Thursday, October 04, 2007

Semana Santa Filipinas: Preserving religious traditions on the web and beyond

In 2006, a pair of like-minded youngsters from America and the Philippines hooked up online to exchange information about their passion for religious arts and traditions. From this chance meeting, the two — Victor Ancheta, 18, a Filipino art student of Houston, Texas and Robby dela Vega, 20, also a student based in Meycauayan, Bulacan put up Flickr a cybergroup called Semana Santa Filipinas (SSF). The initial intent was to create a visual reference of our religious traditions from all parts of the country, with content contribution from members. Simple discussion threads were also appended to the photos, so that more information and opinions can be shared among members.

Just over a year after its creation, the SSF cyber group now counts over 1000 santo enthusiasts from all parts of the world as members, with over 8000 photos in its photo pool and over 700 topics in its discussion board. SSF today is the most informative, progressive and largest group on the web, using the members’ collective passion and knowledge to perpetuate, propagate, and increase the devotion to Philippine Lenten traditions, thus ensuring that these remain a permanent and significant part of Filipino culture everywhere in the world. Members include students, executives, housewives, lawyers, doctors, cultural advocates, writers, priests, educators and parish priest workers, all bound by a common love for santos and religious traditions.

The group’s most noteworthy undertaking is the Sponsor-a-Santo Program, in which members pool their resources to give a devotional santo to a fellow member who may be financially challenged to own one, or to an indigent parish in need of images for veneration. For Philippine-based members, there are also the SSF heritage tours to look forward to. Recently, Mr. Conrado Escudero hosted an exclusive tour of Villa Escudero for Semana Santa Filipinas members, highlighted by a museum and church visits as well as a discussion of the current state of our devotional practices.

With a growing membership and an increased interest in the group’s advocacies, it had become imperative to organize a Semana Santa Realworld, a group of members dedicated to planning, actualizing and implementing projects in the real world. SSF RealWorld hopes to continue the photo documentation of local Philippine Lenten traditions (religious imageries, processions, vanishing arts and crafts) as well as the Sponsor-a-Santo Program, now on its 2nd year. Projects such as the Pilgrim Santo, outreach programs to benefit indigent parishes, heritage church tours of Pampanga and Pangasinan, santo exhibits and convention, book and CD projects are in the drawing board. And more are in the offing.

SSF has truly become a visual showcase of Filipino’s faith and unique religious traditions. Not a bad legacy from two youngsters who made it all happen just over a year ago.

To join Semana Santa Filipinas, please check http://www.flickr.com/groups/semana_santa_filipinas.

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Holy Week practices in the Philippines
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