Just like last year, I found myself in San Pedro Cutud in San Fernando, Pampanga today to witness the Via Crucis, a Kapampangan passion play which has been the heart of the annual crucifixions here in the city, which is more popularly know as the San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites.
As the crucifixions are highlighted, many fail to recognize that they are part of an old cultural tradition of the barangay, a passion play written in the vernacular, which has been passed on from generation to generation. In fact, it's already in the third generation of the Navarro clan.
I was pleasantly surprised that vehicles are now allowed to enter San Pedro Cutud. And it was even more pleasant when I saw that there was ample parking at the site. In previous years, it was a long 2 kilometer walk from the gate of the barangay under the heat of the scorching summer sun.
While waiting for the Via Crucis to arrive, flagellants would climb the hill and pay homage at the foot of the cross ending their annual Lenten sacrifice or panata. Most of the time, silence envelopes the crowd as the bloodied penitents make their way up, giving them time to be "alone" with God. But while most encounters are solemn, there are some under the influence of alcohol (it is said that they down a bottle of beer to speed up the circulation of blood), and a rare few who make a scene up the hill thus eliciting laughter from the crowd to the dismay of local officials who have them escorted down immediately.
This year, the Via Crucis started late. The play arrived close to 2 p.m. And by that time, we had been under the sun for over three hours! It was good though that they were able to keep non-cast members off the hill this time around. The scores of barangay tanod and alalay (assistants) who usually joined the cast up the hill were asked to get down. While some of the stubborn foreign media who would usually force their way up, though they were able to slip into the restricted area, were kept at the middle level, away from the top of the hill.
Before I left, I was told that there were fourteen penitents who were going to be nailed to the cross this year, including two women. But a news article reported nineteen! Anyway, I left at about 3 p.m. for my annual visit to relatives. Since Good Friday is one of those events when San Fernando old families gather (usually to prepare their carroza for the elegant Good Friday procession in the evening), kitchens are busy preparing the best Lenten dishes. We wouldn't want to miss that!
Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga
Holy Week practices in the Philippines
Visita iglesia to our heritage churches
Holy Week reflections on culture
This is a must read for tourists who visit areas with penitents. It's simple conduct we must remember. As Robbie Tantingco writes, "What our penitents do is a very personal and sacred act, and we should protect them from media who sensationalize, and tourists who trivialize, this act... Tourists should be treated as, well, tourists, to be accorded the usual courtesy and hospitality and given the necessary amenities. But tourists should not be allowed to distract or interact with the penitents; they should merely watch and observe, with as much distance from, and reverence for, the penitents as possible."