Lent and Moriones
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Palm Sunday
Bernard Billedo

Lent is a time when Catholics remember the cruxificion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During the Lenten season, numerous Passion Plays are performed as part of the celebrations. People flock to Marinduque to watch the moriones in a spectacular reenactment of the legend of Longinus.

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Holy Week

Holy Week is locally called Cuaresma or Semana Santa. The start of Holy Week is Palm Sunday. Catholics carry palm leaves, known as palaspas, to chuch for the priest to bless. Catholics also celebrate Maundy Thursday, attending church services and watching Passion Plays. In one practice called visita iglesia, Catholics try to visit as many churches as they can. On Good Friday, believers in certain areas, such as Manila, San Fernando in Pampanga Province, and Antipolo in Rizal Province, reenact the sufferings and death of Christ in the Cross. Although Good Friday is a somber time, Easter Sunday is a joyful occassion that starts with salubong, where the statues representing the Risen Christ and the Grieving Mother Mary are carried to meet at an appointed place.

Source: Festivals of the World: Philippines
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Cuaresma


Lent prepares the Christian for the yearly commemoration of Christ's Death and Resurrection.

Forty weekdays- hence the term cuarsma in Spanish-are given over to prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and abstinence from meat. Christ's forty-day retreat in the desert and his success in resisting the devil's temptation to wealth, power, and glory inspires the Christian.

The month of April marks the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, what the pious call in the Philippines "Holy Week" or Semana Santa. In contrast to other Christian countries, Filipino Catholics give emphasis on the suffering of Christ, rather than on His resurrection, on the belief that salvation comes at the end.

Religious piety is passionately displayed in different parts of the Philippines, particularly in the provinces where communities go on pilgrimage to as many churches and devotees re-enacting Christ's ordeal through real-life crucifixion under the scorching heat of the sun. Extreme forms of religious practices such as self-flagellation using whips tipped with sharp objects that scar the backs of hooded penitents are some of the rituals that are performed to this day. The penitents are taken down seconds after being nailed to the wooden crosses using 2-inch stainless steel nails soaked in alcohol. These crucifixions take place in the town of San Pedro, Pampanga, north capital of Manila.

Real-life crucifixion are not countenanced by the Catholic Church, but the fine line that separates religious ritual from spectacle is slowly erased as hundreds of tourists troop to this quaint town to witness the tradition in awe and amazement. Such rituals are part of a folk religious culture that has deep roots in a brand of obscurantism that dates back to the Spanish colonial period. Hispanic Filipinos likened the suffering of Christ to their oppression in the hands of their abusive Spanish landlords and friars. Indeed, "Holy Week" encapsulates the Filipino culture of suffering, poverty and illness; it speaks not just of our redemption in the next life, but also our travails of our present life.

But for modern day Filipinos, Holy Week is an opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of urban living to the serene beaches and picturesque landscapes spread across the archipelago. It is also a respite from the snarl of Manila's traffic jams and the din of political campaigning and electioneering that follows the Lenten season.

Source: http://www.filipinoheritage.com/religious/Cuaresma.htm
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Linggo ng Palaspas

Palm Sunday of the Catholic Holy Week is ushered with a widely- practiced ritual; parishioners wave palm fronds, locally called palaspas, in the air, mimicking the crowd that met Christ upon his return to Jerusalem. Blessings, prayers and Sunday mass follows, in affirmation of the religious nature of this age-old custom.


How to make the palaspas

 

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Catholic parishioners  hold-up their palaspas to be blessed by the Priests

Sources: http://www.pic-uk.com/dis_fiesta04.html (text), http://filipinoheritage.com (images 1 and 2) http://members.tripod.com/billedo/palm2001.html (image 3)

The Pasyon

The Pasyon refers to the verse narrative on the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ. The pasyon text may be written in Tagalog or in other major Philippine languages, like Pampango, Ilocano, Pangasinan, Bicol, Ilongo, Cebuano, and Waray. There are also pasyon narrative among the Ibanag and Itawes of Cagayan, the Gaddang of Nueva Vizcaya, and the Cuyunon of Palawan.

Among the Tagalog, the most commonly used text is entitled Casaysayan ng pasiong mahal ni Jesucristong Panginoon natin na sucat ipag-alab ng puso ng sinumang babasa (An account of the sacred passion of our Lord Jesus Christ which should inflame the heart of anyone who reads it), which is one of the many later editions of a work by an unknown writer first published in 1814.


