2 on Pakil church. This last chapter may not be as vivid as it's precursors but still worth sharing.
The short entrance to the cloister was dark and I was relieved when it opened to a brighter hallway. The half-timbered ceiling is such a marvel. The wood obviously weathered all forces of nature, so I wildly guessed that it's one of the church's original features.
The kids went to the upper floor and explored the area by themselves. My son dragged me to the inner quarters to show the veneration chapel.
The gilded "retablo" with it's elaborate and contrasting surface textures, created graphic overload to the senses. I hastily snapped photos and underestimated the religious significance of the small image of The Blessed Mother, framed in wood and intricately designed tarnished silver. Deprived of complete historical information, little did I know that the artwork I saw, is an original painting of the Our Lady of Sorrows, popularly known as the "Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba."
The afternoon heat made me real tired by the time I reached the choir loft. For some reason, it felt a bit weird when I sat there alone. The eerie silence was broken when my daughter asked again to have her photo taken, before we went down to the parish office.
There was an exhibit of life sized statues depicting the sorrowful mysteries down the parish hall. Christ's scourging at the pillar was for me, the most divine of them all in terms of craftsmanship.
This parting photo of the parish office completed this amazing tour. I hardly felt hunger pangs while reviewing the shots inside the jeepney. It seemed the Virgen de Turumba worked it's spell on me.
Starting Part II of this
blog on Pakil church, I realized the true complexity of it's historic floor plan.
Part I dealt on visual chronicles as I moved from the facade, to the narthex, and past the nave. This succeeding part takes me to the inner sanctuary.
Taking several shots of the chancel, drops of forehead sweat trickled onto my camera, so I found some pews on the transept's left corner and sat to refresh myself. For the nth time, I changed my cam's settings. This area is brighter than the rest of the interior, and the sun shined subtle splendor on the Jesus Nazareno and the iconostasis.
Lo and behold, the opulent chancel.
The chancel screams loudly of Baroque and Rococo influence, overwhelming the senses with colorful, highly decorative ornaments and artwork, so I limited my shots to fixtures that I like most. I also took a few of thoseI don't dig well. The pulpit for instance, although beautiful, seemed a bit cutesy and reminded me of small resin sculptures, hand painted with polychrome finish. The overblown portrait of Jesus from THE SHROUD OF TURIN, looks photocopied. Conspicuously inserted between small engaged columns of ornate design, it terribly looked out of place. Perhaps the framed image will render more spiritual influence if hanged inside the parish office's wall.
Twisting my neck at all angles, I fired shots at the dome, feeling like I was inside a Renaissance chapel in Florence. Soon, I choked on the complex geometrical shapes on the diagonal ribs. The frescoes created a visual high most notably the depiction of Michelangelo's PIETA.
The altar was dim but it's opulence shines through. Fourteen icons (with Archangel Michael's towering above the others), housed individually in elaborately carved niches, adorn the east wall or simply known as the wall behind the altar.
After the last picture from the chancel has been taken, I sat on the stage, hungry, back soaked in sweat, and exhausted. I faced the nave and my eyes darted on the left door, which I later discovered led to the cloister. In no time, I was back on my feet, with full vigor, dashing to the left.
From Nagcarlan, our family boarded a jeepney to the town of Paete. Due to our ignorance of the route, we got past Paete and were transported to Pakil. This article should have preceded the one on Paete church but difficulty in sorting through hundreds of photos delayed this write-up.
It was high noon when we reached this town. The nauseating heat did not set a barrier to my imploding desire to shoot this magnificent structure.
History tells, this flat classical sacred edifice, was completed in 1767 and took 35 years to build. Textures and shapes found on the church's facade are evident of a more restrained English (Protestant) Baroque, which seeks the spirit through the mind. Pilasters, archivolts on the door, and the window above, being geometric and precise, all appeal to the intellect.
As I entered the church, I was baffled by a holy water stoup resting on a head of what seemed to be a little devil. I thought that was quite unusual for a church fixture. Later, I learned that the creature is not a devil but a Chinese Fu dog, carved out of solid wood, c.1960's.
Clerestory lights faintly illuminated the vast space with dramatic chiaroscuro that made me struggle a bit with my cam's settings. Once inside, my eyes wandered to what shall I shoot first, as every corner, incites creativeness.
Click on the thumbnails for captions and stories.
Annoyed with the site of a confessional box partially blocking this centuries old painting of Jose Luciano Dans,
I thought that the province of Laguna seriously needs curators with genuine aesthetic sense. This can promote more attention and appreciation of the sacred relics and artworks like Dans' JUDICIUM FINALE.
Constantly gazing upwards, while walking down the aisle, I marveled at the hanging fixtures. The wrought iron candelabrum of spiral and floral motif, was such a delight. A wine glass pulpit, typical in 15th-century English churches, brought medieval ambience.
There's another whole new narrative as I approached the inner sanctuary. Read the post on PART II.
Love at first sight was my initial reaction to this centuries old church
in the wood carving capital of Laguna, the town of Paete.
My eyes feasted on textures and shapes; from the triangular pediment trimmed
with small volutes, to the circular aperture, and the arched window of the bell tower.
The signage pretty much narrates the brief history of
St. James the Apostle church (San Santiago de Apostol) that was founded in 1580.
One can only marvel at the ornate bas reliefs of leaves, flowers and
St. James treading on bodies which a little boy told me, are dead pagans.
With high expectations upon entering the church, I was stumped whilst checking the door that obviously could not be the original one. Perhaps my ignorance of the church's complete history, made me inconsiderate of the fact that, with it's share of earthquakes, the original door must have been destroyed.
I was quite disappointed with the altar and the gold plastered retablos. Clearly, they have undergone modifications that strike a blunt contrast with the church's old facade.
My dismay towards the recent additions to the church's furnishings was replaced with excitement when I saw the 18th & 19th century gargantuan paintings on the wall. Although relieved that I can use my flash, it somehow felt uncomfortable flashing on the precious relics.
A close inspection of the paintings made me sad. They could have been preserved under better conditions for greater public appreciation. It seemed to me that the town's folks do not realize the true historical value of these religious artworks right under their noses. SAYANG!! The extent of damage on these pieces ranges from appalling to horrific, particularly on the painting of SAN CRISTOBAL, by Jose Luciano Dans, c.1850. With those thoughts in mind, I voluntarily disabled my camera's flash.
Immersing myself deeply in the painting,
LANGIT, LUPA, IMPIYERNO (Heaven, Earth, Hell),
another depiction by Jose Luciano Dans, from 1850,
it reminded me of Dante's Inferno.
The painting's note at the bottom reads:
JUICIO FINAL (St. Francis & The Salvation of the Soul).
It was painted in 1720 after the stone church was built in 1717.
Before we left the church, we were invited by one of Paete's famed sculptor, Mr. Leonardo "Chuchoi" Limlengco to an exhibit of life-sized icons inside the parish hall. A whole segment on Kuya Chuchoi, his sculptures, and Paete's wood carving art will be featured soon.
I ended this phase by capturing the face of my irritated son who was lightly pissed with the obstructed view of the old and mighty stone church against the Sierra Madre Mountains. Despite minor disappointments, my visit to the town's major repository of art and history was worth the trip, not only for it's antique beauty but also for it's spiritual significance.
Paul Little in his book "How to Give Away Your Faith" defines witnessing: