Showing posts with label Festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Festivals. Show all posts

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Pampanga: Salubong procession on Easter Sunday and the colorful pusu-puso

The Salubong is a Filipino tradition done early in the morning of Easter Sunday, wherein the images of the Risen Christ and Sorrowful Mother symbolically meet in a pre-dawn procession. While many parishes have moved it to late Saturday night for convenience, the real traditional Salubong happens right before dawn.

I was actually wondering if the pusu-puso was still being used in Pampanga. I should have asked. Anyway, I watched the Salubong in San Fernando late Saturday night which was quite simple.

The Bacolor salubong or pusu-pusuan was also at midnight and they used the pusu-puso! The photo above is from Tom Joven.

The next morning, I proceeded to Minalin and Santo Tomas to witness the Pakbung Hudas Easter Sunday festivities. And lo and behold, the opened pusu-puso were hanging from the church gates! The Salubong in Minalin was at 4 a.m. while the one in Santo Tomas was at 5:30 a.m.

The puso-puso is a fine example of folk art used for the Salubong. It's basically shaped like a bud with several layers of petals made out of cardboard, papel de hapon and crepe paper. Hidden above the pusu-puso is a little girl dressed as an angel. The veiled image of the Sorrowful Mother is brought under the pusu-puso.

Layer by layer, the pusu-puso opens, raining petals and confetti on the images of the Mater Dolorosa and Risen Christ. With the opening of the last layer, doves fly out and the little girl, who sings Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia), is lowered on a swing just right over the head of the Mater Dolorosa so she could take off the veil. Once the veil is removed, fireworks are lit, the marching band starts playing and the crowd applauds. The Easter Season has begun.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Pampanga: Good Friday Santo Entierro procession in Bacolor, Pampanga

Indeed, the phoenix has risen from the ashes. I decided to watch the Good Friday Santo Entierro procession in Bacolor, Pampanga by chance since there was no Good Friday procession in Guagua this year due to ongoing road construction around the center of town. It was very encouraging that the Bacolor procession is back to its old grandeur.

Over a decade ago, Bacolor was buried by lahar from Mount Pinatubo. It was a great loss for Pampanga being the province's former capital and heritage town. But one thing I like about Bacolor is the resiliency of its culture. One of the first things they raised from the buried town, even before rebuilding schools and other structures, were their monuments. The three ornate retablos in the half-buried Bacolor Church were also dug up and restored to their original glory.

It was 8 p.m. when I arrived at the Bacolor Church (Update: It now starts at 5 p.m.). The Good Friday Santo Entierro procession had not started yet since people were still lining up to venerate the crucified Christ. The halls of the church reverberated with the solemn Stabat Mater performed by local musicians and singers of a town which was once the center of arts and culture in the province. It was a very touching scene.

The procession begun with 152 pasos in black cassocks and white mozzettas, their faces covered by black veils and with wreaths on their heads, carrying symbols of Christs death and messages from Jesus' passion and death in various languages that included Kapampangan, English, Latin, Spanish and even French.

This was followed by one of the grandest Santo Entierro carrozas in the entire country. I found out that the carroza actually belonged to our family, the Joven-de Leon clan of Bacolor, and I was invited by my cousin Tom Joven (who is very much responsible for restoring the grandeur of Bacolor's church, Good Friday procession, and many more town traditions) to join the carroza for the procession.

The saints of the passion story beginning with San Pedro, and scenes from Christ's passion came in next. Although Tom told me that previously, the tableaux only came out during the Holy Wednesday procession since the Good Friday procession is a funeral participated in only by the carrozas of the individual saints. In fact, some of the tableaux carrozas, like those of the Valdes clan, only come out for Holy Wednesday.

No doubt, the Bacolor Good Friday Santo Entierro procession is one of the best examples of a traditional Filipino Holy Week procession. It's quiet and solemn. And there's no pipe-in music and prayers blasted through sound systems in the carrozas, just the voices of small groups sincerely praying the rosary along the way. The carrozas are elaborate, grand and elegant. There were no pick up trucks, owner jeeps or cars in the procession. If you want to witness a traditional Good Friday procession, I highly-recommend that you visit Bacolor, Pampanga.

At the end of the procession is the Mater Dolorosa. She is preceded by the angelic voices of a local choir and musicians who play various versions of the Stabat Mater. A solemn drum beat reminds us that this is actually a funeral dirge.

As the Mater Dolorosa returns to the church, her carroza is brought face to face with the carroza of the Santo Entierro in front of the gates of the church, a symbolic positioning signifying the Sorrowful Mother mourning over her Son.

