OUR LADY OF PEACE AND GOOD VOYAGE
The religious figurine is also called “Mahal na Birhen ng Antipolo.” I just don’t know how it came to be known as a patron of spiritual significance which virtually made Antipolo as mecca for pilgrims and devotees. All that I know is that the mother of my grandmother, I had no more means to determine her name already, who once was a prominent lady during the Spanish regime in the town of Binan, Laguna, that I was informed through oral tradition, owned a religious figurine called “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.” It was also the same statuette look-alike found on the main altar of Antipolo Church.
The figurine dated back to the late 1700s. It was passed on to my grandmother by virtue of the fact that she was the eldest. On top of that, my grandmother (Consuelo Gilbuena Legaspi) had a relatively big house in San Pedro, Laguna and the figurine was prominently entrenched on a platform ornately festooned regularly with flowers. It was in this ancestral house, a place I oftentimes spent my summer vacation, that I would appreciate the flawless art work. The head and hands of the figurine were done in pure ivory and the intricate carving could have been conducted by a master craftsman familiar with if not an expert in sculpting precious stones.
The altar had seen better days even during two world wars, several revolutions and countless calamities. My grandmother strictly would shield the icon and preserved the entire case and base including the statuette itself. The figurine was on top of the list to be evacuated in case of emergency never mind any living warm body around. It was the most revered, the most exquisite if not the most expensive property my grandmother possessed. She would rather bid all her heirloom jewels goodbye but never the icon.
She was fond of whispering to me whenever she would catch me ogling at the statuette that the image had miraculous powers when invoked.
Blurred by animistic ancient culture and foreign induced belief system, Filipinos generally would subscribe to idolatry and fanaticism on supernatural intervention as the foundation of their faith.
When grandmother passed away (1977), father took it home in our residence at Project 2, Quezon City, then one of the newly built houses with two storeys in the neighborhood. The figurine had a new temple and it was given a prominent corner in our house. The altar eventually would be moved inside my father’s room since at that time, father had retired and most often, he was always recuperating in his room. When my father departed (2008), my sister took the icon in her protective turf.
A calamity with unexpected force, it was typhoon Ondoy, inundating and flooding our ancestral house as it sank all our precious furniture, appliances and worst, the entire case and contents of the revered figurine. Our piano was rendered useless, two cars were virtually junked, wooden cabinets, books, kitchenware, all were tainted with brackish water and mud. It was a disaster of expensive proportion. At a glimpse, our movable properties were reduced to trash. After the flash flood, the entire household was a forlorn picture. My sister was a figure of despondency. Her family barely saved anything precious, worst, the figurine was in tatters too.
A few months after, my sister’s health turned to worst. The figurine was moved into her room. The statuette’s habiliments were still muddied, the case had already broken and the flowing golden curly hair even caught fire. My sister was no longer ambulatory and could no longer flex her muscle to take care of other concerns. When she crossed over (2012), the figurine was likewise wrapped in a plastic bag and stacked under the kitchen sink, there to await the verdict of nature.
I took time, years later, to revisit my ancestral house, revived its atmosphere by cleaning and sprucing it up. It was then that I discovered the figurine’s sad plight and condition. I carefully picked up its ruined parts and folded its almost damaged physical condition then brought it out for repair and rehabilitation.
I took it to my place in Davao and in the confines of my library and workshop (2015), meticulously bathed the habiliments of the figurine, corrected the posture, customized its long curly hair and cleaned the pure ivory head and hands. It has a new case also and its intricately carved wooden flanks repainted. Now, it stands proudly on my altar, its entire aura projecting not only its religious significance but also its historical importance.
I even noticed although it never even occurred as my concern that the trinkets which have been yellowed and rusted by time have slowly bloomed and seemed to be glistening already. It could be natural or just my imagination.
Anyway, the statue is now at the center of my place and regularly bedecked with flowers.
It is almost 300 years old since and had gone through every segment of pain and success of its possessors. The statue is reverently aloft the dais. And I must confess out of respect that my ancestors must be very pleased.