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Gifted artist gives back gift of Faith


Sta. Maria Santissima del Sagrario backdropped by the magnificent retablo of the Betis church. Photo by Bong Z. Lacson


GIVING BACK the gift of Faith after 500 years.

No simple, if expanded, paraphrase of the theme of the quincentenary of the Christianization of the Philippines Gifted to give but its very actualization obtained Saturday afternoon at the Santiago Apostol parish church in Betis, Guagua, Pampanga.

A despedida a la virgen” was held for the image of Sta. Maria del Sagrario that will make its way to Malaga, Spain by the end of March, to be enshrined at the Parroquia de Nuestro Padre Jesus de la Verdad in the barrio of Carranque.

Anxiously awaited to be welcomed, the parroquia said of the image that is also set for an exhibit also eagerly awaited by the Philippine consular office in the area.

Encasement of the tindalo de Carcar wood in the bust by Archbishop Dong Lavarias, Archbishop Emeritus Apu Ceto, Fr. Rao de los Santos, and Willy Layug.

bust of the Sorrowful Mother sculpted by foremost ecclesiastical artist Willy Tadeo Layug of Betis will be fitted to its body sculpted in Spain.

Coming full circle in our Christian journey in 500 years, said local historian Francis Musni who organized the event. A revisit of the gesture of the gesture of Ferdinand Magellan in gifting Raja Colambu, shortly after being baptized and taking the Christian name of then prince and later King Carlos III, with the image of the Sto. Niño.

We were gifted with the Holy Infant Jesus, we are returning the gesture with the gift of the Holy Mother,Layug said.

The fivecentury gap between the events seemingly bridged with a fragment of tindalo de Carcar wood of the same variety recorded to have been used by Magellan for the cross he erected after the first Mass in the Philippines in Masaua on March 31, 1521 that was encased at the base of the bust of Sta. Maria del Sagrario. The wood was earlier touched on the original Holy Infant image with the permission of the rector of the Basilica of the Sto. Niño de Cebu.

The encasement rite
, as well as the blessing of the image, was presided by San Fernando Archbishop Florentino Lavarias and Archbishop Emeritus PacianoB. Aniceto with the parish priest Fr. Raul de los Santos.

Archbisop Lavarias blessing the image.


Last year, the Grupo Parroquial de Nuestro Padre Jesus de Verdad ante Caifas y Sta. Maria Santissima del Sagrario commissioned Layug to sculpt an image of the Virgin upon instruction of the archbishop of Malaga.

I asked why it was me that they chose when there are many sculptors in their region, Layug recalled. They said I was referred to them by the renowned imaginero Francisco Romero Zafra under whose tutelage I came during my studies in Spain.

I sensed immediately that they were short of funds to commission Spanish sculptors, especially when they noted that the image that would be retired and replaced by what they were asking me to do was a donation,Layug said.

Seeing the project as an opportunity to give back for what he learned from Zafra and his Spanish sojourn, Layug accepted the commission for free: It would not be a gift if I get paid for itand wheres the blessing there?

Aside from his mastery of his art, Layug is also well known for donating his church works, the retablo at the Pontificio Collegio Filipino in Rome, the cross for the Luneta Mass of Pope Francis, and the image of the Virgin in Palo, Leyte just to name three.


Prayerful journey

There is a more personal aspect to his acceptance of the commission, Layug said.

Willy Layug tells of personal, prayerful journey leading to the image of Sta. Maria Santissima del Sagrario

On the very first Holy Week procession I joined in Sevilla (Spain), I was awed at the devotion of the people, as well as the beauty, aye, the holiness evoked by the images. Right then and there, I wished, I hoped, I prayed that someday one of my very own obras will be part of the procession, Layug reminisced.

This Holy Week comes the fulfilment of his prayer: Sta. Maria Santissima del Sagrario will be processioned through the ancient streets of Carranquein Malaga, Spain.

All photos by Bong Z. Lacson


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