Semana Santa

2011/04/22 § 3 Comments

I have spent almost all my life living in the city.  And forever pining to be back in the country.  Where my family is.  Holidays could never come too soon for me.  Pyesta Natay. Christmas. Semana Santa. Summer Break.  Those are the times I get to go home.  To the province.

I look back at Semana Santa (Holy Week) in my beloved town  and I marvel at how glorious a time it was despite the penance and deprivation we were supposed to be undergoing.  It was like a week-long town fiesta when townspeople living elsewhere go home.  Just like during Christmas, for Christ’s birth.  This time for his Death and Resurrection.

The week starts with Domingo Ramos (Palm Sunday) when we attend mass to have our  palaspas (palm fronds) blessed.  It is always a happy occasion as everyone carries a palaspas (as simple or intricately woven) and eagerly wave it for the priest’s benediction.  It’s also the first time many townfolks see each other again after a long while and there are many hi and hellos and short chats after the mass.  On Holy Tuesday, we go on a pilgrimage in a remote barrio.  There we climb a mountain, akin to calvary, and stop and pray at each station of the cross dotting the mountain face until we reach the top (there is here an opportunity for sorrowful reflection and real physical exertion).  And is rewarded with a view of the sea to eternity.  There is a procession we either join or watch from our front yards or windows on Holy Wednesday.  And we attend the mass with the reenactment of the Last Supper and Washing of Disciples’ Feet which was a source of a lot of mirth when we were younger on Holy Thursday.  There is another mass on Viernes Santo (Good Friday) and townfolks travel from the barrios to poblacion to attend the long procession of people and santos that snake slowly through the town, with everyone carrying a candle and walking behind a santo (saint figurine) enthroned in its carroza.  In the evening of Good Friday, we go to church to kiss the feet of Apo Bangkay.

Each night we drop by the church for the Pasyon (narrative of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ in five-line stanzas each having eight syllables). And each year I worry that there will be no one left to continue the tradition.  How they learn to chant and find the fortitude to do so for hours on end for so many days is impressive and inspiring.  So far, there are the faithful ones who manage to do it year after year.

Sabado Gloria (Black Saturday) is when everyone goes to the beach.  The beaches dotting the shoreline of our town and the adjacent ones are filled with revelers. It’s the children’s favorite day after all the vigils and prayers and fasting and abstinence (and admonition against playing and laughing and running around) of the previous days or weeks.

Sabet  on Easter Sunday portrays the meeting of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Risen Christ held at dawn.  Little children are dressed as angels and stand atop wooden stalls to throw flowers at the procession.  I must confess to rarely observing this event as I seldom wake up for it.

All throughout the week, we are visiting friends and family and partaking of (guiltily – good) food at every house.  Like I said, a Fiesta.  Albeit more subdued til Good Friday.

I thought I would be home this Holy Week.  But I’m not.  As I write, my family in the province is getting ready to go to the beach for Sabado Gloria. To celebrate life, the coming resurrection of Christ and being together.

The following photos remind me so much of provincial life….

Hope to be home for Semana Santa next year.


{Images courtesy of Style Files, Haute Design, Varpunen, Road Trip to Finland, Paris in Pink, Desire to Inspire}


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