Image Source:
http://www.filipino.com.au/categ/culture/pasyon.htm


Image Source:
http://www.filipinoheritage.com/religious/pasyon.htm

Continuous singing of this length is not practiced in the Spanish and Mexican lenten traditions. It relates to the Philippine cultural practice connected with epic singing during important celebrations of the community. The pasyon may also be chanted, though rarely now, during wakes and death anniversaries, as well as during the reenactment of Christ's Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening. There are various melodies and musical styles in the rendering of the pasyon.

Because the text is in 5-line stanzas while melodic phrases tend to be symmetrical, various techniques are employed to reconcile the difference. In a widely used, old Tagalog punto, the first musical phrase encompasses lines 1 and 2, while the second musical phrase covers lines 3, 4, and 5. In adapting folk song melodies or similar tunes, a four-phrase melody is first sung for lines 1 to 4, which is repeated to render lines 2 to 5. Another formula makes a four-phrase melody coincide with lines 1 to 4 and appends a stock melody or standard melodic ending for line five. Generally, pasyon singing is a capella.

Many innovations in pasyon singing have been introduced, like the use of the guitar or rondalla for accompaniment and the use of the accordion by a traveling group of pasyon singers. Singing of the pasyon is performed in two basic group formations. In the first, two people or groups of people sing alternately. In the second formation, each of the singers take their turns in singing a stanza of text.

The pasyon chanting tradition is seen by many of its practitioners as a vow or panata made by an individual or family, which in many cases has been passed on from one to two generations back.

Source:
http://www.filipino.com.au/categ/culture/pasyon.htm
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Chanters are the devout who have made a pledge, though a pabasa is also an opportunity for the young ones of the community to meet new friends.
Image Source:
http://www.filipinoheritage.com/religious/pasyon.htm


The Pasyon and the Filipino Experience

Among the most popular forms of literature, music and drama, during the Spanish times, were the various renditions and versions of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, or the Pasyon Ni Kristo.

The first Tagalog pasyon or poetic rendition of Christ's life appeared in 1704. So popular was it that it had a fifth edition in 1760. Its author, Gaspar Aquino de Belen, was an indio layman who worked in the Jesuit press in Manila. Though he used a 17th century Spanish passion as a model, de Belen's work is fully grounded in local traditions.

Anonymous versions of the pasyon began appearing in 1804. Spanish friars decried the presence of a few "heresies" in the pasyon as well its "profane" use in indio festivals and social gatherings, death and courtship rituals included. This shows that by the end of the 18th century, the pasyon had become a true social epic of the Tagalogs and probably other lowland Christian groups as well. In the 19th century, a native priest named Mariano Pilapil made "corrections" to various illicit versions and produced the most popular version of the text called Pasyon Pilapil or Pasyon Henesis.

There are two directions in which the pasyon may have altered popular consciousness.

It has been persuasively argued that the pasyon simply affirms prevailing social structure and its values. After all the pasyon drama was usually performed in the local churchyard, with the Spanish friar's blessing, and often with the financial support of the local gentry. In the pasyon there is much weeping among the characters. The virtue of meekness and resignation to suffering, rather than the confrontation of oppression, seems to have been encouraged. This is particularly true of the portions titled aral or lesson, which preach the fulfillment of conventional Christian duties and the acceptance of things as they are, because reward is forthcoming in heaven.

But the aral portions have little or nothing to do with the inexorable flow of the story; in fact,  they stand out as obvious commentaries by friar censors anxious to draw to their advantage  the enormous popularity of the pasyon. Problems are caused by our looking at images of meekness, suffering, and lamentation I Filipino society from an upper class, "Westernized" perspective. Taken metaphorically, these images may, in fact, represent inner power and mutual empathy among members of an association.

Note that the pasyon continually reminds the audience that social status based on wealth and education has no real value. What do these do to the loob, the "inner being", which is widely regarded as the focus of a person's true worth?

The pasyon may be a dying ritual today, but its imprint in the popular consciousness remains. Given the kind of popular culture that has developed and persisted over the last few centuries, it is hardly surprising that masses of people from all walks of life almost instinctively offered damay - even momentarily - for this new pasyon figure.

Source: http://www.filipinoheritage.com/religious/pasyon.htm
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The Sinakulo: Past and Present

Passion plays that flourish today in the urban and rural areas project this conflict. The still dominant, traditional sinakulo pictures Christ as a model of meekness and masochism, a lamb accepting death in obedience to authority. In contrast, the new sinakulo spotlights a Christ of reason and resolve, a lion who leads the downtrodden against all oppressors.

The traditional sinakulo is a Lenten play, usually in verse, which narrates a long sequence of episodes from the Old and the New Testaments, with special emphasis on the life, sufferings and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Certain conventions of marching, chanting and magic are usually followed.

