For the Feast of the Three Kings


Located on the second level third frame from the left of the main altar of Silang, the polychrome relief depicts The Adoration of the Magi. But the composition is centered on Mary and the child Jesus. The holy child’s vulnerable nudity heightens the simplicity of his birth. This offers a sharp contrast to the fully vested visitors bearing valuable gifts fit for a king. Surrounded by three figures: one on the foreground, the two others on both sides of the mother and child, they have brought gifts according to scriptural traditions, highlighting the symbolic importance of Jesus’ birth: kingly gold, divine frankincense and mortality of myrrh.

Another interesting detail are the two items at the foot of the kneeling magus (not readily seen from below as one needs to go a distance to see such detail), holding baby Jesus’ hand in worship, the magus brought down his gift (left side) and removed his plumed hat (right side) as a form of reverence. The two other magi wore kingly vestments complete with swords in scabbards, flowing robes and a crown on their head.


Three other figures join the wise men in the journey. Shown on the left side of the composition are the attendants carrying loads or tending the horses. One diminutive figure riding the steed seems to be wearing a Moroccan fez hat.  This is another interesting detail. While is it typical of see the magi riding camels or among a caravan of camels, here in Silang’s retablo, we see horses traveling on the horizon of rolling sand dunes executed abstractly on the background.

Today’s common depiction of the adoration of the magi is at night time complete with a shining bright star guiding the Magi to Bethlehem, but here, the sun shines brightly with three rows of rays on the right side creating a motif similar to a comet.

Prior to the current restoration in early 2000s, Saint Joseph bears a surprised facial reaction to the arrival of the attendants and horses bearing gifts (Belmonte 1990, 49). Now, such expression is lost due to contemporary cleaning and painting repairs. Also, similar ocular gazes have changed overtime among the other figures if compared to a photograph taken before the 1990s. As if conversing, note Joseph’s hand gesture pointing to Mary and the child Jesus as if confirming if the gifts are for the newborn. This is responded upon by the attendant on the left side behind one of the magi, pointing upwards as if replaying that a load of gifts is indeed intended for the Messiah.


Posted on the Solemnity of the Epiphany 2017. This is part of the series deciphering the iconographies of Silang Parish Retablo in Cavite.


Belmonte, Charles. 1990. Aba Ginoong Maria: The Virgin Mary in Philippine Art. Manila: Aba Ginoong Maria Foundation, Inc.


Ten facts about the Feast of the Epiphany by Rozina Sabur

  1. The three Kings (Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar) represented Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively.
  2. Hundreds of years ago, the roast lamb was traditionally served at Epiphany in honor of Christ and the three Kings’ visit.
  3. Whoever finds the small statue of a baby Jesus hidden inside their slice of the Rosca de Reyes throws a party on Candlemas in February.
  4. In some European countries, children leave their shoes out the night before to be filled with gifts, while others leave straw for the three Kings’ horses.
  5. According to Greek Orthodox Church’s traditions, a priest will bless the waters by throwing a cross into it as worshippers try to retrieve it.
  6. In Bulgaria too, Eastern Orthodox priests throw a cross in the sea and the men dive in – competing to get to it first.
  7. In Venice, a traditional regatta that started as a joke in the late 1970s has been incorporated in the celebrations of Epiphany Day.
  8. In Prague, there is a traditional Three Kings swim to commemorate Epiphany Day at the Vltava River.
  9. In New York, El Museo del Barrio has celebrated and promoted the Three Kings’ Day tradition with an annual parade for more than three decades. Thousands take part in the procession featuring camels, colorful puppets, and floats.
  10. The day’s activities involve singing holiday carols called aguinaldos.