Every time we are in dear old Vigan, antique lovers that we are, we always have to visit the wonderful antique-laden homes of dear friends, a few of which have home altars graced by unspeakably lovely antique ivory images.
During that particular trip in 1993, we were with Tom Joven [ who years later would emerge as the top ecclesiastical restorer in the Philippines, the singular choice of top Catholic Church officials and uberrich collectors and connoisseurs for the restorations of their various antique “santos” ], so his Santos-Joven cousin Jo Panlilio made sure that we would visit churches, chapels, and homes with beautiful antique “santos” so that Tom, whose passion in life were/are “santos,” would find the long trip up North worthwhile.
So we visited the home of dear friends, affluent Vigan patricians who had fortunately maintained possession of their many family heirlooms. As always, they received us joyously and graciously. We were led up to their private, actually secret, home altar upstairs, which was different from their home altar in their ground floor. The private home altar was a veritable “Cote d’Ivoire,” literally an Ivory Coast graced by generations of gorgeous antique ivory “santos” in “virinas” glass domes. The sight always made Jo Panlilio and I drool, and that time, Tom Joven too…
On top of the low built-in cabinets was an exquisite antique ivory “Calvario” in a big “virina” glass dome. There was the Crucified Christ in the center on a cross of kamagong wood with 18 karat gold appliquees of 18th century rococo work, the Sorrowful Mother on the left, Saint John the Evangelist on the right, and Saint Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the Cross. The bored-looking Crucified Christ wore a magnificently worked “tamburin”-style 18 karat gold loincloth and his 18 karat gold nails were studded with rosecut diamonds. The three figures were arrayed with accoutrements of beautifully worked 18 karat gold and were resplendent in robes of silver gilt thread embroidered “tisu de oro.” The gold content was so high that the accoutrements had not faded with some 200 years. And there were many of those sought-after cutey-cutey blown glass Roman soldiers and citizens on the base set with glinting beetle carapaces [ according to the ubercollector Don Felipe Hidalgo, they were made by the inmates of the “Bilibid Viejo” prison ].
Perched on top of a secured wall bracket was an antique ivory image of the “Santo Rosario,” Our Lady of the Rosary. The small crowns of the Virgin and the Child Jesus, the “rostrillo” around her face, the “aureola” over her head, scepter, baton, rosary were all of exquisitely worked 18 karat gold. Her 18 karat gold earrings had small rosecut diamonds. The gold content was so high that the accoutrements had not faded with some 200 years. Her elegant vestments were of silver gilt thread embroidered “tisu de oro” and blue velvet.
Arrayed on top of the high built-in cabinets on the opposite side of the low cabinets were more antique ivory images: “La Anunciacion de la Virgen Maria,” [ The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary ], “San Antonio de Padua y Nino Jesus,” “San Roque de Montpelier” with his bread-carrying doggie, and a singularly memorable kneeling “San Ignacio de Loyola,” with articulated veins on his forehead.
“But where is the ‘Virgen,’ Nana?” Jo and I asked, referring to the antique, nearly lifesize ivory processional image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.
“The ‘Virgen’? She’s here… ‘Apo Baket,’ your friends want to say hello to you…” the dear lady opened a cabinet in the corner of the little room, actually a passageway.
OUT tumbled some “walis tambo” [ grass brooms ], cans of red “Johnson’s” floor wax, “kacha” muslin rags, feather dusters, fly swatters, old newspapers, magazines, kettles, hot water bottles, “palangganas” plastic basins, rubber slippers, pink plastic curlers, and other impedimenta… finally revealing the magnificent, antique, nearly lifesize ivory Virgen in her white satin “house dress”… As always, Wooooow… We could feel our tongues reaching the floor…
“Ay, ay, ay!!!” shrieked the dear lady, as she tried to catch some of the stuff spilling from the cabinet.
“My… the ‘Virgen’ likes to keep house, doesn’t she, Nana?” mused the witty Jo Panlilio, in trademark Duchess of Windsor style.
Harharhar!!! 😀 😀 😀