Sinakulo scenes are presented on a proscenium-type stage of bamboo-and-wood or cement-and-steel; under light bulbs that cast an unyielding light instead of creating a mood and against painted cloth or paper backdrops, called telon. It takes at least eight nights - from Palm Sunday to Easter - to present the play.


In the cities, the Sinakulo ispresented in all kinds of venues - on a traditional stage, on the streets, in a chapel, in a large room. Comedy, courtship, and special effects are popular elements in a sinakulo.

Because of the imperatives of urban life, most modern sinakulos run for only one or two hours. They can also be presented in all kinds of venues: on the traditional stage, on the streets, in a chapel, in a large room, or even in an open-air strike area.

If the traditional sinakulo drew Life from the feudal, agricultural order, the modern passion play responds to a very definite need - the need to inform students, professionals, workers about the problems created by unresolved contradictions in Philippine society.

Source: http://www.filipinoheritage.com/religious/sinakulo.htm
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Images of Holy Week

Procession of the Stations of the Cross During Holy Week

 


Jesus enters Jerusalem

 


Jesus and his faithful followers

He entered on an ass, instead of on foot, and was acclaimed by crowds waving branches. In contrast to the horse, which stood for might in war, the ass symbolized humble service- the essence of Jesus' mission. He chose to reveal himself as a new kind of Messiah.

 

Before the Mass of the Last Supper, reconciliation of faithful with God and blessing of oils for various Church rituals are held. During mass, priest imitates Christ by washing the feet of twelve clergy/layperson.

After the mass, the Stripping of the Altar and the transfer of the host in procession to a side Altar of Repose where the host will stay till Good Friday. Churches remain open overnight so faithful can pray at the Repose. Also Visita Iglesia of the visit to various churches for merit is usually done.

 

   

Public self-flagellations with wooden slats; crucifixion with real nails; and many others is usually done during Good Friday. This is done to commemorate Christ's sufferings and pain.

 


The Pieta or Angustia depicts the Blessed Mother cradling the body of her dead son. It is one of the Virgin Mary's dolors. Note the pillows, a Filipino touch, put there as much to ensure that the image's neck does not break off, as to make Jesus more comfortable.


Easter Sunday (Linggo nang Pagkabuhay)

 

 

 

Before, the ringing of the church bells on Black Saturday morning: children leaping so that they would grow tall. On Black Saturday night, parents wake up children at ten in the evening to eat meat dishes lest they become deaf. Widespread of bathing in rivers and seas on Black Saturday make up for the Good Friday ban. Dummies of Judas the traitor explode in church plazas with firecrackers. Throughout Black Saturday, faithful pay respects to the Holy Bier.

Source: http://www.filipinoheritage.com

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The "Salubong" at Easter Dawn commemorates the encounter between Christ and His Mother, Blessed Virgin Mary. This is done by separating the people into two groups. The first group is consists of men and boys who will follow the image of Jesus Christ, while the other group is consists of women and girls who follow the image of Mary.

At the end of the procession, the two groups will meet in the church, where a number of little girls who participate during the dawn ritual as angels. At one time, there were more than 50 little girls, harnessed and suspended, who kept the image of the Virgin Mary company through Easter dawn. They were lowered for the traditional lifting of the veil of mourning of the Blessed Mother.

 


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The Moriones: Masks and Legends

As part of Easter celebration, Marinduque townspeople reenact the Longinus legend based on the Gospel of St. John. The legend remembers Longinus, the Roman legionnaire who became a Christian.

Some participants in the performance play moriones, or Roman soldiers, by wearing masks and costumes. Atypical morion mask is oversized and made from coral wood painted pink or red. It has large eyes, a full black beard, and an open mouth. The mask is topped with a colorful helmet, called turbante. The wearer of the mask carves it himself. the participant's identity is kept secret because performing as a moriomes is meant to be a sacrifice. The moriones outfit looks like the uniform Roman legionnaires used to wear. In performing the story of "Longinus according to St. John," the town forms the stage.


All About the Longinus

Catholics believed that Longinus was the Roman soldier who speared Christ's side when He was hanging on the Cross. Longinus was blind in one eye, but he regained his vision when Christ's blood dropped on his eye. Longinus believed in Christ and told others what had happened. his faith, however, turned his fellow soldiers agains him. They arrested him on Easter Sunday and beheaded him.

 

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During the reenactment, moriones chase Longinus for a long time. He is caught three times. He also escapes three times. When the moriones catch Longinus a forth time, they march him to the scaffold, led by a brass band. After Longinus bravely confirms his faith in Christ, he is beheaded. His body is placed ona stretcher paraded around town, and taken to a church.

Source: Festivals of the World: Philippines

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