Many of the novices, priests, staff and visitors to the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches would claim that the heart of the building is the Sacred Heart Chapel, which at the second floor of the main building. Aside from the Sacred Heart Chapel, there are five more chapels in the complex; specifically the Immaculate Conception, Della Strada, St. Francis Xavier, Holy Family and Saint Joseph chapels.
Upon entering the chapel, the visitors’ attention are often drawn to the crucifix above the altar, and people would tend to gloss over a 300 year old icon of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). The statue may have originally come from the San Pedro Macati Church (founded in 1620), but the information about this piece is a bit vague, since the Jesuits were expelled from the Spain and its colonies by an decree of King Charles III (1716-1788), in 1767 (and was enforced in the Philippines in 1768). After their expulsion, all properties of the Jesuits in the Philippines were distributed among the different Catholic religious orders, with the exception of the Dominicans. However, in 1852, the Jesuits were invited back to the Philippines by Queen Isabella II (1830-1904), years after Pope Pius VII (Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, 1742-1823) reinstates the Jesuits, in 1814.
At the walls of the Sacred Heart Chapel are the 14 wooden reliefs of the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross, which depict the Passion of Jesus Christ and his death. Depending on year the images were created, there are three different translations to what are depicted in each Station of the Cross. In the chapel, the version that is on display is the same set that the Franciscans had first introduced to their churches in the 1650s, and had been the standard up to 1991. Looking at the carving style of the reliefs, I can assume that these pieces were made by the santeros (makers of saints), from the carving town of Paete, in the Province of Laguna.
- Pilate condemns Jesus to die
- Jesus accepts his cross
- Jesus falls for the first time
- Jesus meets his mother, Mary
- Simon helps carry the cross
- Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
- Jesus falls for the second time
- Jesus meets the three women of Jerusalem
- Jesus falls for the third time
- Jesus is stripped of his clothes
- Jesus is nailed to the cross
- Jesus dies on the cross
- Jesus is taken down from the cross
- Jesus is placed in the tomb
Returning back to the ground floor of the main building, visitors move through the northern corridor to the Refectory Dining Hall, which is decorated with three sets of Paete carvings of Filipino folk life. The first relief is that of a Sabungero, carrying his rooster on the way to a cock fight; which has been a favorite gambling pastime of the Filipinos for centuries. The second relief features the traditional dance of the Tinikling, which originated in the island of Leyte. And the third relief shows a woman carrying a tubâ (coconut liquor) container.
The Sacred Heart Novitiate has several dining halls that are scattered around the complex. The main dining hall at the main building is the most commonly used. However, when there are many visitors taking their retreats and seminars, the staff opens up the other mess halls to accommodate the visitors.
Still on the ground floor on the northward passageway of the main building, there is still another eating place, which is simply named Ding Hall II. This is where the novices, priests and staff take their snacks and coffee. The walls of the dining hall are decorated with drawings by children who had visited the novitiate.
Right outside the walls of Dining Hall II are three paintings of a Kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) on the city streets, a vendor near the Quiapo Church Bell Tower, and Mangingisda (fishermen) after a day’s catch. These paintings were created by Patoy Estano and Cesar (or Teodoro Jr) Buenaventura, of the famed Mabini Group of artists. These works were most likely gifts to a priest, who in turn had donated them to the novitiate.
Cesar Buenaventura (1922-1983) is a painter and the youngest son of noted artist and educator, Teodoro Pascual Buenaventura (1863- 1950). Known for his colorful stylized landscapes and rural scenes, Buenaventura is linked with the Mabini group of artists, as he owned a gallery there from 1958-1995; which was managed by his wife after his death. Buenaventura participated in many local and international exhibitions, and held his first solo show in 1950. Buenaventura was a member of the Academy of Filipino Artist, and had won many local painting competitions.
Aside from multiple chapels and dining halls, the Sacred Heart Novitiate has also plenty of multi-purpose halls; which can be used for meetings, events and seminars. In one room at the north wing of the main building, there is a large painting of St. Ignatius’ Vision at La Storta, painted by Fr. Timoteo Jose M. Ofrasio S.J. in 1991. The artwork depicts the scene of St. Ignatius of Loyal travelling along the Via Cassia towards Rome, where he received a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ holding a cross. This was a divine message of blessing of Ignatius’ mission, as Jesus spoke the words: Ego tibi Romae propitius ero (I will be favorable to you in Rome).
