No one knows how the town of Pakil, in the province of Laguna, got its name exactly, nor can anyone, for that matter, pinpoint when and where their centuries-old parish acquired the life-sized crucifix in the photo above. Local lore says that, at least two hundred years ago, an old man came knocking at the church and asked to speak with the priest. The parishioners, their curiosity piqued by the strange appearance of the man, immediately summored the cura parroco. The old man would not say much of his business in Pakil, but asked for some carving tools, a room in which to work, and a day's ration of bread and water. The priest, baffled at the man's unusual request, immediately ordered that the man's needs be accommodated at the soonest possible time. When all of this was done, the man shut himself in the room, locking it from within and out.
Each day, the parishioners would hear pounding noises, and being familiar with the craft of the sculptor, they guessed that the mysterious man was a sculptor. But what was he building? At every occasion they could, the people who brought food for the man would try to look inside his makeshift workshop, but they would always fail to see what the man was working on. Finally, on the seventh day, the parish priest noticed that all was quiet in the room. The men decided to check on the man, fearing the worst had happened. When they reached the room where the mysterious man had stayed, the door, which had previously been sealed, was left ajar, and the people fell prostrate as a magnificently carved image of the Crucified greeted them. The carving tools were laid neatly on one side, looking as if they had not been used at all. When they tried to find the man in order to thank him, they couldn't find him anywhere. The people of Pakil were convinced that he disappeared under their very noses.
Stylistically, the crucifix seems to share a lot of the characteristics of Mexican Christs. The features are certainly not Asian; the defined ribs and whirls and whorls that form the pattern of the image's blood are certainly uncommon in Philippine religious art. The hair, too, is carved, although one cannot see it because of the wig (which is, OTOH, a common trait in Filipino Christs). The image is enshrined in the parish of San Pedro de Alcantara, which is also home to one of the most beloved Virgins of the Tagalogs, NS de los Dolores de Turumba (Our Lady of Sorrows of the Dance; I'll post about that in the future).
- Addendum -
Apparently, the corpus also serves as Pakil's Santo Entierro. Come Holy Wednesday, it is taken down from the cross, and brought to the house of its caretaker. The arms of the image are articulated, meaning they can be folded up on its sides. This was a common practice in the Philippines up until the early to mid twentieth century. Once the image of the Lord reaches its destination, it is given a bath; no water is used, but rather, a mixture of lambanog ('cane vodka' for lack of a better term) and cologne. Lambanog is known for its powerful kick, having, on average, 80 to 90 proof variations (when my great granddad used to drink the stuff, it was up to 200). After the bath it is laid out on a banig or straw mat; below the mat, a cauldron containing several lanzones fruit is burned. The odor of coming from the cauldron serves to 'perfume' the Senor, and as the townsfolk of Pakil believe, symbolizes the prayers of the faithful rising up as smoke before the altar of God.
Come Good Friday, the image is carried in the solemn procession of entombment; it is carried on the shoulders, and not wheeled around on a carrozza, as is popular in these parts. Behind the image follow musicians, singing a song of lament. Finally, the image stops on several occasions, while the town-crier wails mournfully, 'Senor, misericordia Senor!' The people repeat his acclamation; all in all this happens three times, after which the procession resumes its course.