Monday, January 21, 2013

After 35 years, the Sto. Niño El Capitan General of the Recoletos has come back ..

The image of Sto. Niño El Capitan General of the Augustinian Recoletos emerged from 35 years of hibernation to join the procession during the feast day of San Sebastian around the basilica on 20 January, 2013.

There were two coincidental religious observances yesterday, 20th January:  the moveable feast day of Sto. Niño, which is on the third Sunday of the month, and that of San Sebastian, which is fixed on this date.  

San Sebastian is the patron saint of our hometown San Narciso in Zambales; likewise, the cities of Lipa and Bacolod, and Pinagbuhatan of Pasig.  Religious tradition has the Roman Catholic and Aglipayan parishes in our town, and perhaps Lipa, Bacolod and other places in the country, honoring the martyr saint with an early evening processionReports say that in Pinagbuhatan, the procession is a day activity, and there's a dousing with water, which has replaced the fluvial procession of olden days, among the celebrators just like during the June feast day of San Juan, .

For reasons of history, we went to the Basilica of San Sebastian, the iconic steel church, on R. Hidalgo in Quiapo yesterday afternoon.  The Augustinian Recoletos served in our church from 1849 until 1898, and they were the ones who designated our parish the parroquia de San Sebastian.  We were right on time for the mass, which we found has Bishop Teodoro Bacani concelebrating it with the Recollects.    Bishop Bacani was our assistant parish priest during the martial law years.  

We haven't heard "Fr Ted" (that's what we called the bishop then) deliver a sermon for years.  He's one priest that gets one's focus because of his style in delivering a message, which he injects with a dash of humor or an interesting anecdote.

We thought he floored the Recoletos when he surmised that the Sto. Niño is not part of the parish celebration of their patron saint's day unlike other places in the country.  Earlier in the day, we already saw pictures of preparations in our hometown that the boy Jesus will be in the martyr Sebastian's procession.  

The parish priest carries El Capitan General to the carroza for the procession.
At the end of the mass, after a profusion of thanks to benefactors, sponsors, guests, parishioners, etc, the parish priest looked at the bishop and joyfully announced that he has a surprise -- the Recoletos are bringing back their Sto. Niño back into the limelight after 35 years of hibernation, and the El Capitan General will be in procession too. 

That explained why there were military men who attended the mass, the El Capitan General is the patron saint of soldiers.

The military title reminds that the governor general of the Philippines during the Spanish times was also the capitan general of the army.

The din of the Sinulog festival has drowned out a relatively unknown 'military' tradition that underlies the procession of the Sto. Niño in Cebu City.

The resident Sto. Niño at the basilica is also called El Capitan General.  Before the image goes out in procession, there's another image that moves in -- the Sto. Niño from the San Nicolas Parish, which carries the title El Teniente de la Guardia.

In a recent story in the Philippine Star, Bronce (2013) wrote that this take-over reflects the military practice of having a second-in-command replace the general whenever he leaves camp. 


Bronce, Quennie S. (2013 Jan 17).  Sto. Niño de Cebu: El Capitan General.  The Philippine Star Online.  Retrieved from

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Quiapo fiesta of the Santo Jesus (Black Nazarene) in the 1800s

Dibujo [DIB158412] of the Quiapo Church from the album of paintings titled Vistas de las islas Filipinas y trages (sic) de sus abitantes (sic) by Jose Honorato Lozano in 1847. [Source:  Biblioteca Nacional de Espana]

Let us imagine ourselves on the tile roof of a gentry house east of the Quiapo church in 1847, probably in the vicinity of the Muslim mosque today, just like what Filipino painter Jose Honorato Lozano did when he painted the Yglesia parroquial de Quiapo (above). 

We are also looking at the solemn traslacion of the Santo Jesus (the Black Nazarene in our language today), the image mounted on an andasas it is about to enter the church.  There's a big but orderly crowd in the church square -- now called Plaza Miranda -- watching the procession in celebration of the feast day of the patron saint of Quiapo.  The clergy follow the image under a canopy (we don't see this anymore except during the procession of the Holy Sacrament on Maundy Thursday), and a brass band provides the religious music for this rite. 

Lozano tells us that the women who devoutly join the procession wear a lambong or a black mantle and carry lighted candles.  He doesn't say how the men dress up for the Quiapo fiesta although he informs that generally in every town fiesta or Pintacasi that usually lasts three days, the men wear their shirts over their trousers. He adds that everyone like musicians, cantors and altar boys, and those involved in church functions wear their reverent best during the occasion.  By the way, the painter says that aside from music and other festivities, the cockpits are open.  Today, we can't imagine the menfolk engrossed in cockfighting during the Quiapo event.

The original Itim na Nazareno (Black Nazarene) encased in glass, which we were able to photographed with permission from the church authorities.  It gets exposed only during the traslacion on 09 January.

Today, the procession started after the 6 o'clock morning mass from the Quirino grandstand.  With the reported initial crowd of half-a-million devotees, dominantly barefoot, yellow or maroon-shirted male, trying to get a hold of the rope tied to the andas, or mount it to touch the image, the procession probably would finally get inside the Quiapo church around midnight, just like last year.

Women carry the andas during the procession of Nazarene replicas on 07 Jan, 2013.
The women don't wear lambongs anymore; they wear pants or shorts and the yellow or maroon t-shirts. Nor do they carry lighted candles.  They now dare to get to the ropes or to climb over the heads of the male devotees to get on to the andas briefly and touch the image.
There are several replicas of the Black Nazarene around the Quiapo church for devotees.  One is the centerpiece of the altar, and there is an entry door on the Quiapo Blvd. side for those who want to kiss a foot of the image (the pahalik) behind the altar.  The exit leads to the room where the original Black Nazarene can be seen through a glass enclosure, and it can't be touched or kissed.  Hence, the frenzy that attends the traslacion today as the original gets exposed for adoration!


Lozano, Jose Honorato.  (1847).  Vistas de las islas Filipinas y trages (sic) de sus abitantes (sic).  Retrieved from the Biblioteca Digital Hispanica of the Biblioteca Nacional de Espana at