THINK of the nativity tableau, or the more popular “Belen,” and chances are you’ll imagine its major cast: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, alongside the three kings Melchior, Gaspar, Balthazar. The farm animals roving thereabouts.
At the Casa Gorordo Museum, an exhibit of nearly 200 characters animates a tableau depicting the 12 famous scenes of the Nativity story.
Renowned iconographer Dr. Clodoveo Nacorda emphasized the intangible importance of the Belen and how the youth should see themselves as story tellers of Christian devotion.
“Belen is devotion, not a decoration. When you set up a house Belen (just like how the Gorordo family does it), you just don’t put up a decoration like the Christmas tree. You actually begin devotion. If the parents would not know the value of the Belen, then the youth as well will just see it as a mere decoration,” he said.
“The function of the Belen is really to create a message and to teach the younger ones about their religion in an interactive way, most especially if you ask the children to help you when you assemble a Belen,” said Casa Gorordo curator Florencio Moreno II.
Josepha Gorordo Revilles, now 85, and believed to be the last Gorordo, recalled how she used to help her aunt in setting up the Belen in their house.
“It feels so nostalgic seeing the old Belen displayed downstairs. Every year, there is a new way of presentation, not like before, but we have to accept the new one also,” she said.
Walking inside the closely-covered “silong” (the museum’s reception area for guests, in which the Belen exhibit in Casa Gorordo is put up) is like walking inside a cinema, with only minimal lights, subtle local Christmas carols, and an LED screen presenting a brief summary of the Nativity story.
This is the first time the house is showing an interactive Belen presentation. Since it is dark inside, the visitors have to journey with the shifting light illuminating every scene as they huddle around a square platform (that holds the miniatures) to fully understand the entire three-minute looped nativity presentation.
Some scenes also depict a tale of morality. These are among the scenes depicted: an angel telling the three wise men that a King is born, the visit of the three wise men to the manger, the presentation of the Child Jesus at the temple, the massacre of the innocents by King Herod, the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, the Finding of the Child Jesus at the Temple, and the story of Cain and Abel.
Some of the miniatures are collections of the Gorordo family since the early 1900s. Some are made of ivory.
“Some pieces here, like the angels, the figures of Mary, Joseph and Simeon are made out of ivory, but unfortunately we lost some pieces over time,” said Moreno.
Moreno said that for this Christmas, the museum wanted to make the storytelling of the Belen more interesting by integrating some digital technologies.
“It took us two months to make it. For the creation of this Belen, we had to get young artists to help us with the restoration. We also got electronics and communications engineers to have the lighting for us,” he said.
As part of the tradition, the exhibit is open to the public from Dec. 15, 2018 to Jan. 21, 2019. The tour of the Belen exhibit is already included in the museum tour package. Wenilyn Sabalo, USJ-R Intern