It’s easy to spot a seminarian in a crowd, even when he’s in plain clothes. Gone are the days when seminarians go out in barongs with clerical collars, yet, still, you can still guess with ease who is a seminarian, even if he consciously chose to “blend in” by wearing “secular” clothes. Disguising himself with a t-shirt-and-jeans ensemble, he’d still give himself away by wearing a cleverly designed religious or bible-themed t-shirts. Many shirtshops of other Christian denomination sell this kind of tees, but it’s the Catholic seminarians who buy them. Go figure.
Second, he can be seen wearing those strapped leather sandals or the Merrel mountain-trekking variety for those who can afford it. Sandals is the preferred footwear in the seminary, if you must know, as there is hardly a seminarian who doesn’t own a pair. he may not wear a cross pendant or a brown scapular in public but sandals is by all means, de rigueur.
Third, seminarians tend to chose fashions that would merit their superior’s approval, so on the average, they tend to be neat, clean-cut, devoid of earrings or hair highlights, something an ordinary person would wear to church. The younger seminarians opt the athletic attire, like jerseys, ball caps, tennis/badminton wear while those of late vocations tend to stick to the fashion of their generation, usually 90’s style, if not the manong look. Inside the seminary, however, they all look the same: white tees and basketball shorts.
Fourth, seminarians have a herding habit. They tend to congregate and travel together in groups, especially those coming from a religious order or congregation. This is because some seminaries really require it. and so as a rule, if you see two or three neat-looking men in their twenties walking together inside the mall, they are either seminarians, military cadets or gay. Embarassing, but true.
Now, the high fashion apparel for a seminarian is the soutane (sutana) or the habit (abito). The soutane is a straight, close-fitting and plain-cut long-sleeved tunic covering a seminarian from neck to ankle. Technically, a sutana has to be black because it’s only the Pope who can wear white in the Vatican. But, owing to our balmy climate, the Church allowed the Filipinos to wear white sutanas. The sutana has a magic of its own. Any seminarian, however rowdy or mischievous, transforms into a perfect little angel when donned with sutana. With lots of reasons, of course. First, for any impressionable youth, wearing a sutana is like fulfilling a role in saintliness. One has to act accordingly when in that white cassock. Second, it’s terribly warm to be in a sutana. Any rigorous activity would result to excessive sweating, something you do not want to happen for a sutana which you have to wear for a week. Third, because it’s immaculately white, seminarians dread any stain or wrinkle to be upon their beloved cassock. So the best thing to do to avoid ruining the cloth is to sit quietly on a corner, as if in constant spiritual reverie. Lastly, sutanas have this gwapo factor which the girls dig alot. Any seminarian in sutana spells to some females as boyfriend material. I’ve known seminarians who had the looks of a roadkill yet managed to attract a host of shrieking girls simply by lingering after the Mass wearing their sutana. I don’t look bad myself and yes, whenever I am in my sutana, I enjoy, or rather, relish the same privilege as well. Hehehe…
Habits (abito) has the same transforming power as the soutane and still alot more. While sutana is the generic prayer-wear of any seminarian, the habit is an exclusive apparel for certain religious congregations. The Dominicans have the white cowled and scapulared habit, accesorized with strings of rosary. The Franciscans are identified with their signiture cord belts and have a selection of terracotta colors for their habit: the Conventuals wear grey, Capuchins wear chocolate crown capuch, etc. The Carmelites wear the iconic brown scapular and, unknown to some, carry a cross on their chest the size of one’s palm, etc. Habits, needless to say, is for the seminary world’s elite. The kilig factor of a habit tends to be lesser as moneyless religious seminarians tend to look less polished than their diocesan confreres. But then again, the habits are in themselves, a form of vocation promotion. Many seminarians I know chose their congregation or orders simply because they liked the habits they wear. I myself almost applied to the Carmelites because their brown habit is so monastery-chic, but then again, I thank God I didn’t. Habits may look cool but it’s stifling-hot in there. Imagine layers of fabric covering you on a summer day in our sun-drenched country. That spells gallons of sweat and a host of ailments. And so, while habits may attract vocations, it breaks vocations as well.
The most coveted fashion for a seminarian? The surplice. Surplice is a loose gown worn over the habit or sutana by seminarians who would be pontifical servers during a High Mass. It is best worn when holding the thurible, that chained metallic container used to hold the burning incense (check out the picture). To wear a surplice and to carry an thurible is the height of a seminarian’s concept of kagwapuhan. Surplice, however, is rarely used as there are but few solemnities and feasts that calls for the assistance of pontifical servers. And so, the law of supply and demand applies here. Kaya naman, agpawisan man ng sandamakmak, a seminarian would fight tooth and nail just to be a pontifical server.
So there you go, Bro. Utoy’s seminary fashion for dummies. Whether in surpliced sutana or in regular clothes, you can now spot a seminarista from afar using this tell-all guide. Or if you decide to become a seminarian yourself, just follow these simple pointers so to achieve that authentic seminaristang patay-gutom look. Har!