Our choristers sometimes receive quizzical looks, ultimately resolved by bolder souls with a direct question, when we sing in the Liturgy vested in a surplice that looks like a blouse with scandalously long side trains sewn at the sleeves. As doubtless we will once again be seen in this indumentary peculiarity, let this be an answer to the collective question of an inquisitive public: what we are wearing is called the Mozarabic surplice. The long trains at the sides are called wings, for which reason it is also called the winged surplice. These can be either pleated or left plain as is; if pleated, the surplice is then called the pleated surplice or the folded surplice.
This terminology is set forth in chapter III of title IV of this Choir’s draft Enchiridion Consuetudinum Praecipuarum et Morum, which is just a fancy way of calling a handbook of our customs.
Amongst the choristers of the Choir, the winged surplice, known elsewhere as the pleated surplice, and generally as the Mozarabic surplice, enjoys pride of place amongst other surplices and similar vestments used by the Latin Church.
Superpelliceum aligerum, denominatum alibi superpelliceum plicatum, plerumque superpelliceum mozarabicum, apud choristas Cappellae primo loco inter alia superpellicea similiaque indumenta Ecclesia Latina usitata gaudet.
Now, let us go to the more important questions: Why on earth do we wear something that is Mozarabic? Aren’t we of the Roman Rite? The simple answer is, of course, precedence: Its use in the Philippines has been established not only circumstantially (we were a colony of an empire with Mozarabic connections; we had to have used that surplice in the past) but substantially (Filipino churchmen indeed wore that surplice). Chronologically, below was how we established precedence:
1. Guam used the Mozarabic surplice. Since Guam once belonged to the then Diocese of Cebu, then that surplice must have been used in the Diocese of Cebu.
2. Priests attending the First Provincial Council of Manila wore the Mozarabic surplice. Since this Council encompassed the entire Philippine archipelago (it was only called provincial and not plenary due to the fact that at that time Manila was the only ecclesiastical province), then that surplice must have been used throughout the archipelago.
3. Philippine art attests to the use of the Mozarabic surplice. If the Mozarabic surplice appeared in a work of art featuring a moment in Philippine history, albeit portrayed in a biased manner, then the depiction of the Mozarabic surplice had to have a basis in real life.
4. Aglipayans continued to use the Mozarabic surplice. While their nativist leadership criticised, lampooned, maligned, condemned, and scorned the Roman Catholic Church for the foreignness of Her hierarchy, and the alleged unscriptural-ness of Her doctrines, it looks like they nevertheless had no qualms copying Her customs, even those more intimately linked to Spain (the collarpieces and the Mozarabic surplice) than to Christendom in general.
For now, let us content ourselves with this exposition.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.