Other processions worth visiting in Pampanga are the ones in Santa Rita, Guagua and Sasmuan. I haven't seen the one in Santa Rita and plan to witness that next year. In Guagua, I remember they had violinists who accompany the Sto. Entierro and Mater Dolorosa. The violins are something that disappeared in San Fernando after the change of priests.

As I previously mentioned, it's sad that these priests forget that they stay only in a parish for a few years. And yet some go on the rampage and destroy architecture and traditions that have been there even before they were born. Even the traditional order of carrozas of the Good Friday procession in San Fernando had been changed in deference to the whims of the new rector. I hope things go back to normal soon!

Pampanga: San Pedro Cutud passion play and crucifixions in San Fernando

The Via Crucis passion play and crucifixions are staged annually in San Pedro Cutud, City of San Fernando, Pampanga. Despite its popularity among tourists both local and foreign alike, the local government has been making an effort to preserve as much as the tradition as possible, and keep out to much commercialism from the passion play which is written in the vernacular Kapampangan language. At least 30 percent of the crowd at San Pedro Cutud were foreigners. And it could arguably be the event most visited by foreigners owing to the international media attention it gets every year.

I decided to stay away from San Pedro Cutud this year to conserve my energy to visit other Good Friday traditions. I was actually there earlier in the morning as the crowds started to stream in. But left to get back home before I got stuck there. There are two other crucifixion sites in San Fernando in Santa Lucia and San Juan.

You can read my previous entries for more details on San Pedro Cutud and its Via Crucis passion play: Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga (2007), Crucifixion rites held in San Pedro Cutud every Good Friday (2008) and Another Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga (2009).

Pampanga: Pasyon Serenata in San Basilio, Santa Rita, Pampanga

Pasyon Serenata is a variant of the pabasa, with two sets of accompanying singers and marching bands playing alternately in what is called a sagutan. The Pasyon Serenata is held in the evenings (usually 8 p.m. to 12 midnight) of Holy Thursday and Good Friday in two locations in Barangay San Basilio, Sta. Rita, Pampanga. One Pasyon Serenata is staged beside the San Basilio Chapel. While another one can be found in Maligaya Street.

I got to witness both the Holy Thursday and Good Friday Pasyon Serenata in San Basilio. It's really heartening to see the local community work hard to raise funds to continue this Holy Week tradition. Bringing the bands over to put on a good show, some coming from as far as Sasmuan, is not cheap. And you have to give it to the people of San Basilio for staging this annually.

The marching bands play both Filipino kundimans and international band classics. The group of ladies sing the Kapampangan pabasa to the tune of the band. It was quite amusing hearing Kapampangan verses sung along with music from the Sound of Music. But I really liked the Filipino classics which they played. Each band plays two songs at each turn, one with the pabasa singers and another featuring a brass soloist before turning over the floor to the other band. This goes on until midnight.

So after watching the grand and traditional Good Friday processions in Pampanga, you might want to head over to Brgy. San Basilio to enjoy the performances of Pampanga's best marching bands at the Pasyon Serenata.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Pampanga: Holy Week spectacle at Pampang Road, Angeles City

Pampang Road in Angeles City is another convergence point of Holy Week penitents. The sad part is they've created a circus out of the whole spectacle!

We passed by Pampang early in the evening of Holy Thursday. The whole area was teeming with people. The roads around the crucifixion site and the pabasa were transformed into one big perya sans the rides, but with the games and gambling, tiangge, and the freaks and peculiarities that usually accompany a perya. There were food stalls everywhere and people were drinking. It obviously didn't feel like Holy Week.

It surprised us that this Holy Week subculture of Pampanga had existed under our noses for so long. And yet it was only now that we had discovered it. As we walked towards the pabasa area, we saw more of the action. Street food of all kinds was available. There were different kinds of games and gambling tables, even a pair of Siamese twins selling popcorn.

Then came in the penitents, one by one they entered Pampang Road and proceeded to the pabasa area. We saw a trio of magsalibatbat tied together, crawling their way to the pabasa. Poor souls! The crowd around them was as irreverent as one could think: gawking, giggling, girls shrieking as they took photos of them on their mobile phones, kids running around and blocking their path.

There were flagellants. And then, there were those carrying crosses or mamusan krus, one even accompanied by a bevy of cross-dressers in very short shorts.

What was missing were the kristos who would be nailed the next day. And the cast of magdarame was complete. The hill were the crucifixions were to take place had been wrapped around in banderitas of San Miguel Beer. Indeed, being the center of action, it was prime advertising space! Even worse, I would later find out that the local government sold tickets for prime seats to view the crucifixions!¡Qué horror!

