“For to Children Belong the Kingdom of God”: Infant Jesus

Originally authored on January 20, 2019

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Babies always signify purity, innocence, warmth, and new beginnings. They are instruments to break the barriers and boundaries. It was a sound judgement for Ferdinand Magellan to present the statue of the Infant Jesus as a gift to Princess Humamay upon landing on the Philippine islands. The gesture captivated her heart as a mother, which even disarmed the resolve of King Humabon and his tribesmen. Infants proved to possess the power of uniting which led to the natives’ baptism and conversion to Catholic religion.

Steeped in history and religious traditions, every January, the entire Philippines is abuzz with feasts that celebrate the Child Jesus which centers in Cebu. The Santo Nino traces its origin to the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague. In our country, this statue is the oldest relic. Years after Magellan’s miserable crew left the Philippines after a skirmish led by Lapu-lapu which took Ferdinand’s life, the returning Spaniards still found the natives worshiping the same image of the Infant Jesus. Due to Filipinos’ rich cultural background, they are known to be very loyal in their devotion to religious figures.

The Right Place for Disputed First Mass in 1521

Originally authored on February 22, 2019

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Butuan is racing against time in an attempt to establish the historical truth. With the Quincentennial fast approaching in 2021, it is not giving up on its claim that the first mass was celebrated by Spanish colonizers in Mazzaua, an island in Butuan, 498 years ago. For decades, it has been a long drawn out conflict between Mazzaua and Limasawa in Leyte.

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The pursuit of legitimacy yielded a group of proponents galvanized by a common goal regardless of the existing Republic Act 2733 giving credence to Limasawa as the national shrine to commemorate the first mass held in the country that gave birth to Christianity.

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes: Comforter of the Afflicted and Health of the Sick

Originally authored on February 10, 2018

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It was May 8, 1892 when the Capuchins opened the first chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes in our country. During the outbreak of Spanish-American War in 1898, the Capuchin community gathered at the chapel and before the venerated image of the Virgin promised solemnly to dedicate to her the new church that they were building if she would save the house and the city of Manila from the terrible destruction of the announced bombing by the Americans.

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Manila did not suffer the fearful effects of the bombs of the military fleet from Dewey and the powerful protection from Mary was obtained. Being faithful to his promise, Rev. Fr. Alfonso of Morentin, the superior of Capuchin Fathers consecrated to the Virgin of Lourdes the new church and was officially proclaimed the “Titular of the Church of the Capuchins”.

Baro Ng Tagalog

Originally authored on January 13, 2019

The fashion history of the Barong Tagalog as the Philippine national wear for men had evolved for more than four centuries. Although it retained its essential look since it was first worn, various factors have influenced its style and purpose.

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, ancient Filipinos possessed a distinct culture that distinguished them from other races. The Tagalogs of Luzon already wore a garment that was a forerunner of Barong Tagalog or Baro. In the historical account of Ma-I (pre-colonial name for the Philippines), the earliest known fact on the Baro was that Filipinos wore a sleeve-doublet of rough cotton cloth called kanga which reached slightly below the waist, was collarless, and had an opening in front. The doublet specified the badge of courage and social status of men. Red was for the chiefs and the bravest while black and white were for the ordinary citizens. The loins were covered with bahaque or G-String.

However, the attire of Tagalog men presumably those of the upper crust was made of fine linen or Indian muslin which barely reached the waist. It was a short, loose jacket called chamarreta without a collar and fitted with short sleeves.

On the other hand, men from the Visayan islands wore a moorish style robe (marlota) or jacket (baquero) made without a collar reaching down to the feet and embroidered in full colors.

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When the Spaniards came and started its colonization, the fashion changed drastically as their culture influenced the succeeding centuries of Philippine history.

The Ilustrados brought in their dressy shirts with a high Elizabethan collar trimmed with lace and adorned with gem or a big button. This kind of attire required the use of slippers if not shoes. It was extended just above the knees and worn with a thin sash across the waist.

The Glamor That Was Yesterday

Originally authored on May 26, 2016

As early as 1521 and in the aftermath of Spanish colonization, jewelry such as crucifixes were used as tools to replace talismans and amulets worn by the native Filipinos.

To the converted Filipinos, wearing these jewelries was not a declaration of their Christian faith but more so a manner to adorn themselves while still in adherence to the austerity restrictions imposed by the Spanish regime.

