IN LINE with the celebration of Macabebe’s 443rd founding anniversary, the local government launched on January 16 the first Santero Festival to celebrate the flourishing statue-making industry in town.
The festival, a brainchild of Mayor Annette Balgan, is dedicated to the town’s “Santeros” who continue to relive and develop the decades-old ecclesiastical statue-making tradition of Macabebe town.
Santeros are the craftsmen who carve wood, ivory, cement or fiberglass, and use different materials to produce all parts of an ecclesiastical art piece known as a “santo,” usually an image of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary or a saint.
Municipal Tourism Officer Catherine Flores said statue-making in Macabebe started in the early 1950’s when residents do it as part of their personal profession of faith.
Later on, some families started commercializing it and turned it into their livelihood by traveling and bringing their artworks in other parts of the country to sell them.
“Matagal na itong kabuhayan ng karamihan sa Macabebe. Minana pa namin ito sa aming mga ninuno at nararapat lang na ito ay mabigyan ng pansin sa pamamagitan ng isang activity na magsecelebrate sa itong industriyang ito,” she said.
The festival, which was highlighted by a streetdance competition, celebrated the artistic and rigorous method of creating religious statues, from the carving, to hair and eyelashes-making, to painting and coating, said Flores.
While Guagua town is famous for wood carving, Flores said that Macabebe’s statue making is very unique, as it involves numerous craftsmen who will produce the body from its choice of material, the eyelashes made from dog’s fur, the fine hair and artistic painting, as well as the embroidery of the clothes.
To celebrate such art, Flores said the different stages of statue-making were translated into artistic movements and were incorporated as dance steps in the street dancing competition participated in by senior high school students in town.
She added that the final posture of the dance must relive the position of a chosen saint, such as Sto. Nino, San Nicolas, or Mama Mary, among others.
“In this way, naibabahagi namin sa kabataan ang proseso ng paggawa ng santo at ang kahalagahan nito sa kultura at kabuhayan ng Macabebe, habang pinopromote namin ang industriyang ito bilang primary livelihood namin,” she said.
Aside from the unique and personal dance steps, Flores said the local government also commissioned a Kapampangan artist to create an authentic music for Santero Festival used in the street dance competition.
Balgan, for her part, said the Santero Festival is a product of years of brainstorming to create a festival that will both preserve the history and culture of its town while promoting its industry of statue-making.
“I believe na you cannot love your town if you don’t know its history kaya ako, bata pa lang ako pinag-aaralan ko na ang history ng Macabebe at mas lalong binigyan ko ito ng pansin noong naging mayor ako,” she said.
Balgan said that when she assumed the local chief executive post, she started cultivating the town’s rich culture and history, resulting in Macabebe having its own hymn and the recognition of local heroes by the national government.
While Balgan is on her last term as local chief executive, she assured that the Santero Festival will be institutionalized and will become the official festival of the town.
“It will be included in the next agenda of the Sangguniang Bayan at alam ko na nagkakaisa ang mga taga-Macabebe kaya naniniwala ako na maii-institutionalize itong Santero Festival,” she said, adding she will continue to support the activity even without a government post.