Fr. Timoteo Jose M. Ofrasio SJ is a Jesuit priest from Alaminos, Laguna Province. Fr. Ofrasio was ordained in 1979, and continued his studies at the Pontificio Istituto Sant’Anselmo in Rome, Italy. There he obtained his Licentiate in Sacred Liturgy in 1987, and his Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy in 1990. Fr. Ofrasio has served parishes, such as an associate pastor for the San José Manggagawa Parish in Marikina City and the Sacred Heart Parish in Cebu City, and served as the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Buug and the Diocese of Ipil, both in Zamboanga del Sur. Fr. Ofrasio has taught courses in Liturgy and the Sacraments at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City, Seminario Mayor de San Carlos in Cebu City, and at the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy in Malaybalay in Bukidnon Province. Fr. Ofrasio has expertise in on matters of Church Architecture, Liturgy, Sacred Art, Sacred Music, Church Architecture, Fine Arts, Pastoral Apostolate, Seminary Formation, and Lay Formation.
From the second floor of the main building, visitors take a walk along the corridor of the north wing of the main building, and reach the bridge connecting the main building to the North Hall, which is also the administrative building of the Sacred Heart Novitiate. At the end of the bridge is a relief of St. Edmund Campion S.J. (1540-1581), English martyr, which was sculpted by Anastacio Caedo in 1957. St. Campion lead the underground Catholic ministries in England, when the Angelican persecution of Catholics started in Penal Times in mid 16th century, when the Church of England separated from Catholic Rome, in 1534.
Anastacio Tanchauco Caedo (1907-1990) graduated from U.P. School of Fine Arts; under the tutelage of National Artist, Guillermo E. Tolentino. During his apprenticeship under Tolentino, the two took to body building as a means to understand the human anataomy and strengthen their bodies for he very physical work of sculpture. This love for body building led Tolentino to fashion his opus “The Oblation” after Caedo’s physique. Later Caedo made name for himself by sculpting many religious works for the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Manila and busts of the National Hero Dr. José Rizal for many of the Philippine Embassies around the world. Caedo was nominated three times as a National Artist of the Philippines (in 1983, 1984, and 1986); which he turned down, to avoid the politics in the art world.
On the second floor of the administrative building is the smaller Immaculate Conception Chapel, which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the patron saint of the Jesuits, especially in her title of Madonna Della Strada (our Lady of the Way).
At the ground floor hallway of the administrative building, there is a small painting of the Maria Madre Santissima del Lume (Mary Most Holy Mother of Light), by a certain Alejandro Espina in 1975. The image of the Mother of Light first came to being in 1722, when the Italian priest, Father Giovanni Antonio Genovesi S.J. (1684-1743), wanted to bring with him an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary when he administered his mission around the island of Sicily. At the town of Bagheria, Fr, Genovesi told a local visionary about his wish, as she would later have the vision of the Virgin coming to her in this new incarnation. When she told Fr. Genovesi, he quickly found a local painter to create the painting in the town of Palermo, and the painting was said to have been guided by the Virgin herself. The image quickly grew in popularity, and the first reproduction arrived in the Philippines in 1727, in the town of Cainta.
At the end of the administrative building, there is the newly constructed Blessed Peter Faber Wing, which was constructed in 2012, and just a year before Saint Pedro Fabro (1506-1546) was canonized in 2013. St. Faber was one of the co-founders of the Society of Jesus, with St. Ignatius of Loyola.
At the Faber Wing, there is a multi-purpose room called the Richie Fernando Hall, which was named after Bro. Richard Michael Fernando S.J. (1970-1996), a Filipino missionary in Cambodia, who gave his life to save some disabled children, when a person threw a grenade into their room. There are other places dedicated to this heroic missionary, such as the Richie Fernando at the Ateneo de Naga and the Richie Fernando Basketball Court in the Ateneo de Manila University. Presently, there is a move to have Richard Fernando beatified.
Inside the Richie Fernando Hall, there is a large undated sculpture of the Risen Christ, by the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva. As a devout Catholic, Abueva has been commissioned to render the crucifixes of several churches, yet he has always broke the tradition of portraying the dead Christ hanging on the cross. Rather, Abueva would always feature a triumphant Christ with his head held up high. This piece was donated by the Abueva family, along with the opening of the new building wing.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Visitors come to the Sacred Heart Novitiate to find peace in their lives, yet little would they know that they would also be exposed to the history of the Catholic Church and the Philippines, as told by the art and architecture of the novitiate. However, this is already hinted to the visitors as a large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus greats them with open arms, at the front of the main building.