During that era, gemstones were scarce, with only the upper class having access to them. Nevertheless, gold was in abundance which prompted the goldsmiths an opportunity to hawk their wares by producing only religious jewels. Various techniques to come up with different looks and styles like filigree locally called kalado or lace-like design; as well as the art of changing the color of gold was crafted.

All Is Not Lost! How Do We Rescue A Dying Language?

Originally authored on March 6, 2018

Much is to be learned from the culture of one of the Philippines’ ethnic group living in Mindoro Island, the Mangyan tribe. Preserved and documented, the Hanunoo, their ancient script (closely related to Baybayin) and their system of writing called Surat Mangyan are still widely practiced and taught.

Ambahan, a rhythmic poetic expression presented through recitation or chanting is engraved in bamboo tubes. Literacy is quite high and there is no danger of Mangyan literature dying in the immediate future.

The Waray language has been dissected and has designated its own orthography (writing system) which includes a uniformly accepted spelling manual, says researcher E. de la Cruz.

Ibaloi dictionaries and learning manuals are made available to local communities that sparked awareness among young Ibalois. A large section of Northern Luzon started publishing newspapers in the vernacular, according to Professor Jimmy Fong.


When people speak of preserving heritage these days it often concerns a structure that is threatened by destruction or alteration in the name of progress. Nobody can deny that the Parul is heritage. The naughty sidelights “only in the Philippines”, on a different light, has raised a positive meaning whenever we take pride in initiating the use of lantern in the form of a star to welcome Christmas season. It had since been our link to the past that refuses to be sidelined in every Filipino home here and miles away.

Inspired by the Star of Bethlehem, the first recorded maker of big lanterns, Francisco Estanislao, whose creation in 1908, was made of bamboo and coconut cloth. It was believed that Estanislao, a vendor and saltmaker from Pampanga made the piece for Simbang Gabi to attract the villagers to the church. The tradition transformed in the 1930s wherein Estanislao’s daughter, Fortunata married Severino David who made 16-foot lanterns that were lit by batteries from American military vehicles. Their union produced five boys and three girls.

Simbang Gabi at Iba Pa

Filipinos are said to celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world. At the start of the “ber” month, the air is filled with carols and people do not take down Christmas decors until the feast of the Three Kings is over.


“Misa de Gallo” (rooster’s mass), or “Misa de Aguinaldo” (gift mass), interchangeably, signals the official start of the season. But why on such an ungodly hour? In the old times, when the roosters crow at the break of dawn, the farmers and fishermen made it their alarm clock to wake up early and drop by the church before going to work for grace and good harvest. Farmers had to be in the field and fishermen had to be at sea before sunrise.

Traje de Mestiza to the Terno (1890s-1960s): An Evolution

For each decade, detailed outlines of how the national dress was evolving from the folds of the “panuelo” to the volume of the “saya”, even the women’s current hairstyle have been thoroughly researched to come up with a thesis of how the terno progressed.

During a nationwide terno design competition in 2003, Gino Gonzales fresh from New York, a scenographer, exhibition and costume designer was invited as a curator of the exhibit designs.

Dismayed at the turnout of the young designers’ competition, Gino couldn’t fathom how the terno was stylized, the need to reinvent the butterfly sleeves imposed on a western dress was unnecessary, without regard to its cultural background. When the terno ceased to be worn around the end of the Marcos period, it created a gap and vacuum in history where all the young people growing up in that period didn’t have the idea what the terno is.

Running against time, Gino thought of preserving the photographic sources of Philippine costumes in postcards which were fast deteriorating and disappearing. He only wanted to make a small picture book that was easy to carry around. In the process, he sought the help of Sandy Higgins for photos of the 1940s and 1950s for the planned book , while Mark Higgins, the son of postwar designer Salvacion Lim Higgins and a co-director of the fashion school SLIM’s, on impulse offered to partner in a 200-page magazine-size tome.

They presented the picture book to Ben Chan, chair of Suyen Corporation who loved what he saw and asked them to add another 100 pages resulting in a coffee-table book “Fashionable Filipinas” complete with a slipcase. Bench was on top of their list because it has connection with pop culture. It also has a roster of endorsers that could popularize the terno once more. A more affordable soft-bound version will be available, and Bench is donating copies to municipal libraries.