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Commission assesses 150-year-old image of ‘Divino Rostro,’ centuries-old icon of ‘Ina’

By Paulo DS. Papa

THE national shrine of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia and the Arts Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO) of the LGU Naga await the final results of the assessment conducted by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on the original images of El Divino Rostro and Nuestra Sra. de Peñafrancia.

On Monsignor Rodel Cajot’s request the NHCP visited last October 27, this year, the shrine and assessed the 150 year old painting of El Divino Rostro. The priest is the rector of Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Barangay Balatas, here.

In an interview, Rev Fr. Juan Pablo Carpio, vice rector, told Bicol Mail that the results will serve as very important guide in the conduct of the restoration process.

Carpio said, sometime in 2018 and 2019, Monsignor Cajot, expressed his request to restore the original image of El Divino Rostro (The Holy Face) due to deteriorating molds seen in the image.

He added that for years, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the original image of El Divino Rostro was paraded during Traslacion and Fluvial processions and was exposed in natural elements, causing deterioration of the image which is highly revered by the Catholic believers for around 150 years.

The pandemic slow down made the priests to decide to formally inform the NHCP about what they observed on the images and asked the commission for assistance. The Basilica’s vice rector was confident that their request will be granted because NHCP Chairman Renne Escalante, is a native of Sorsogon province and a devotee of Ina and El Divino Rostro.

“We are lucky enough because the present NHCP chairman is a Bicolano from Sorsogon and also a devotee of Ina and El Divino Rostro,” he said.

Carpio elaborated that the team have found salt deposits in the original image of El Divino Rostro. They also found white stains embossed from the image’s surface which was, hypothetically caused by high humidity at the Basilica’s camarin where the image was displayed.

He narrated that during the assessment, the team discovered the base that support the entire frame of the image was made of lawanit thus they suggested to change it with hardwood. They added, that the transparent mirror used to the image as protective screen should have placed few inches away from it few.

Meanwhile, Alec Francis Santos, head of the Arts Culture and Tourism Office said that based from the initial result of the assessment to El Divino Rostro, the paint was made of natural ingredients.

Santos assured that experts from the commission possess the knowledge to recreate the materials which was used in painting the Divino Rostro. He added, the NHCP was able to determine the specific composition of the paint without compromising the image’s original colors.

Asked about how much funds are needed for the restoration, Santos said that once the evaluation’s final result is released, his office will request the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for the funding since the agency is mandated to provide assistance for the restoration of cultural artifacts such as El Divino Rostro and Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

Original image of the Lady

The restoration team, on the same day, also assessed the original image of Ina by removing her manto.

Santos said, the restoration of the original image of Ina was also considered in time for her tercentenary anniversary of canonical coronation as the Queen and Patroness of Bicol in 2024.

The city’s tourism officer disclosed that the image’s restoration will take place depending on the NHCP’s final recommendation. It was sculpted more than 322 years ago.

With regards to what kind of wood will be used in restoring Ina’s image, Carpio said that they have already consulted the Forest and Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the matter and that they are waiting for the government agency’s response.

It is believed that her original image was carved in santol wood, he said.


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