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A santo (from the Spanish for saint) is an image of a saint. Santos are usually carved out of wood, but there are also antique santos are made partly or completely out of ivory. The usual practice in making santos during the Spanish colonial period was to carve the head out of precious ivory and the body out of plain wood. Often the carver of the head did not know what body it would go on, resulting in some oddly proportioned images.

Many santos are richly dressed, with elaborate clothes and jewelry. In some churches there are prized santos that date back many years, even centuries. The holy images of each town’s patron saints, the Infant Jesus (Sto. Niño), and the Virgin Mary are centered upon in the celebration of Philippine fiestas. The importance given these images has helped in the preservation of many antique santos.


Javellana, Rene. “Philippine Forms” in Filipino Style. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 1999.