Garments, symbols of saints in Lent procession tell stories

Posted by watchmen
March 28, 2024
Posted in News


Caretakers of images of saints at the St. Joseph Cathedral in the town of San Jose de Buenavista are painstakingly preparing for the procession this Holy Thursday and Good Friday, ensuring that the garments they wear and symbols they carry tell the exact record of the church.

Niklaus de los Reyes Torres, who takes care of 15 images, said they have to be conscious in communicating well to the public the stories of the saints as told in the Bible.

“Image caretakers have to be mindful even from the way they dress up their saints and the symbols of the things that they carry with them, so other devotees would also learn,” Torres, who published Garbed in Raiments of Light digital book, a collection of patterns in preparing vestments of images of saints in the Philippines, said in an interview yesterday.

Dressing them up need not be costly; they could even be “mixed and matched” with their previous garments, but they should also be presentable and based on the extant record of the church.

St. Peter, he said, carries keys beside a rooster, a symbol of being the gatekeeper of heaven and the rooster that crowed when he denied Jesus during his judgment.

“The Filipino Roman Catholics are in love with the religious pageantry because of their general orientation during the procession,” Torres said.

Friars during the Spanish period introduced the procession full of drama as part of their evangelization in the Philippines; people fell in love with it and has become a traditional practice during the Holy Week, he added.

He will dress up images of St. James the Great, Lord of the Last Supper, and Mary of Bethany for the Good Friday procession.

St. James the Great, the first apostle to become a martyr, carried a sword. He got executed using a sword.

The Lord of the Last Supper has a chalice as a symbol of Jesus pouring wine for his 12 disciples during the Last Supper, while Mary of Bethany, the woman in the Bible who poured a bottle of perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped it with her long hair, carries a bottle of perfume.

Of the three, dressing up Mary of Bethany is a bit meticulous.

“Female saints usually have more than two layers of clothing to create the silhouette. Add to that the style and draping of the vestments followed by accessories and veils, among others,” he said.

Another caretaker, Chester Coronica, commissioned a tableau of the “Passion of Christ” as his way of thanksgiving for the blessings he received as a seafarer.

“The tableau depicts the sorrowful Mother Mary when she saw her son Jesus carrying a cross during his crucifixion,” Coronica said.

He said that, as a seafarer, he would make it a point to buy cloth during their anchorage abroad and send it back home in preparation for the procession.

He spends a sizable amount on the garments annually out of his devotion.

During the procession, Mother Mary will don a dark brown garment while Jesus is in violet clothing.

“Torres’ collection of Santo vestments guided me in choosing the color and textile to be bought yearly for the tableau,” Coronica said.

Torres said some images are associated with specific colors because each color has meaning in Western art studies.

This year, about 43 images are joining the two-day procession, one of the crowd drawers, as the Catholic community observes the Lent season.

Before a new image joins the procession, it goes through validation by the Cofradia de San Jose, a group of image caretakers in San Jose de Buenavista.

He added that being part of the group of image caretakers makes one a part of the rich tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. (PNA)

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