Colegio Filipino’s Filipiniana Chapel

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By Luci Lizares

Saturday, March 1, 2014

THERE was one section of the Colegio Filipino in Rome that Fr. Greg Gaston, Rector, was so proud to show us. It was the altar in their chapel. This beautiful altar was designed, crafted, donated and installed by Willy Layug of Betis, Guagua, Pampanga.

Willy Layug lived in Brgy. Ursula in Betis, considered to be the town’s art center as it is a community of sculptors and woodcarvers. He grew up exposed to this environment of artists and crafts and was greatly influenced by their sacred art.

But unlike most, Willy was schooled. He studied Fine Arts at the University of Sto. Tomas as a scholar of the Pampanga governor and from that, he opened a small shop.


When Mt. Pinatubo erupted and the fate of Pampanga was dim, Layug expanded his business, employing 29 skilled workers. That helped his town recover and once again be on the map as the premier woodcarving capital of the country.

To improve his skills, he traveled to Europe to observe and study the different works and styles of the Masters. It was in Seville, Spain that he learned the art of “estofado” which is applying gold leaf over the surface of a santo or his subject then painted with the desired color.

Layug was awarded the Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Ecclesiastical Art in 2002 and again in 2005 when he was awarded as the Most Outstanding Guaguaño for sculpture and ecclesiastical arts.

National artist Napoleon Abueva says Layug’s “daunting style in realism of representing religious icons is a new feat that has never been done by any ‘mandukit’ born in Betis.”

Willy Layug’s works now grace many churches in the Philippines.
When Layug visited Colegio Filipino in 2007, he noticed that there was no showcase of Filipino art at all in the building. So Layug donated relief murals, a lectern, a table, angels and a cross atop a main retablo (altar piece), all made of Filipino elements of pine wood, bamboo and gold leaf.

Fr. Greg explained to us that the main retablo depicts the martyrdom of two Filipino saints, Pedro Calungsod and Lorenzo Ruiz; while the two angels beside the tabernacle wear the baro’t saya and have Filipino features.

Most artists do leave their mark on their works. In this one, Layug immortalizes himself through one of the two men who killed Calungsod.

There is a distinct resemblance to Layug as you look closer.
Fr. Greg had a cute interpretation of the martyrdom of Calungsod. As a Bisaya, Calungsod said, “spear me,” not spare me. So he was slain…

Layug said he made the "Filipiniana altar" in honor of the first Filipino Cardinal, the Rufino Cardinal Santos, who was a native of Guagua, Pampanga.

The altar in the chapel in Colegio Filipino truly is a work of art in the genre of the Masters and done by our very own Filipino sculptor and artist, Willy Layug.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 01, 2014.


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