Sto. Niño icons – Garcia’s devotion since childhood

Posted on September 26, 2012

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Some of the Sto. Niño icon collection of Msgr. Cris Garcia exhibited at the Cathedral Museum. This photo was taken in 2008 (LITO TECSON)

Msgr. Cristobal Garcia’s collection of religious icons and paintings are a familiar sight during Cebu’s biggest fiesta honoring the Sto. Niño, of which he has been a devotee since childhood.

These would be displayed in exhibits to celebrate the feast day of the Holy Child Jesus every third Sunday of January.

Icons of different materials can also be seen at a small museum in the compound of the Society of Angels of Peace, a congregation Garcia founded in barangay Cansojong, Talisay City, Cebu.

His collections range from 300-year-old heirlooms to newly carved pieces, paintings, statues and “stampita” (scapular) bought within and outside the country.

So far, no one in Cebu can match the collection of Garcia. Those who know him say that he can well afford expensive art pieces.  His family partly owns the country’s second biggest power distribution firm, Visayan Electric Co.

Louie Nacorda, a renowned Cebu iconographer and a friend of Garcia’s, said collecting paintings, icons and statues had become an expression of his and Garcia’s spirituality.

“He (Garcia) has an ivory collection. I have an ivory collection. But to say, there is an ivory trade here, it is unfair. We just buy our ivory things in religious stores in Manila. There is no market here in Cebu. Every time I save money, I visit different stores in Manila. I buy it,” said Nacorda.

Garcia’s collection started when he was 5 years old.

His grandfather, Gil Garcia, gave him his first image—the Sto. Niño de Belen from Spain – for his birthday.  The young Cris was at a store and saw the glass encased image of the boy Jesus sitting on hay and flowers.

“I pointed to it and told him that that was what I wanted for my birthday,” Garcia said in a Cebu Daily News article in Jan. 13, 2008.

The same holds true with Garcia who can afford to buy ivory pieces whenever he goes out of the country, he said.

The gift, however, led to a collection of more than 100 Sto. Niño paintings and icons.

Some of his collections, however, were given by people and friends, who had heard about his passion.

He also kept an image of the Sto. Niño de Praga, which he found in a trash can in Anaheim, California.

Fr. Brian C. Brigoli, head curator of the Cathedral Museum of Cebu, recalled that Garcia handled everything—from the curatorial design to the equipment and fixture in an exhibit there two years ago.

All those on display,about a hundred, were personal collections of Garcia.

But Brigoli said that none of these items was made of ivory, apparently for security reasons.

He, however, said Garcia had told him that he had an ivory collection.

Brigoli said he was impressed by Garcia’s collection. “He was a serious collector,” said Brigoli. “No one can match his collection. It was extensive.”

Brigoli, a conservator, recalled that he had held a training in Garcia’s congregation on how to preserve paintings. One of the paintings he saw was dated early 19th century.

“He told me about his passion of collecting. Whenever he goes to other places, he sees to it that he buys one for his religious collections. Even when he was still a boy, he used to collect things,” he added.

Brigoli explained that Garcia displayed his collection, not to brag about it but to use the exhibit as a “medium of education, medium for evangelization and source of enjoyment.”

He said the exhibit was Garcia’s way of showing and sharing his devotion to the Holy Child Jesus and inviting the people to share his faith.

In the CDN article four years ago, Garcia said he decided to hold an exhibit of his collection to share his faith.

“Looking at the image of the Sto. Niño has taught me who I am. He has invited me to a spiritual childhood which, as I said, has an effect on me,” he said./INQUIRER

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