The local government has obviously been cashing in and taking advantage of these annual panatas. The pièce de résistance was a streamer of a local politician trumpeting that Pampang Road was a tourist attraction on Holy Thursday and Good Friday!

Indeed it is an attraction for those who are fans of these peculiarities. I guess this part of Angeles City was simply living up to the city's moniker of Sin City. This chaotic scene must have been similar to that of when Christ cast out the money changers from the Temple. I wonder who, if any, will cast this irreverence out of Pampang Road next Holy Week. While we celebrate the uniqueness of this subculture, I cannot but feel sad that people there have forgotten what Holy Week is all about.

While many may argue that we do celebrate Holy Week in various ways, let's never forget the meaning of Holy Week and the life, death and resurrection of Christ which we commemorate. At the same time, let's not exploit the penitents by earning, especially from corporate funds, out of their panata.

I guess the buzz in Pampang simply mimics what happens at a wake. I was reminded of a book by Renato D. Tayag called The Sinners of Angeles which bravely tackled the political corruption in Angeles in the 1960s. The subculture of Pampang Road is indeed worth writing in another book.

Pampanga: Holy Week flagellation and penitents in Magalang, Pampanga

Pampanga is a hotbed for Holy Week flagellation and Lenten penitents. In Magalang, Pampanga, the barangay of San Agustin is where a lot of these Lenten penitents appear every Holy Thursday and especially Good Friday.

On the way to San Agustin, we chanced upon a group of flagellants preparing for their annual panata. There are actually four basic kinds of penitents or magdarame in Pampanga. The first would be the flagellants or the mamalaspas, those who flog themselves. The second would be the mamusan krus or those who carry crosses. Then there are the magsalibatbat or penitents who crawl on the ground. While the kristos are those who have themselves nailed to the cross every Good Friday.

There are also rituals in preparation for the Lenten penance. They first dress up and are tied up in ropes. Then the flagellants whip themselves or are whipped by a companion until their back muscles swell. This is to numb the pain and speed up the bleeding when incisions are made on his back with a razor blade or broken glass embedded on a small wooden paddle.

Then they walk around town whipping themselves, passing by "holy" places such as churches and the puni (makeshift tents where the pabasa is read). We saw the entire preparation of the group, including the mandatory shots of Red Horse.

Until now, why they do it is a mystery. I was quite surprised to see that the group was actually composed of middle-class Kapampangans. One of the mamusan krus even had braces and was wearing Havaianas! It's something the Center for Kapampangan Studies will try to study in the next few months.

In San Agustin, the mamusan krus carry large banana trunks shaped into a cross. And you could see the penitents collapse from sheer exhaustion since the banana stalks are obviously very heavy. I remember seeing magsalibatbat here before but since it was already sunset, I figured they were already back home resting for Good Friday.

Pampanga: Holy Thursday Dakit Cordero procession in Mabalacat, Pampanga

Holy Thursday is usually commemorated with the cordero ritual. In Morong, Rizal and previously in Betis, Pampanga, the Lamb of God was prepared for an afternoon procession, shaped out of mashed kamote (sweet potatoes) and potatoes. Unfortunately, Betis no longer does the tradition.

We found out that Mabalacat still has its Dakit Cordero (fetching of the lamb) mid-afternoon procession. Dakit Cordero is now a rare Lenten practice of bringing the Lamb of God to the church, symbolic of Jesus' imminent death.

So we drove over to Mabalacat to join the tradition. The procession leaves the town church between 2:30 to 3 p.m. So while waiting, we walked over to the Apung Mamacalulu or the Santo Entierro of the town which is housed in its own chapel in the compound of the caretaker family. Although the church has its own Santo Entierro image, it is this smaller image that is brought out during the Good Friday Santo Entierro procession.

Back at the church, the bells pealed as the procession composed of sacristans, a Marian youth group, and men in barong symbolizing the apostles, left the church for the house of the hermano mayor.

At the house of the hermano mayor, the group was fed. And after a short liturgical ceremony, the cordero was carried by a young lady together with the procession back to the church. Under the lamb is a hollow wooden container shaped like a book. Inside the book is food which people partake of after the blessing of the cordero at the church.

Maybe next year, I'll visit Morong, Rizal where the last of the original cordero processions are held. I hope they are able to revive the one in Betis, Pampanga as well. Some priests can really wreak havoc to local age-old traditions. I hope the current parish priest finds the interest to push for its revival next year.

Bulacan: Holy Wednesday and Good Friday processions in Baliuag, Bulacan

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.
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