Red hats for All Souls Day | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Red hats for All Souls Day

/ 07:42 PM November 01, 2012

READING biographical data off tombstones is a lesson in research I learned from the late E. Arsenio Manuel, author of the four-volume “Dictionary of Philippine Biography.” Following his example, I have gone over the tombstones of Juan Luna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in San Agustin, but I have to return and read all the legible tombstones if only to locate other historical figures like: Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, Pedro Paterno, and even Teodoro A. Agoncillo. I also have to visit the nearby Manila Cathedral in search of two galeros that should be hanging on the ceiling.

A galero is an outrageous wide-brimmed hat with tassels that will not look out of place in a Halloween costume party or the cosplay paradise known as Harajuku in Tokyo. Galeros were first worn during the Council of Lyon in 1245, conferred by the pope to set his favorites apart from the sea of clergy in gala attire. Before Vatican II, a scarlet galero was imposed by the pope on the head of a newly minted cardinal, making him a “Prince of the Church.” However, this extravagant hat has been replaced by the simpler scarlet or red zucchetto resembling a “small gourd” that gave this form-fitting skull cap its name. Then there is the red biretta,  a square cap with three peaks and a tuft or pompom in the center. The three-peak ecclesiastical biretta is not to be confused with the four-peak biretta worn by academics who hold doctoral degrees from a pontifical university or faculty.

In many cathedrals throughout the world, the galero of a deceased cardinal hangs above his tomb or from the ceiling of the church where he once served as bishop or archbishop. The Manila Cathedral, following tradition, should have two galeros hanging from the ceiling to remind us of the late Rufino J. Cardinal Santos and Jaime Cardinal Sin. I found a photo of one galero hanging at the Manila Cathedral on the Net, with a thread arguing over who had owned it—Cardinal Sin or Cardinal Santos? In some cathedrals they believe that the soul of the deceased cardinal remains in purgatory until the galero falls off, completely disintegrated. This led the enemies of Cardinal Richelieu of France (1585-1642) to constantly repair and replace the galero above his grave, to keep him in limbo. Frankly, if Cardinal Richelieu was as bad as history says he was, his enemies should have hastened the disintegration of his galero and sent him straight to hell.


Galeros are now as extinct as the dodo but they still appear on the coat of arms of bishops, archbishops and cardinals.  The coat of arms of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle has a shield whose left side carries symbols of Manila: the tower or castle of Castille and the merlion whose symbolism has been slightly tweaked for clerical use. A crescent moon has been added to the tower—not an Islamic symbol but a reference to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, patroness of Manila. The three open windows of the castle tower are now symbols of the Trinity. The merlion you see on the Seal of Manila, the Seal of the President of the Philippines, and even San Miguel Beer, holds a wavy Muslim weapon—the kris—but in Archbishop Tagle’s coat of arms it carries a cruciform staff.


On the right of Tagle’s coat of arms are three images: on top, Christ as the Good Shepherd, since bishops are deemed shepherds of a flock; in the middle, a symbol of the Virgin of the Pillar, patroness of Imus (Cavite), where he previously served as bishop; at the bottom, an image of St. Joseph in honor of the Jesuit-run San Jose Seminary in the Ateneo campus in Quezon City, where he received his theological training and religious formation. Underneath all these are the Latin words “Dominus est” (It is the Lord), a line taken from the Bible—John 21:7

If the person who designed Archbishop Tagle’s coat of arms followed heraldic rules: His first, as bishop of Imus, would have had a green galero with six tassels arranged in a triangular fashion falling on on each side (that makes a dozen tassels); his second, as archbishop of Manila,  would have 20 tassels hanging from a scarlet hat; and his third, as cardinal, would have another increase in tassels to 30 hanging from a red hat.


Thus, if you care to give heraldic devices and seals a second look, you will pick up a bit of history coupled with a lot of totally useless information.

* * *

Nov. 1 is a nonworking holiday in the Philippines. It is the day when Filipinos troop to cemeteries and memorial parks for the annual visit to departed friends and relatives. As a boy, I enjoyed the family reunion in the cemetery. I remember picking up candle drippings and forming these into a hard wax ball while the elders exchanged gossip. Later in life I wondered why “Undas” was “All Saints Day,” knowing that some of our dead were not saints in life and some were not even nice people. It was only when I entered a monastery that I realized that there are two separate feasts in the church calendar: Nov. 1, the Feast of All Saints, and Nov. 2, the Commemoration of the Dead or the Feast of All Souls.

Why do Filipinos go to cemeteries on Nov. 1 instead of Nov. 2? How come the Church went with the flow instead of correcting popular devotion? So many idle questions to entertain during “Undas.”

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TAGS: all souls day, Ambeth R. Ocampo, cardinals, column

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