Upon entering the choirloft, one is greeted with the massive facistol or lectern rising to a few meters at the center. It is believed to have been carved between the years 1728 – 1734 during the term of Fray Felix Trillo who was prior and then provincial during that time.
It’s impressive not only for its size but more importantly, for the carvings that decorate it. It’s not confirmed if this was carved in Macao but an Augustinian historian, Isacio Rodriguez, points out that in the Parian, just outside the walls of Intramuros, was a community of Chinese and Filipino carvers.
Four big cantorals or choirbooks are placed on the revolving pyramidal part. Its a good thing that the British did not take any interest in it during their looting of Manila. Maybe it was already too heavy and bulky to cart away.
Atop the facistol is a shrine (left) where an ivory image of the Immaculate Concepcion with clearly oriental features used to be placed. This image is now exhibited in the museum that used to be the antesacristia. This shrine is bourne by angels playfully carved (right).
Left, more angels are carved at the lower part of the lectern here shown bearing the upper part while cherubs can be found carved under these. Right, the base radiates into four with an unusual mixture of Christian, classical and oriental features: angels holding on to the hair of female satyrs which in turn are led by Chinese guard dogs!
Sample cantorals are placed on the four sided facistol. These are made of cowhide (one cow = 8 pages), huge and quite heavy. Fr. Galende wrote that a single cantoral needs two people to lift it. The hymns are clearly marked and is visible from the choirstalls. Right, one miniaturist painting showing the rich colors and details.