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Celebrating the Wood Carvers of Paete in Laguna Province in the Philippines

Paete wood carver at work

Greek civilization has long been over but its storybook myths continue to stay in many human facets to this day.


Pygmalion, one of the famous Grecian figures from Cyprus, has been known to be the legendary sculptor who carved a beautiful woman named Galatea from an ivory stone he eventually fell in love with.


In effect, his story has influenced several aspects of mankind. 


In the Philippines alone, there are a lot of Pygmalions who can sculpt any image from a given material although not all of them or no one has ever fallen in love with one’s creation for real or even just in mind or illusion except of course those derived from fiction or in dreamscape.


Unfinished carving

In most realities, the local Pygmalions are simply in love with their craft. They only want to enhance their trade and artisanship.


Take the case of the Madridejoses, a family of wood carvers from Paete town in Laguna Province who has been romancing with the wood craft for a long, long time ago.


They are the homegrown Pygmalions who breathe life to their sculptural creations of many persuasions 24/7 without necessarily falling in love with them but just simply create them not only for commercial purposes but for personal satisfaction as well.


Carving a Jesus and Mary image on wood

In their workshop along the national road of Paete, the Madridejoses are masters of the wood sculpture for they primarily use the medium as their bedrock of artistic design. There are other materials they can tinker on but wood is the most precious and practical object they can lay their magic hands on. Their touch on wood is Midas in itself.


What makes them one of the bywords among buyers of sculpted works in Laguna is their penchant for carving images of Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Virgin, of various saints and of other religious icons.


Therefore, they are the favorites not only of religious people among the many Filipinos but of the clientele priests, nuns, churchmen and other Catholic hierarchy. Even foreigners of the Catholic religion or Filipino balik-bayans are their regular customers.


Polished wood carvings

Since the Madridejos’ workplace and its lab are spread out with many religious carvings, finished or unfinished, they look like interiors of remiss chapels without the pews although some wooden benches could be seated on to start off a mass or a fellowship. The atmosphere is also solemn and kind of holy. The coolness of the blowing wind breezes off tranquility to the soul. Is there in any way apparitions of holy men and women appearing therein anytime of the day in the most mysterious ways?

Boy Villasanta chats with one of the wood carvers

No, the Madridejoses denied they have experienced any sort of miraculous or marvelous encounters just because they craft religious images. Their spirit is meant, once and for all, for actual human interaction.


It is pure and simple venture any memento outside business transactions is taken as a service extra mile for the client’s satisfaction.


Although the Madridejoses aren’t the only clan involved in wood art, they are one of the pioneers of the activity in Paete.


As a matter of fact, they have many workshops located in several areas of the community. They maybe competitive but only constructively the camaraderie among the town’s crafters are intact and respectful.


Paete wood carvers are gentle and giving as a means to their kinship.  

Boy Villasanta and a wood carver's daughter


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