The Pious, Devotional Color Brown

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel rendered in exquisite stained glass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine, New Manila

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel rendered in exquisite stained glass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine, New Manila


In the old days, pious and zealous women (and yes, men) could afford to hear Masses at different churches of once-organized and manageable Manila.

My grandmother said that her parish then (this was in the 20s-40s) was Sta. Cruz. But as Nick Joaquin wrote, pre-war Manila families would troop to hear High Mass in the majestic, not to mention, historic “mother churches” of Intramuros. These were, namely, the Manila Cathedral, the San Agustin, the Sto. Domingo, the San Francisco, the San Nicolas de Tolentino, the San Ignacio and the Nsta. Sra. de Lourdes.

Thousands of devotees visit Sta. Clara on her feast day to write their petitions for the nuns

Thousands of devotees visit Sta. Clara on her feast day to write their petitions for the nuns

On Tuesdays, devotees of San Antonio, wearing the brown Franciscan habit (or anything brown) tied with a white knotted cord would hear Mass at the Venerable Orden Tercera (VOT) church perpendicular to the San Francisco. On Wednesdays, the church of the Redemptorists would be filled with devotees to the Socorro Perpetuo (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) while Fridays were reserved for el Nstro. Padre Jesus Nazareno of Quiapo. On First Fridays, the church of San Ignacio would be the place to be for devotees of the Most Sacred Heart who would come with the Red Scapular of the Apostolado de Oración.

Full-house: the devotees at a Mass in honor of Sta. Clara at the Monasterio de Sta. Clara

Full-house: the devotees at a Mass in honor of Sta. Clara at the Monasterio de Sta. Clara

Unfortunately, after the destruction of Manila, and its terribly-planned (was it even planned?) re-development, and with tumultuous changes of Vatican II, many old devotions have faded into oblivion. Many of the devotees are now old-timers, and the changes in Metro Manila have caused churches to be located far from each other.

Wearing the scapular in front of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel's statue

Wearing the scapular in front of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s statue

Fortunately for this writer, who is a devotee of Sta. Teresita, Sta. Clara, San Antonio de Padua, Padre Pio and Nstra. Sra. del Carmen (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel), churches associated to these powerful intercessors are quite accessible from where I live.

A statue of a mother kneeling in front of the Child Jesus held by San Antonio. This was originally found in the San Francisco in Intramuros before its destruction in 1945

A statue of a mother kneeling in front of the Child Jesus held by San Antonio. This was originally found in the San Francisco in Intramuros before its destruction in 1945

From Cubao, I can take the LRT to el Real Monasterio de la Inmaculada Concepción de la Madre de Dios de las Monjas de Sta. Clara (whew! what a name! it’s popularly known though as Monasterio de Sta. Clara), and a jeep to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine in Broadway or the Convent of St. Therese in Gilmore, both in New Manila. As for San Antonio, as I am now working in the Fort, I can visit the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park either by car or taxi.

Side entrance of California Mission-style Santuario de San Antonio

Side entrance of California Mission-style Santuario de San Antonio

What is evident among these saints, their religious orders, their cults, why their very shrines is that they’re all associated to the devotional color of Brown. Habits of Carmelite and Franciscan friars and nuns are brown as well as those of their associated Third Orders.

The Clarisas or Poor Clare nuns found behind the screen

The Clarisas or Poor Clare nuns found behind the screen

Carmelite nuns kneeling behind the enclosure as seen during Good Friday prayers

Carmelite nuns kneeling behind the enclosure as seen during Good Friday prayers

With Carmelite Friars

With Carmelite Friars

The bare altar of St. Therese on a Good Friday

The bare altar of St. Therese on a Good Friday

For both the Monasterio de Sta. Clara and the Carmel of St. Therese, the air of solemnity and sacredness is evident and obvious. The contemplative Poor Clares and Carmelites maintain chapels that are quiet, liturgically-alive (Gregorian chant, seraphic singing, observance of the Hours, etc) and well, quite popular. Sadly, the Sta. Clara church is poorly ventilated, with only one actual source of ventilation (the entrance to the left side of the altar. On the other hand, the chapel of the Carmelite nuns can be quite packed and whenever the relics or feast of St. Therese are celebrated there.

The ornate retablo of Santuario de San Antonio

The ornate retablo of Santuario de San Antonio

Thousands inside the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on her feast

Thousands inside the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on her feast

Blessing of Roses on the feast of St. Therese at the Carmelite Monastery in Gilmore

Blessing of Roses on the feast of St. Therese at the Carmelite Monastery in Gilmore

On the other hand, Mt. Carmel Shrine is cavernous and magnificently appointed with stained-glass windows while Santuario de San Antonio is elegantly furnished with retablos, tasteful statues and portraits, and yes, airconditioned. For both the friars’ churches, the retablos are magnificent – painted brown and tastefully accentuated with gold paint.

