Friday, January 8, 2016

Peace and quiet at Mission Santa Inés

The hustle and bustle of Solvang's Denmark-themed commercial area was in stark contrast with the Spanish mission established in the early 1800s. It's founded by Franciscans and (according to a museum staffmember) is still an active parish. The thing is, I've long believed that the USA mainly has practising Protestants. So it was a foreign concept to me to see a relatively old Roman Catholic church. Through my walk through the museum, I learned that this mission was built as a place to cultivate the faith within the Chumash community (mainly inhabiting the southern California coast).

I was also amazed that the artistic styles of the mission remind me of Philippine churches. For one, the old images of saints in Santa Inés looked very similar to the images of saints in the old Philippine churches. For another, the paintings on the interior wall of the Mission Santa Inés church reminded me of the walls of Our Lady of Caysasay Church in Taal, Batangas... And even those found in the Angeles City, Pampanga church. The gardens within the mission were like those inside the courtyard of the San Agustin Church.come to think of it, I shouldn't have been a surprise because I've learned about the Galleon Trade between Manila and Acapulco. So the art from the same period should, expectedly, be similar.

Despite the similarities, the mission and churches in the Philippines are distinct from each other. The architectural style of the mission is distinctly Californian (that reminds me of Zorro; yes, Zorro!) while the churches I've seen in the Philippines have strong Earthquake Baroque architecture... with clear Asian touches (like those stylised clouds). Also, churches in the Philippines that I've visited don't have cemeteries within the hallowed gardens of the church. The gravestones of the deceased are peppered near the altar. On the other hand, a graveyard is behind the bellfry in Mission Santa Inés. According to a flyer, there are so many people buried there but the grave markers are not complete. 

What shall a Filipina do, right? I walked through the graveyard repeatedly whispering "Tabi tabi po!" to tell those resting in peace to move to the side so I wouldn't step on them. 

Since nobody protested or shrieked as I traversed the graveyard, I suppoed that they understood me; as if the deceased could understand Filipino... many of them talked in the Chumash's language, I suppose.

This pitstop to Santa Inés was somehow grounding for me. I realised that California was not just about Hollywood, the cosmopolitan feel of the major cities, and vineyards. It's also a place where traditional culture can still be seen, alive and well.