Baliuag, Bulacan has one of the longest Holy Wednesday and Good Friday processions in the country. Since it was close to Pampanga, I decided to visit Baliuag for the Holy Wednesday procession. We actually passed by Malolos first to check out the old houses (which I'll discuss in another post) before proceeding to Baliuag.
The Holy Wednesday and Good Friday processions start at 7 p.m. The Good Friday procession is slightly longer since the Santo Entierro and a few other carrozas participate. But for their Holy Wednesday procession, there were 85 carrozas, mostly tableaux from the ministry, passion and death of Christ.
No doubt, a good number of the carrozas are grand and ostentatious beyond comprehension! I was pleasantly shocked by the sheer magnitude of the procession and the size and details of many of the carrozas. While some were very tastefully designed, many though were quite kitsch (I naturally did not show any here), which brings me to my next point.
If you're looking for a traditional Philippine procession, unfortunately Baliuag is not the place to see one. In fact, by all accounts, Baliuag is a fantastic modern day Holy Week procession since it's one big production. The gargantuan carrozas look like parade floats to me, some even pulled by motorized vehicles, a good number with industrial gensets to power them.
For one, all carrozas are required to have a sound system tuned in to a local FM station that plays modern religious music and the rosary. The sound system actually reminded me of parades in Disneyland where you hear the same thing in the entire parade route. Plus I noticed the sound system atmosphere was not contributing to prayer since no one was following it. In the usual Holy Week procession, there is a marked silence and solemnity, and groups lead their own prayers behind each carroza which I feel is more conducive to prayer and reflection for the spectator.
The carrozas were so gargantuan, the industrial generators so noisy and distracting, you could see that people were more focused on how to pull them and navigate the narrow streets of Baliuag. It was as if families were trying to outdo each other.
Finally, I felt some of the saints and tableaux were so outlandishly dressed. But indeed, the Baliuag Holy Week processions are a great show. Despite my comments about it, I'd have to say it was a well-choreographed production, and no doubt, a wonderful tourist attraction! But for someone who was looking for a solemn and traditional procession with centuries-old carrozas and images, I may have been a bit disappointed. But I still highly suggest that you visit.
I'll try to visit San Pablo, Laguna next year which is reputedly another long procession. But for Good Friday, I'll be joining the processions in San Fernando and Bacolor, Pampanga which have a good number of antique silver carrozas. In Guagua, I remember they had violinists who accompany the Sto. Entierro and Mater Dolorosa. Bacolor has the same violinists with the Mater Dolorosa, something that disappeared in San Fernando after the change of priests.
It's sad that these priests forget that they stay only in a parish for a few years. And some go on the rampage and destroy architecture and traditions that have been there even before they were born. I was quite disappointed that they no longer have the Dakit Cordero tradition in Betis on Holy Thursday. They also lost the Tanggal ritual after the previous priest ordered the removal of the grotto were the ritual was done.