Monday, June 22, 2015
San Antonio Fiesta, Balara, 2015
June 13- Woke a bit late today. Supposedly I need to be back at my Lola's house in Balara around noon so I can still finish dressing up the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Immaculate Conception) and St. Joseph at the chapel in time for the procession. I still decided to go with the plan but since I started my day late, I roughly have an hour to finish everything (which is a bit tough for me since dressing up images is not really my forte, one hour is daunting). So I called up my Tita Gina once again since I need all the help I can get to ensure it gets done before the Fiesta Mass at 5:30 pm.
Each image in the chapel used to have a family sponsoring its carroza and its "Fiesta clothes." However Balara now is no longer the old Balara I grew up in. Most of the "original" residents have relocated, if not retired or have already passed away. Thus, for the past 3 years or so, I took up this charge of dressing up the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph since no one was volunteering to do it, and it's just so sad to see (at least for me) these images neglected. So what I do is I lend these images clothes of my own images that are not being used; although I have already suggested to my Mom to include these images in her budget for the next fiesta.
Thank God we finished everything on time!
The Fiesta Mass
The images are now ready for the Fiesta Procession. Critical for me this year is changing the halo or aureola of St. Joseph which for the longest time has 12 stars (reserved for the Blessed Virgin Mary). I pointed it out to the chapel caretaker as I changed it and asked them to keep the original one, since according to them it was there for as long as they can remember. But it is wrong...and now corrected! Hay I wish I have extra budget I could use to spend on these beautiful images...they badly need repairs
The Fiesta Mass surprisingly started on time. Initially the organizers where worried since they were not able to get any priest (or the scheduled priest canceled last minute) but an hour before the mass they were able to get one, thank heavens! I can't imagine a fiesta without a mass. I believe in the statement that the greatest form of devotion is the Eucharist whether it be devotion to the Blessed Virgin or to St. Anthony, eventually that devotion should bring you closer to God who is truly present in the Eucharist. The choir is another concern of the organizers, the answer, a CD. It's not ideal but times like this you just got to make do with what you have. It's sad though because San Antonio's Fiesta in Balara used to be a grand event in this small town but now, well it appears, no longer. But I admire the people who still keep it alive. Kudos to the organizers!
In the priest's homily, he pointed out that the image of St. Anthony he prefers is a St. Anthony holding a bible where the Child Jesus is seated (the chapel's image of St. Anthony is a post-war image and by this time is already considered an antique; and aside from the usual "encarna" nothing was changed. The image does not hold a bible and I can't imagine how a meter tall image can hold one. Come to think of it, I can't recall any processional image of St. Anthony holding a bible except for painted ones in old "Stampitas"). His homily is basically about St. Anthony's knowledge of the Word of God, symbolized by the Bible, which enabled him to do great things and become a well-loved saint. The greatest manifestation of course was the appearance of the Child Jesus whom he held in his arms. He also pointed out that he does not know any Franciscans "who dress like our image of St. Anthony" noting the evolution of art for images, no offense taken, since he is right Franciscans take a vow of poverty and if we are going to be strict about it, St. Anthony should be dressed as a simple man (not really bejeweled which was my motif this year...but this is not to be confused with what is realistic versus what is acceptable, there is a tradition for dressing up images that is widely accepted by Catholics and that is that, nothing more nothing less). In my mind of course it is clear, but after the mass I have some of my neighbors coming up to me telling me to ignore what the priest said during the homily, concerned probably how I may have received the comment; I wasn't expecting it but to be honest I am more uncomfortable with people telling me it is okay versus hearing what the priest just said. So, I just smiled and nodded because really, I wasn't offended by the comment he made during the homily and second, it's really not a big deal. Yes it is something to reflect on because St. Anthony is a simple man when he was alive, he was born rich but he chose to live a simple life. But religious images are religious images. Traditions are traditions. And in Balara, St. Anthony is always dressed with a new set of vestments every June 13th and as far as I can remember, it is always embellished with gold patches.
The image of St. Anthony being taken to its carroza
The Carroza of St. Anthony
Mang Mando's family, year after year, never ceases to amaze. They have to this day fulfilled their "panata" to ensure that the chapel and St. Anthony's carroza are decorated fantastically for the fiesta. This year is no exception using a bed of flowers from the fire tree lighted underneath, it was truly beautiful. Initially I thought the flowers used for the "bed" was alstroemeria but I noticed the stem is quite thin for an alstroemeria, my assumption was later corrected by relatives who confirmed that the flowers used were the blooms of the Fire Tree which is abundant in the area.
For those not familiar with this tree, the Fire tree looks like this (see below), and the flowers are usually high up so you can just imagine the effort to get it, but relatively it is more cost efficient instead of buying a lot of flowers to cover the "bed."
The Fire Tree, taken from Google
And here is how the Fire Tree blooms look life, very delicate yet the color is very striking and vivid. Notice the resemblance with alstroemeria?
The blooms of a Fire Tree, taken from Google
A closer look
Getting Ready for the Procession
About a quarter to 7 p.m., the outside of the chapel is now abuzz with activity. Firecrackers are lit up while the marching band started to pound on the huge drums they carry. The images are one by one placed atop their carroza's. Old neighbors are reunited and you can hear a lot of "kamustahan" and laughter. It's the same frenzy year after year, but I noticed that more people are joining the procession this year compared to the previous year. (I initially noticed this during communion, the priest ran out of host to distribute that's why he apologized after that he wasn't able to calculate the number of people who attended the mass correctly). More people is always good...Viva San Antonio!
The image of the Sto. Nino in his new, fully embroidered vestment.
The chapel's beloved images of Mary, left to right: The Immaculate Conception, Santa Maria della Strada and Our Lady of Grace/ or the Miraculous Medal
San Antonio at the "place of honor" being the Festejado
I am happy to see the procession being led by the Cereales (altar servers or sacristans holding a crucifix flanked by candles on each side). It's been years since I last saw this. I was also informed that during the Pansol Fiesta last May 31st, the image of San Antonio joined the procession in honor of the patron of the Parish, Santa Maria della Strada. I concluded that the new parish priest must like religious images and catholic traditions which is something rare for parish priests in the city (although I am not sure if the parish priest is new as well...this is just my conclusion).
San Antonio atop a bed of blooms. As my Mom puts it, fiery as St. Anthony's passion to serve God
Waiting for the procession from my Lola's House