The tomb of the Servant of God Jerónima de la Asunción, an historic figure in the Philippine Catholic Church. She founded the Monasterio de Sta. Clara 400 years ago. Her known portrait was painted by famous Spanish court painter Diego Velasquez

The tomb of the Servant of God Jerónima de la Asunción, an historic figure in the Philippine Catholic Church. She founded the Monasterio de Sta. Clara 400 years ago. Her known portrait was painted by famous Spanish court painter Diego Velasquez

Dedication in Spanish. Its message is worth understanding.

Dedication in Spanish. Its message is worth understanding.

Visit these churches and read up more on the interesting history, culture and rituals of the Franciscans and Carmelites in the Philippines!

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
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6 Responses to The Pious, Devotional Color Brown

  1. Leonor Bustamante-Cinco says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I used to go to Monasterio de Sta. Clara, so many years back, when they were still in their original location. I perfectly remember that during that time, no one is allowed to talk face-to-face with the nuns. You can talk to them but they were behind a wooden wall. But in your pictures, apparently, people are now allowed to see their faces.

    Please keep on writing. You are a very talented young man. And your being an Atenean is very evident in your style. My son was in Ateneo from first year high school, until he graduated in college in 2006. Please don’t mind those haters/bashers. I think that your basher(s) have their own blog and they just feel threatened. At the end of the day, you are still the better writer who has real talent and who respects his followers by not using obscene language. Oh, yesss! I know one who has no problem using obscene language in his blog. And his blog is supposedly about the old Filipino culture. And he uploads pictures of himself in very “gayish” poses more than the historical places that are supposed to be the “star” of his blog.

    Looking forward to your next blog entry. Thank you, again, God bless, and more power to you! 🙂

    • hechoayer says:

      Muchas gracias Leonor y si! hahaha yo estoy de acuerdo completamente sobre el otro blog que siempre se figura el autor como la estrella de los sitios que el visita. que barbaridad!

      • leonorcinco says:

        hahaha…pardon me if i reply in English…i can understand written Spanish but i have yet to learn how to converse and listen to spoken Spanish. anyway, i dont really go to THAT blog anymore. what else can i say about THAT blog?…..QUE HORROR! 😀

  2. Very nice old photos! I am looking for very old images of our Parish 50 or 60 years ago, if you don’t mind my asking, where did you find the photos used in your blog?

    • hechoayer says:

      My apologies I only saw your reply now.

      Most of the black-and-white photos I use are from libraries while some are from my family’s collection.

      All the photos above were taken by me.

  3. jose says:

    “Sadly, the Sta. Clara church is poorly ventilated”
    The ancients, although they didn´t know applied physics, they were very good observers and they used what they had at hand to their benefit. All this precious knowledge got lost with the modern world. Not everything can be solved throwing money at it, like you do using air conditioning.
    The old Spanish-Filipino buildings (private and public ones ) were a master piece of how to get the best of what to us now appears like poor materials. But it worked very well. They didn´t know that warm air weighs less than cold air, but they use this fomenting airstream that changed the hot air for colder air. They used chapiz to filter the tropical sun light (and insulating from the hot sun), the ground floor (in a church, the crypt) “makes ” cold air, etc… In a certain way, the nipa huts of old work in a similar way.
    This Poor Clares must forget that they are in Sunny California and:
    1 Isolate the roof (the new trend in California is whitewashing it: the white colour repels the sun, hence the white washed pueblos in Spain ), 2 make the air run from cold places to warmer places, from low to high (you have to open the windows in those places to favor the change), 3 protect the windows that are orientated towards the south and the west. Otherwise they are solar collectors, ideal for northern climates but deadly for tropical ones. One idea could be doubling these windows with a blackish tainted crystal, but living a small gap between these panes and the old ones with a room that allows the heated air escape. Whith this you will be able to watch the pictures on the windows much better. I remind you that in hot countries windows are very small to protect the interiors from the sun.4 If the walls orientated towards the south and the west are thin, as they should be because it is standard in modern buildings, you can isolated them covering the outside with wooden slats (wood is a very good insulating ). 5 Is there a crypt under the church ? if so, open vents on the church floor that breaks the vault underneath….etc.
    A church is a house of pray, not a sauna or slaughterhouse.
    Do not despise our ancestors´s wisdom.

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