Casa Gorordo Belen: A biblical journey

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio December 23,2018 - 10:52 PM

The nativity scene of the traditional Belen exhibit at Casa Gorordo.

THE Belen has always been the symbol of Christmas in Casa Gorordo, a two-storey house built in the mid-18th century in Cebu City’s historic Parian district.

The tradition, in what has now become a public museum, has lived through so many generations of the property’s caretakers.

“When I was a child, my aunt would call us all to the chapel so we can begin putting up the Belen. It was something I looked forward to because it brought the family together,” said 80-year Josefa “Pepita” Gorordo, one of the last remaining heirs of Juan Isidro de Gorordo, the Spanish merchant who bought the house in 1863.

Pepita’s ancestral home is now the property of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) under its Cultural Heritage Program.

After a series of renovations and restoration work, RAFI turned the place into the renowned museum and the National Historical Landmark that it is today.

Pepita was nostalgic during the unveiling of the traditional Belen exhibit at the Casa’s ground floor, the area where they used to welcome visitors in the days of the Gorordo family’s residency.

The visitor’s receiving room has been transformed into a studio to house a Belen with a modern interactive twist.

Florencio Moreño, the museum curator, explained that while every year a traditional Belen was always showcased in Casa Gorordo; this year, RAFI wanted to attract the younger generation to bring back the Nativity scene as the true symbol of Christmas.

This year’s Belen exhibit is housed in a dark studio with interactive screens for children to read through the different scenes leading to the birth of Jesus.

The Belen is comprised of 12 scenes from the bible from the Old Testament’s Cain and Abel to the New Testament’s presentation of the child Jesus in the temple.

The sets are lighted up in timed intervals to give tour guides the chance to explain each scene.

After a five minute cycle, the entire Belen lights up to show the entire set as one.

“The concept is to show the scenes in chronological order according to the biblical scriptures. This was how the traditional Belens were made. They weren’t just merely depicting the Nativity scene, they showed the story of the Bible,” said Moreño.

Moreño added that various artists, lighting engineers, and programmers helped to make the exhibit which is aimed to preserve the Casa Gorordo belen’s historical value even though it is now presented in a modern interactive way.

Over 200 pieces of nativity icons were used in the exhibits, mostly owned by the Gorordo family.

The icons were made by Cebuano artist, Jose Garces, before World War I.

Some of the pieces were made in later years after the original icons were either stolen or broken beyond repair.

Religious symbol

Cebuano iconographer Louie Nacorda was one of the consultants for the project.

Nacorda, himself, is a Belen collector who owns various types of Belens brought from different parts of the world.

Nacorda, in his talk, Pastores de Belen last December 14 at Casa Gorordo, said that the Belen should always be the symbol of Christmas in Catholic homes because it showcases the nativity scene and the events thereafter.

“This is the real Christmas village. The stable, the manger, the angels, the shepherds, the animals, and the three kings,” said Nacorda.

Nacorda said that it is high time for the young generation to understand that more than just a Christmas decoration, the Belen is a religious symbol.

“The Belen is a symbol of devotion. Back in the days, after putting up the Belen, people prayed to the Birhen sa Belen (Virgin of Bethlehem), to the Mother Mary who carried Christ in her womb for nine months,” he said.

Nacorda hopes that the Belen exhibit will entice young people to look into the history of the Belen and research on it to bring back the devotion.

“The Belen is the symbol of family. Through the Belen, the family should come together in learning more about our faith,” he said.

Nacorda encouraged parents to let their children help set up their Belen so that they will have the chance to tell the story of the Bible through the icons in the set.

This, he said, was one way to teach children the proper values and faith in God.

The Belen exhibit in Casa Gorordo is open from December 15 to January 21.

Anyone who wishes to see the interactive Belen may visit Casa Gorordo with no additional fees required to view the exhibit.

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TAGS: Belen, Gorordo, journey
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