For Gen­er­a­tions to Come

Philippine Tatler - - SKIN IS IN -

when two stal­warts of Philip­pine art and cul­ture—Jaime Zó­bel de Ay­ala and thenBSP Gov­er­nor Jaime C Laya—found it and brought it home.

“[At the time,] I was in­ter­ested in en­rich­ing the Cen­tral Bank col­lec­tion,” Laya re­calls. “Don Jaime alerted me to the Niño be­ing sched­uled for auc­tion at Christie’s. I hap­pened to be in Lon­don and so went to Christie’s to take a look.

“I was im­pressed and asked the PNB of­fice in Lon­don to bid for it, set­ting a max­i­mum bid of £170,000 [at to­day’s rates, around £540,463.12 or Php 37,228,360.22].”

It is now the cen­tre­piece of the re­li­gious art col­lec­tion and, due to its fi­nan­cial value, its prici­est item. But the sweet-faced Niño is price­less to the na­tion, as it stands as a prime ex­am­ple of lo­cal crafts­man­ship.

The stat­uette it­self is 3.5-cm long and wears a finely-wo­ven piña tu­nic caught at the waist with a gir­dle wrought of gold and semi-pre­cious stones. The sil­ver fil­i­gree bed in which it lies is em­bed­ded with gem­stones en cabo­chon and smaller enamel fig­ures, in­clud­ing an­gels play­ing mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and a cloi­sonné-work bird that seems to be the fo­cus of the Holy In­fant’s gaze. The un­known artist who crafted the stat­uette has mas­ter­fully cap­tured the sleepy yet happy face of a con­tent child, while the Chi­nese sil­ver­smith who crafted the bed has trans­formed it into an over­load on the senses, so rich it is in minute, finely crafted de­tails.

To the un­trained eye, the tableau is a merry one of a bab y awak­ened from slum­ber by a brightly-coloured avian vis­i­tor. But the im­age is also one fraught with stark re­li­gious im­agery: some of the items hang­ing from the canopy are im­ple­ments of the cru­ci­fix­ion—nails, ham­mers, lad­ders, and pin­cers—and the in­evitable fate of Christ. It is sad to note, how­ever, that Vil­le­gas passed away ear­lier this year. But the book stands as his legacy to the na­tion, one that speaks of the rich­ness of the past.

Ac­cord­ing to cur­rent BSP Gov­er­nor Amando M Te­tangco Jnr, “Likha will make you proud of our an­ces­tors who cre­ated these works of art.” In­deed, the en­dur­ing legacy of art—from re­li­gious and de­vo­tional items, to per­sonal adorn­ments and cloth­ing, to fur­ni­ture that stand the test of time—is a tes­ta­ment to the in­nate artistry, in­ge­nu­ity, adapt­abil­ity, and re­silience of the Filipino peo­ple.

For Te­tangco and the cu­ra­tors of the BSP, as well as the au­thors who penned the es­says which pop­u­late this unique tome, it is the ra­tio­nale that drives the in­sti­tu­tion’s ac­tive in­volve­ment in pre­serv­ing the coun­try’s cul­tural trea­sures for pos­ter­ity.

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